COLUMN: It’s Go Time

It’s Wednesday. Tonight, the Penguins will look to win their fourth game of the series and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Ottawa Senators all while avoiding becoming the first team to allow the Capitals to get to the Conference Finals for the first time in the Alex Ovechkin era.

But this isn’t even about that.

The narrative that the Capitals don’t win the big games is there. The narrative that Ovechkin will never win a Stanley Cup is there. The “Penguins blew a 3-1 lead” narrative would be there.

It’s not even about those.

It’s about how the Penguins respond. As a team that has been pegged as one of the most resilient teams in the NHL, what gives with the two flattest performances in a long time in games five and six? The stars have gone cold and the fans have gotten colder.

Here’s a narrative for all of you: How many of you actually believed at the beginning of this series that we’d breeze through the Capitals in five games? I can guarantee not many of you did. I didn’t.

I had “#PensIn6” at the beginning of the series and that, to me, was best case scenario. Here we are. The NHL’s two best regular season teams in a game seven for a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals. I don’t think it gets much better.

Of course, panic sets in because Washington was able to win two straight games and have all the momentum going home to Washington. But how do you define momentum?

“The impetus gained by a moving object,” is the non-physics definition of momentum. If you watch a hockey game, you’ll know that both team’s are moving objects. There is no physical object moving from game to game aside from time.

And it’s go time for the Penguins.

The Sidney Crosby‘s and Evgeni Malkin‘s of the world need to get going. The Phil Kessel‘s of the world have yet to show up to the playoffs. Luckily, Marc-Andre Fleury has absolutely stolen three wins in this series. It’s time the team wins for him.

It’s inevitable that this is Fleury’s last ride in a Penguins’ uniform with the emergence of Matt Murray and the looming expansion draft. I would hate for that pathetic 5-0 loss to be the final time Fleury plays in PPG Paints Arena while donning a Penguins uniform.

Mike Sullivan will need to be better, too. Go back to what worked. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Whatever the hell that game was on Monday night, that was broke. So it needs fixed.

And there is a simple fix.

Take Conor Sheary OFF of Crosby’s line. Take him so far off that he’s witnessing the game from the press box. Put Guentzel back on Crosby’s line where he leads the NHL in goals for the playoffs. They were together for all of a few shifts last night and managed to score a goal in the waning minutes. Guentzel scored, Crosby assisted.

And by all means, shoot the puck.

Watching the Penguins power play on Monday was abysmal. The constant passing and looking for the perfect shot drive me crazy. Braden Holtby has not been good in this series at all. The Penguins are not putting shots on him. He’s had 3 different instances where he’s faced less than twenty shots and has given up two or more goals in each game. He’s 1-2 in those games.

If the Penguins just throw shots at him like the Pirates give up home runs, then the Penguins will win that game. Mark my words.

It’s go time, Pittsburgh. Let them hear you in Washington. Keep the dream alive. But just remember, if the Penguins do lose, it’s nearly impossible these days to repeat as Stanley Cup champions.

The Penguins are 5-0 in game seven’s on the road in franchise history. They’ve done it in Washington twice. Tonight, the Penguins need to be immortal and do so again to avoid becoming a part of a very familiar meme…

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