Penguins Update: Be Careful What You Wish For – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins Update: Be Careful What You Wish For

I was standing in front of a big screen TV last night at Wright’s Gym, celebrating Toronto’s shocking Game 3 overtime victory over Washington when an unnerving thought popped into my head.

Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.


You see, I’ve been pulling like mad for the Maple Leafs to knock off the Capitals, thus sparing us a second-round clash with our archrivals. I suspect I’m not alone among Penguins fans.

However, the more I watch the hungry young Leafs—powered by super rookie Auston Matthews and a host of rising stars—the more uneasy I feel. In addition to being a marvelously talented bunch, they simply don’t quit. They’re either too young, or too naïve, to know they’re not supposed to win.

Each time Washington gains an advantage, Toronto rallies to overtake them. The Leafs’ intriguing blend of youth, skill and speed—not to mention plain old exuberance—is proving too much for the talented but aging Caps to handle.

They remind me an awful lot in style and substance of a nefarious foe from our distant past, one that authored the most painful (and unforeseen) playoff upset in the Pens’ 50-year-history.

Let’s travel back in time to the spring of 1993. Fresh off back-to-back Stanley Cups, the Pens were far and away the best team in hockey. They’d made mincemeat of the competition during the regular season, piling up a stunning 56-21-7 record and capturing the Presidents’ Trophy.

Armed like a nuclear submarine, the locals boasted four future Hall-of-Famers—Mario Lemieux, Ron Francis, Joey Mullen and Larry Murphy—and a surefire fifth in Jaromir Jagr. The Pens were so deep, in fact, that Jagr—a 94-point scorer and emerging tour de force—often skated on the third line. Let that sink in for a moment.

Mario, treated midseason for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, made perhaps the most valiant and stirring comeback in sports history to score 69 goals and win the scoring title. Burly Kevin Stevens struck for a career-best 55. Power-forward pal and current Pens assistant Rick Tocchet had 48. Jagr and Mullen scored 30-plus; Francis, Murphy and speedy Calder Trophy candidate Shawn McEachern each topped 20 goals.

Murphy and the Samuelsson boys—Ulf and Kjell—anchored a stout, veteran defense. Tom Barrasso was a fortress in net. Oh, and head coach Scotty Bowman (nine Stanley Cups) knew a thing or two about running a bench.

The Pens tuned up for the postseason in grand style, reeling off a 17-game winning streak, an NHL record that still stands. In the first round of the playoffs, they annihilated the physical but outclassed New Jersey Devils in five games.

Sound familiar?

Up next, the New York Islanders. Although the Isles had upset the Capitals (yes, the Caps) in their first-round matchup, there was nothing to suggest that they posed a serious threat to the Pens. Not on paper, anyway.

True, they’d taken three of the seven regular-season meetings between the two clubs, a monumental achievement. And a trio of 30-goal scorers—Benoit Hogue, Derek King and Steve Thomas—provided some pop. But New York had finished a distant third in the Patrick Division, a whopping 32 points behind the front-running Pens.

Adding injury to insult, their best player—budding superstar Pierre Turgeon—was the victim of a vicious assault by Capitals hatchet man Dale Hunter. He wouldn’t be available for the upcoming series.

The Islanders, green as they were, looked like easy pickins’.

Then the series began and the underdogs served notice right away, besting the Pens, 3-2, in Game 1. Although the black and gold fought back to take three of the next four, the determined young Isles proved to be a most prickly foe.

Completely unawed, New York consistently beat us to the loose pucks. Pounded us physically, too. Hip-checking future Pen Darius Kasparaitis was the chief antagonist.

Each time we seemed to gain a clear-cut edge, the Islanders responded. It was as if we’d accidentally stepped on an especially sticky wad of chewing gum and couldn’t scrape it off the sole of our shoe, no matter how hard we tried.

Determined to finish the upstarts off, the Pens knotted Game 6 at 2-all on a blast by Lemieux. At long last, the tide seemed to turn in our favor.

Then Francis drew a high-sticking major and we crumbled, losing 7-5. Shorn of Stevens, who suffered a gruesome facial injury in the opening moments of Game 7, the Pens dropped an overtime heartbreaker in the series finale.

A dynasty-in-the-making, abruptly stopped in its tracks by an inferior foe.

I know what you’re probably thinking.

Buker, it’s awfully early to be fretting about the next round. After all, we haven’t officially dispatched the Blue Jackets yet.


Just thought I’d share a little cautionary tale about not counting our Stanley Cups before they hatch.

*Be sure to check out Rick Buker’s books,
available at TriumphBooks.com, Amazon.com, and BarnesandNoble.com

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  1. the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
    April 19, 2017 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    The beat goes on, the beat goes on
    Drums keep pounding
    A rhythm to the brain
    La de da de de, la de da de da

    Yes, that was Sonny and Cher but that rhythm is haunting me, it keeps pounding in my brain.
    I am trying to ignore it.

    Really I am,

    After all the Pens are up 3 – 1 against the Jackets and were up 3 – 0 at one point. Statistics dictate that the Pens should win this series. They have 3 more chances to close out and there are reasons to suggest that they will.

    La de da de de

    Malkin, Guentzel, and Kessel keep finding ways to get the puck past Bobrovsky

    La de da de da

    But that D is still surrendering shots at an alarming rate; 35.8/gp, with an additional 19.5/gp shots getting blocked and 12.5/gp missing the net, nearly 70 shot attempts per game. Fortunately the Pens aren’t the worst, that dubious distinction belongs to the Leafs right now with the Caps and Blues also being worse than our flightless fowl. But after 82 games the beat goes on, JR didn’t find a D man that could come in and help nor has Sullie found a way to get the D that are here to cut down those shots.

    Now, those shots are wearing down on MAF. Gone are those heady first couple of games where he stood on his head and kept the door almost completely closed despite the flurry of Jacket opportunities.

    Please, stop, I am hearing it again “and the beat goes on.”

    Just like at the start of the season when he stood on his head in the first couple of games before tanking for a couple of months.

    He really didn’t help his own cause as he coughed up rebounds and had some questionably lacksidasical plays ceding 4 pretty weak goals. As I have said, as much as I like MAF he is really not the optimal goalie for a team that can’t clear their end efficiently. He gives opponents too many second chances and needs a much more solid D to support him.

    CBJ still is at the wrong end of some extremely long odds. Chances are the Pens will come back and blow the doors right off of them tomorrow. However, the chinks in their armor are showing.

    Sorry, I had to get that off my chest.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      April 19, 2017 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

      Hey Other Rick,

      Funny, clever and oh so spot on … 🙂

      I’m actually planning a ramble of my own for Thursday’s post, so I’ll refrain from commenting too much. But I keep waiting for the Pens to play something resembling a full 60-minute game.


    • Jim's Gravatar Jim
      April 19, 2017 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

      Hey 55
      You got some musical talent … You should do some jingles. 🙂
      It was about the 12 to 14 minute mark of the second period of last nights game and I kept looking at the score on the TV and they had a shot clock beside it.
      I could believe that the game was more than half over and we had only 10 shots on net ??? It just did not seem possible . The highest scoring offense in the regular season , and only 10 shots.You do not win to many games that way..
      Plus MAF ?? I know it was the team in front of him as well BUT he did not look to good at times last night. Brings back bad memories.
      So lets hope for a better tomorrow.

      Well written 55.

  2. 55 on Point's Gravatar 55 on Point
    April 18, 2017 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    I don’t have as many reservations at this point regarding the Pens as I did a few weeks ago. They’re wearing their playoff faces, and wearing them well. They’re ready to play whomever’s on the other bench. While I still have doubts about Toronto, they have made Washington look ordinary. That can’t hurt. We were, not long ago, wishing Columbus might soften up the Caps in round one. Maybe Toronto will grant that wish if they don’t prevail.

    I’m not yet ready to anoint the Leafs as this years Cinderella team, but as their current tussle with the Caps makes clear, they aren’t going to simply surrender the glass slipper. The Caps will have to forceably remove it. And if that’s gonna happen, they’ll have to choke down that perennial esophageal lump that’s already forming, and get on with it.

    In any event, the Pens have one more to go on this leg of the journey. That fourth win is never a day at the beach. I only hope no one else gets hurt.

    Also, while I’m here, I’m disappointed with Minnesota and impressed with Nashville thumping the Hawks.


  3. Cuzinlaura's Gravatar Cuzinlaura
    April 18, 2017 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    Black Friday, May 14th. I felt like my world crumbled!

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      April 18, 2017 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

      Hey Cuzinlaura,

      I remember it, too. Devastating.

      The Pens very nearly won that Game 7. We were down, 3-1, with about five minutes left in regulation. Mario went to the box with Uwe Krupp. Then, against all odds, Francis and Tocchet (or Tocchet and Francis?) scored late to send the game to overtime.

      Mario had a chance at a wide-open net in OT, but couldn’t work the puck through a tangle of bodies. Moments later Francis cut loose a wicked slap shot off the rush that Glenn Healy barely got a piece of.

      Then Ulfie pinched, the Islanders countered on a 3-on-1, and David Volek beat Barrasso.

      Who’d have thought at the time it would take 16 years for the Pens to win another Cup?


  4. April 18, 2017 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think anyone’s wants Toronto to win because we want to play them. I think we cheer for them just for our love of watching the caps lose….my opinion anyways, I could care less who we play. The only team that can beat the Penguins is the Penguins

    • Jim's Gravatar Jim
      April 18, 2017 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

      Right you are Steel Head !
      We are our own worst enemy. But Sully has the team so focused on just playing our game style,forget retaliation and just play, that we are indeed tough to beat in a 7 game series, if we are healthy.
      For me I just like seeing # 8 lose again. For Crosby to win the Rocket Richard Trophy for the best goal scorer in 2017 makes it extra special.

  5. April 18, 2017 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    Meh honestly not that worried, I think Columbus is more potent than the Leafs right now. The Leafs do have Matthews but as in the regular season he can run very hot and cold. More worried about finishing off Cam and Bob than the Leafs IMHO.

    Biggest thing could be is the rest difference. Pens could be done tonight and have to wait for a long Caps/Leafs series

  6. April 18, 2017 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    That’s what I’m saying

  7. Jim's Gravatar Jim
    April 18, 2017 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    Hi Rick,
    Well my friend, where do I start. Thank you for your support of the upstart Leafs, especially as they push the defending Presidents trophy winners and get under their skin. It is great for the game and has the David and Goliath mystic about it. However after three hard fought games it is apparent that the Leafs are fast, tenacious, and the longer the games go on the better the Leafs chances get because what they lack in play off experience they make up in youthful energy. ( As you know I am not a Leaf fan, but against Washington, I will make an exception.) The enemy of my enemy is my friend ??
    Can Toronto upset the Caps ? Maybe. I am still not sure. I know one thing for sure and that is this version of the 2017 Leafs team has many first year and second year players who have had great success in their brief careers either at the Junior level or International level of hockey. They are winners !
    They do not like to lose and they do not quit ! They remind me of us last year with all our kids playing their hearts out and winning a Cup.
    The Leafs problem will be that playing the Pens we have four fast lines and we transition better from defense to offense better than ANY team in the league ! One pass and we go on the attack !
    Like every young team they need to learn how to over come that. You can not teach that skill….it only comes from experience. Losing !! That is the best teacher.
    So Rick, I look forward to a Leaf – Pen’s series if that were to happen, but I am not 100 % sure the Leafs will win against the Caps.
    FYI, In game 2 the Leafs lost one of their top defensive defense men, Roman Polak. If Jake Gardiner or Morgan Rielly gets hurt, then Toronto will have a real problem. So in Hockey you never know for sure what will happen but for one thing can be certain….The Washington Capitals thought this series will be a push over and now they got a TIGER by the tail and This Tiger Bites …

    Going 6 games for sure and that is good for us….

    PS: We can skate with this young Leafs team where by the Caps can not !
    Next year in 2018, I would not want to draw these Leafs as a first round opponent. There just like us in 2008 !
    How does that song go.. ” The futures so bright I got to wear shades “.

    Lets win tonight.. Sweeeeep !!

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      April 18, 2017 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

      Hey Jim,

      David vs. Goliath is a very apt description. We all know how that turned out … 🙂

      I’m not saying Toronto is ready to challenge for the Stanley Cup. As you suggest, they’re probably at least a couple of years away. But there’s something about the way they’re playing that reminds me of that ’92-93 Islanders team.

      Just like the Leafs, the Isles were totally unfazed by what–at least on paper–was a vastly superior Penguins team. They just kept coming after us, similar to what the Leafs are doing to the Caps, and gradually wore us down.

      The Islanders were exposed in the Conference Finals, losing in five games to the eventual Cup champs, Montreal. But they were pure poison to us.


      • Jim's Gravatar Jim
        April 18, 2017 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

        Thanks again Rick for the history lesson. As always it was very informative. I think game 5 in Washington will be the show stopper in this series. Could be 3-1 or more likely 2-2 and a very shocked home crowd in DC. Either way as noted above, we win tonight and we get the long rest that we need to get some other players back.
        Sweeeeeep !
        Lets go Pen’s.


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