PITTSBURGH, Pa. (KDKA) — It is safe to say hockey fans have a love-hate relationship with the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
When the Stanley Cup Final began, it appeared rather lopsided. The powerful Pittsburgh Penguins, the defending Stanley Cup champions, against the Nashville Predators, the final team to get into the playoffs.
The Penguins promptly won the first two games of the Cup Final, and it looked like they were well on their way to lifting the Cup again. But after two games in Nashville, the Predators have seized momentum. The Penguins scored only one goal in each of their losses in Games 3 and 4.
What once seemed so certain is now anything but. The Stanley Cup Final is down to a best-of-three, as Penguins fans freak out over everything from the goalies to the defense to a catfish being chucked onto their home ice.
Take a breath.
We’ve seen this (cat)fish before.
Here are five times this postseason you swore the Penguins were done (but they weren’t).
1) Kris Letang’s Injury – You may have forgotten this one because it seems so long ago, but when you see some of the recent breakdowns by Penguins defensemen all the memories of No. 58 come flooding back. The Penguins have played the entire postseason without their top defenseman. Letang was an iron man last postseason, logging nearly 30 minutes per game.
2) Sidney Crosby’s Injury – There’s a good chance you’ve forgotten about this one too. The Penguins captain was skillfully maneuvering his way through a sea of Washington Capitals when he was suddenly and shockingly knocked out by Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen. Crosby missed one game with a concussion, but at the time there was no way to know how long he’d be out of action.
3) After Game 6 Against The Capitals – That comfy 3-1 series lead is like a warm blanket until the other team rips it away with wins in Games 5 and 6. Suddenly, the Penguins were staring down the barrel of a Game 7 against the team with the best regular season record in the NHL. And the game was on Washington’s home ice. Somehow, the Penguins regrouped and prevailed; and all was right with the world again.
4) After Game 3 Against The Senators – Many of the Penguins faithful expected smooth sailing to the Stanley Cup Final. Evidently, no one told the Ottawa Senators. They grabbed a 2-1 series lead by crushing the Penguins, 5-1, in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final. Pittsburgh had averaged one goal per game in the series to that point. Their offense finally found itself, and the Penguins responded with back-to-back wins. When Ottawa refused to go quietly in Game 6, the series went to a Game 7.
5) Game 7 Against The Senators – One-and-done games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs are notoriously fickle. One bad bounce and you’re trading the Prince of Wales Trophy for the next tee time at the nearest country club. The panic came back when the Senators scored late in the third period and forced overtime. A lot of Penguins fans feared the worst until Chris Kunitz came to the rescue with his game-winning goal in double overtime.
This time of year is all about close calls and near misses. The road to the Stanley Cup can be a bumpy ride.