It’s a word an entire team and fanbase needs to buy into 110 percent right now.
The Pittsburgh Penguins found themselves down 3-0 in their opening round series with the Philadelphia Flyers. The team responded in Game 4 with a 10-3 trouncing of the Flyers to stave off elimination and force a Game 5 showdown tonight
A lot of words have been used to describe this series ranging from exciting to frustrating and everything in between.
I think Brooks Orpik summed it up best in an interview on the ice before Game 4 where he basically said he can’t guarantee what we’ll see out there.
Who would have thought that the Penguins would have put up 10 goals in a game without the likes of James Neal in the line up?
In addition to Neal, Craig Adams and Arron Asham were also suspended and Paul Martin did not play because of an undisclosed injury.
This had all the makings of a sweep on paper and with the Flyers lighting the lamp early in the first, it wasn’t looking good.
However, belief took over.
The Penguins bounced back to tie the game 3-3 on a fortunate bounce off of Sidney Crosby. Moments later, Eric Tangradi outworked the Flyers’ defense, slipped a puck into open space and Jordan Staal buried the first of his three goals to put Pittsburgh ahead for good in the game.
As the game went on, Marc-Andre Fleury settled in and made a few big saves, which led to goals at the other end.
Defensively, the team looked better in Game 4 as a whole. There’s still a lot of room for improvement, but guys like Simon Despres and Brian Strait stepped up and filled in admirably.
If I’m Dan Bylsma right now, I don’t deviate from the plan one bit. Dress seven defensemen again tonight and leave Paul Martin off the roster.
Getting Neal and Adams back will only help, but likely means that Tangradi and Joe Vitale are taking a seat. Tangradi played one of, if not, his best game in a Penguins’ sweater in Game 4. It was a performance that may have silenced some of his biggest critics.
Despite the margin of victory, it still only counts as one win. The Penguins need to keep that in mind as they get ready to take the ice tonight for Game 5.
Yes, they put five pucks behind each of the Flyers’ goaltenders in the game and embarrassed Philadelphia on home ice, but it was only one game.
The harsh reality is that they are still down 3-1 in the series.
Tonight is the next step in the process.
Despite injury reports out of Philadelphia, Ilya Bryzgalov (3-1, 4.95 GAA, .844 save percentage) is expected to play tonight. Bryzgalov has looked shaky in every game of the series, but was pulled for the first time in Game 4.
Claude Giroux leads the way for the Flyers with 10 points (five goals, five assists). Jaromir Jagr (one goal, five assists) and Danny Briere (four goals, two assists) are tied for second on the team with six points.
For Pittsburgh, Fleury (1-3, 5.43 GAA, .817 save percentage) will be back in goal for the Penguins in Game 5.
While he hasn’t been at his best in this series, a lack of team defense has contributed to his less than sparkling numbers.
Pittsburgh’s “Big 3” centers are setting the pace on offense as well.
Crosby leads the team with eight points (three goals, five assists), while Evgeni Malkin (two goals, five assists) and Staal (five goals, two assists) are hot on his heels with seven points.
Malkin and Staal had been largely quiet in this series until Game 4, but appear to be back on track now.
It’s impossible to know what kind of game we can expect to see tonight.
Will we finally see a typical playoff game that features solid goaltending with goals hard to come by?
While there are no guarantees about what we’ll see, a couple of things are set in stone.
A win keeps the Penguins alive for at least one more game.
As fans, we need to rally around the team and give the team everything we’ve got.
For the players, their backs are up against the wall. Only their best effort will suffice and put them in a position to extend the series to a sixth game.
Mostly, it comes down to one word – belief.
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