Remember how you felt about a month ago?
The Penguins took a commanding 2-0 series lead against the Capitals, despite being outplayed.
The series seemed out of reach.
Then, a few games later, the President’s Trophy winners rallied back.
They won two straight games and tied the series at three.
You felt sick.
You felt like the Penguins were finally out of gas.
You wanted to believe, but deep down you knew the odds weren’t in your favor.
Then game seven came.
And the championship Penguins showed up with their best performance of the entire series.
Does this situation sound familiar?
This Stanley Cup final is mirroring a lot of what happened in round two.
The Penguins were heavily outplayed in games one and two, don’t be deceived by the score.
Goaltending has been the difference in each of the four games so far.
A combination of a .974 Matt Murray and a .778 Pekka Rinne gave the Penguins a 2-0 series lead.
A combination of an .880 Matt Murray and a .964 Pekka Rinne tied the series at two.
It’s really that simple.
Now, everyone wants to jump right into those numbers and blame Matt Murray.
He certainly didn’t have a spectacular game four, but he wasn’t as bad as the stat line says.
The Arvidsson breakaway was hardly his fault.
Great diving play by Fisher to spring Arvidsson’s breakaway goal pic.twitter.com/mZLfxiK1YO
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) June 6, 2017
Same with the Jarnkrok goal right on the doorstep.
Jarnkrok makes it 1-0 Preds pic.twitter.com/B9F4B4ixPC
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) June 6, 2017
I’m not sure how you look at either of those goals and think, “Murray’s glove side is weak.”
The first thing that comes to my mind is, “What in the world is the defense doing?”
Anyone that thinks the Penguins don’t miss Kris Letang is as clueless as it gets.
Letang is the one man breakout that makes the Penguins tick.
Without Letang, the Penguins can’t utilize the speed game that makes them so dangerous.
Sure, they’ve still got an elite group of forwards.
But that doesn’t mean much when they have no one to feed them the puck.
The fact that the Penguins have made it this far without Kris Letang is admirable.
In fact, I can’t remember the last time a team has won the Stanley Cup without a true number one defenseman.
I’ve got nothing but respect for what this team’s group of defensemen is doing.
However, something has got to change.
I don’t like to bash players. At all.
But I just don’t think I can bear to watch Ron Hainsey struggle another game.
Mark Streit is a much better option.
I’m not saying he’s a fix-all, but he’s a marginal improvement.
The Penguins need a puck-moving defenseman to feed the transition game.
Mark Streit can do that, and do it well.
The inevitable goalie debate has reared it’s ugly head again among Penguins fans.
I’ll make it simple.
It won’t matter who’s in net if the Penguins only score one goal per game.
They’re both great goalies.
They both give the Penguins a chance to win.
They’ll both lose if the team doesn’t score.
If you’re team Murray, great.
If you’re team Fleury, great.
But either way, you’ve lost sight of what this is all about.
This is about the team.
Mike Sullivan will put in the goalie he thinks gives the team the best chance to win.
That’s good enough for me.
The fact that so many fans root for one goalie or the other to fail, so they can see their favorite play has gotten really old, really fast.
The series is now a best of three, and the Penguins maintain home ice advantage.
With Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessel, you’ve got to like the Penguins chances.
Mike Sullivan is not exactly new to this situation either.
They played arguably their best game of the series in game four.
The Penguins found more ways to generate offense.
That was no coincidence, Mike Sullivan is always scheming and making adjustments.
Remind yourself one more time of the way you felt after game six against Washington.
After being dominated all series, there was no chance that the Penguins were going flip a switch and win game seven.
Then they did.
This team is a rollercoaster ride that puts anything at Kennywood to shame.
They look flat some games.
They get dominated some games.
But somehow, some way, they always seem to show up when it matters.
I can’t sit here and tell you that the Penguins are going to win game five.
I can’t tell you anything for certain about this team.
They’re like nothing I’ve ever seen before.
They’ve defied a lot of statistical odds on this Cup run.
They’ve won games they should’ve lost.
They’ve lost games they should’ve won.
This uncertainty is what makes sports so awesome.
It’s like a reality TV show that you’re more emotionally engaged in than is mentally healthy.
Whether they win or lose, the tempestuous nature of the Stanley Cup playoffs will bring you back for more.
Stanley Cup final.
Best of three.
Everything to lose.
This is where you earn your stripes as a fan.
You could be setting yourself up for glory.
You could be setting yourself up for heartbreak.
The beauty of it all is that you just don’t know.
You’ve just got to believe.