#96: Thoughts on Pens Playoff Push
If blogging paid as much as one of my many jobs, I'd post more, I swear.
So, I've pretty much neglected this relic of a blog for a month, and, in the meantime, the Pittsburgh Penguins have come to within one win of the Stanley Cup Finals, steamrolling their opponents en route.
Comments that have come my way more than a few times during this incredible stretch have been along the lines of, "So, looks like your shots-on-goal-differential stat isn't going to hold up this year!"
Well, first, while it's unlikely that either Dallas or Philadelphia will erase a 3-0 series deficit when they've both been so outplayed, let's not start talking Cup until game 4 is won.
Secondly, the Penguins absolute explosion got me looking through some more historical stats to see if there's something I missed.
As it so happens, there is.
At the time of my last post on the subject, I had failed to identify the last team to win the Stanley Cup that posted a negative SOGD.
That team was none other than the 1990-1991 Pittsburgh Penguins.
And this year's squad, thanks to General Manager Ray Shero, has an eerie similarity. On March 4, 1991, the Penguins acquired (stole) Ron Francis and Ulf Samuelsson from Hartford (perhaps you've heard of them). With a key face-off man and an intimidating (and admittedly dirty) defenseman, the Penguins won their first Stanley Cup.
This year, Pittsburgh acquired Marian Hossa, Pascal Dupuis, and Hal Gill at the trade deadline. Don't forget, that veteran Gary Roberts returned just in time for the playoffs after missing much of the season with a broken leg. And Sidney Crosby, the Penguins only face-off man to record better than a 50% win percentage during the regular season missed most of it.
With all the components either returned or acquired, the Pens have posted a +4.5 SOGD entering the 4th game of the Eastern Conference Finals (currently +2.0 vs Philly, they were actually a bit behind the New York Rangers at -0.2, and they shellacked the undermanned Ottawa Senators by a margin of +12.25).
Almost certainly up next: The Detroit Red Wings.
I won't go too far into this at the moment, but I'm calling them the Big Red(Wing) Machine. They are peaking at the right time, and they have the ability to win face-offs and control the puck consistently. Barring some kind of injury or a brilliant Penguin gameplan, this could be a 5-game exit for the plucky Pens.
Hopefully, we get to analyze it a bit more in less than a week's time.
In the meantime, I hope one of my friends at ThePensBlog can fill me in on why they hate the Wings so much. They've been a team I've enjoyed watching over the last decade and a half...particularly when they would take it to the Colorado Avalanche.
During the Game One of the Rangers series, remember all the whining New York fans did after Marty Straka was called for interference penalty that helped Pittsburgh knock the winning goal home? Let's look at that call...
Uhm. I don't know. That looks pretty interference-y to me.
It's Malkin's goal, but Sid doesn't care.
Jaromir Jagr almost kills the celebration.
Fleury loves you, post.
How close was it?
After winning Game Four, New York thought they'd try to send Pittsburgh another physical message. Hal Gill (left-center) knows better.
He thinks it's kinda cute.
Then, in Game One of the Conference Finals, Evgeni Malkin shows Flyers Captain Mike Richards that he can take whatever is dished, and then top it.
Malkin just misses.
"(however you say 'Ouch' in Russian)".
Flyers back on the attack! But he whiffs. Hossa removes him.
The Gonch sees the Malk! Goes deep!
Touchdown! ... oops, I mean...
Biron thinks, "This is not good."