The Pittsburgh Penguins are seeking to win back-to-back Stanley Cup titles – which no franchise has accomplished this century – and if they do, they’re going to need some white-knuckle games to go their way.
Pittsburgh has scored two goals or fewer in each of its last five postseason games. The margin for error simply isn’t there.
“I think that this is a Penguins team that, through the playoffs and especially into this round, is struggling to find that scoring depth that they had last year,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Penguins writer Sam Werner said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “If you look at the offensive contributions they’ve gotten this postseason, it’s a lot of the same names.”
In other words, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin – although Jake Guentzel (nine goals) and Phil Kessel (six goals) have provided some offensive punch in the playoffs.
“They haven’t found that magic potion of last year, that third scoring line to add that extra oomph,” Werner said. “Yeah, they’d probably like to core a few more goals, but if it takes four 1-0 wins to beat Ottawa, they’re happy to do that at this point.”
After dropping Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, 2-1, in overtime, Pittsburgh beat Ottawa, 1-0, in Game 2 on Monday. Game 3 is Wednesday in Ottawa at 8 p.m. ET.
Whatever happens in Game 3 – and this series – the Penguins have to be proud of what they’ve accomplished, especially after beating Washington in seven games.
“This is a team that sort of came into this year’s playoffs basically playing with house money after what happened last year,” Werner said. “In this day and age, there’s a reason no one’s repeated as Cup champions since the Red Wings in (1997-98). It’s really hard to do in the salary-cap era. The Penguins were positioned pretty well for it with the number of guys the brought back, but you look at the injury losses – obviously Kris Letang is the big one for the playoffs, but it wasn’t a given that Marc-Andre Fleury was going to step in and play as well as he has in these playoffs. They are still playing technically down their starting goalie. You look at the last round – they lose Sidney Crosby for a game and still beat the Capitals the game they didn’t have him.
“So coming into the year and sort of big picture, I obviously think they’re one of the most talented rosters in the league, but you look at all they’ve had to deal with, and I think it’s a pretty amazing testament to what this team has done this year that they’re sitting where they are – three games away from going back to the Cup final.”