Putting a lot of weight on one win over the Bruins would be like thinking that a coin flip is more likely to turn up heads next time because it turned up heads last time. These two teams are about as close as it gets, save for one, maybe two, small, but very important differences. The first, and most important, is the ability to avoid the downward mental spiral, or as we like to shorten it, "mentalability." The Pens dominated the first period of game 1, didn't score, and then couldn't recover for the next 5 periods. The Bruins got dominated in the first period of game 1, shrugged it off, and owned the next 5 periods. That's not a difference in talent, that's a difference in mentalability.
The other difference is attention to detail. Tukka Rask is a very good goalie, but a lot of goalies would put up similarly excellent statistics if they played in front of a team like Boston that never really gives up the Grade A scoring chance. The Pens had a lot of "chances" last year, they just weren't good looks. The Bruins hurry you, they clog lanes, and they make you force things that other teams -- like the Islanders and Senators -- don't do. So yeah, the Pens can get 30 shots a game -- or 54, like in Game 3 -- and it still feels like the Pens are being shut down. That's because the shots aren't threatening. The Pens defense is the opposite. They can hold a team to 21 shots, but it feels like 12 of them could be goals.
The bottom line is that there are very few things that could happen (other than injuries) that would make us more confident or less confident about the Pens chances if they meet the Bruins again in the playoffs. But last night was a reminder that last year's playoffs was like a blackjack dealer getting hot while you get cold. Eventually you'll get some good cards, even if the odds still favor the house. Slightly.
With that, a few pros and cons from the Pens 3-2 win.
Pro: The Penguins punched the bully in the nose. Coming off maybe the meekest showing the team has ever had in a playoff series, the Pens took the play to their tormentors for the better part of the night. And they did it without several of their top players. No moment signified the change in attitude more than when Bobby Bortuzzo stood toe to toe with Lucic and Chara in front of Fleury's net. By springtime, Bobby B. will be comfortable ensconced deep inside their heads.
|Has yet to play a game where an opponent didn't try to fight him.|
More after the jump...
Pro: Dan Bylsma. There are usually only three narratives for coaches who coach world class talent: 1) You're Eric Spoelstra, the caretaker, the guy whose team wins in spite of him, the lucky bastard who won the Powerball; 2) You're Phil Jackson, the zen master and superstar whisperer with 11 world titles; or 3) You're a failure. Dan Bylsma doesn't quite fit any of these narratives. It doesn't matter what stars are in and out of the lineup -- his teams always compete. You think a team slotting Tanner Glass, Jason Megna, Brandon Sutter, Dustin Jeffrey, Craig Adams and Joe Vitale in the lineup is just entitled to show up and win? Bylsma gets considerable credit here.
Con: Dan Bylsma. Can anyone explain why Sidney Crosby played 14 minutes of 5-on-5 hockey against Zdeno Chara when the Pens had the last change? No one except Dan Bylsma. The total lack of a reasonable explanation for not trying to avoid this matchup is the most befuddling thing a Pittsburgh coach has done since Mike Tomlin didn't go for two against San Diego last season because he didn't want to put the play on tape.
|One day, the Steelers will put that play on tape. And it will be glorious.|
Con: Evgeni Malkin can't finish. When Geno started his career in 2006, he had an unmistakable Lemieux-esque goal-hungry-assassin edge to his game. He scored in each of his first 6 games in the league. He needs to get some of these pucks up under the bar...
Pro: ...like Brandon Sutter. He wired that thing into the far upper corner, where Brandon Sutter places all of Brandon Sutter's clutch goals.
Con: Brandon Sutter does this once every 19 games.
Pro: Marc-Andre Fleury. The guy has been excellent this season. Maybe Mike Bales, the Pens' new goalie coach, is the Neil Lane of the NHL, brought in at the most critical moments to remind you of all the pressure that you're under, then help you transform the pressure into positive, loving energy, by smiling, flashing a dimple, and then unbuttoning just one more button.
Or maybe Fleury has actually turned a corner. His save percentage is .927, which would best his personal high of .921 in 2007-08. Crazier things have happened in sports. You know, like baseball players with links to PEDs having a career renaissance at age 37.
|Because people telling the truth always wear sunglasses like this.|
Pro: The Bruins didn't win the Stanley Cup last year.
Con: Neither did, well, you know...