OK, I was wrong. Before the playoffs started, I predicted the Penguins would win their first round series against the Islanders four games to one. After last night’s pathetic excuse of a hockey game, the series is now tied 2-2 and returns back to Pittsburgh for Game 5 Thursday night at the Consol Energy Center.
But was I really wrong? As far as I can tell, the Penguins are still up one game to none in this series. Who the guys are that have showed up wearing black and gold uniforms for games two, three and four are, I have no idea. The uniforms looked like ours, the names on the back looked vaguely familiar, but the hockey being played by those guys looked more akin to the Harlem Globetrotters than anything I had seen in the six games I attended this year(All Penguin victories). I’m really starting to wonder if the two worst things that could have happened to this team were winning Game 1 by a score of 5-0 and the return of Sidney Crosby in Game 2.
Winning the series’ first game in such easy fashion may have gotten it into the team’s heads that they really were that much better than the eighth seeded Islanders, and that all they had to do for the next three games was just show up, and the Isles would fold like a cheap suit at the sheer awesomeness of talent that Ray Shero had assembled for this year’s charge to Lord Stanley’s cup. That feeling was was exacerbated by the return of Sidney Crosby in Game 2 after a month’s absence with a broken jaw. The Pens scored two goals, one by Crosby, in the game’s first 3:19, and Crosby went on to add a second one in the first period four minutes later to give the team a 3-1 lead. At that point, the only question on anyone’s mind was whether Sid could get a hat trick in his first period back after being out so long.
The collective mindset of the team at that point had to be, “If the Islanders didn’t fold after Game 1, then surely after seeing what was just done to them in the first period of Game 2, they will”. It was at this point, that I seriously believe someone replaced all of our beloved Penguin players with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Baby Penguins. They have not played one good period of hockey since.
Their entire style of hockey has changed since that first period of Game 2. I haven’t seen them play this poorly or this disorganized since the first two weeks of the season when, like every other team in the league not named Chicago, they were still trying to get back into game shape after the extended lockout. For most of the rest of the season, the team played disciplined hockey taking the game to the opponent instead of letting the opponent dictate style and pace of play. It was that discipline and dedication to getting things right that allowed them to have winning streaks of 15, 7 and 5 games.
Anyone who has watched the previous two and two thirds games has got to be wondering what happened to that team? Right after that first period of Game 2, the team began playing some combination of 1980′s Edmonton Oilers, fire wagon hockey (For those of you under the age of 35, feel free to Google that term) and Harlem Globetrotters basketball. I swear to god, if I see one more blind, behind the back pass, a guy trying to pass to himself between his legs, a blind back-pass or no look pass, I’m going to lose it. The next guy who attempts one of these should be banished to the press box for the next game and replaced by Tyler Kennedy or Joe Vitale even if we’re talking about Evgeni Malkin or Jerome Iginla.
As for the return of Crosby, we’ve seen this before. Team that has best player in the universe often falls into trap of thinking that guy will pull our fat out of the fire at any minute, and we’ll just stand around and wait for him to do it. It happened to Penguin teams with Mario Lemieux and Chicago Bulls’ teams with Michael Jordan. After being the best player in the league this season by such a wide margin that he couldn’t even see the second best guy in the rear view mirror, Crosby had to go and score two goals in his first period back. Now the rest of the team seems to think that no matter how bad they play, Super Sid will show and save the day at the last minute.
Did anyone else notice in the third period last night, after they had taken the lead, that the Islanders continued to take it to the Penguins instead of going into a shell and trying to kill the clock? This was exactly the opposite of what the Penguins did in Game 3 after they took a lead going into the third period. When the Penguins got a Power Play 3:50 into the period, they looked like they were using the opportunity to kill off two more minutes of the game by just lazily throwing the puck around allowing Kyle Okposo a chance to intercept one of the passes and proceed down the ice for a short handed goal.
I’m really starting to wonder if our guys have been abducted by aliens and replaced with exact duplicates that don’t know the first thing about playoff hockey, and don’t even get me started on Dan Bylsma’s inability to make adjustments or the horrendous play of Marc Andre Fleury – Tomas Vokoun anyone?
I’d like to say Pens in 7, but someone needs to find them first.