Kovacevic: It's about time for these Penguins
OTTAWA — Maybe, just maybe, these Penguins finally got sick and tired of looking so eminently beatable.
Tired of blowing leads.
Tired of blowing coverages.
Tired of blowing chances to bury lesser opponents.
About time, huh?
“I think we showed we're for real,” Pascal Dupuis was saying after the 7-3 body slam of the Senators in Game 4 of this Stanley Cup playoff series Wednesday. “I believe that.”
Yeah, about time somebody started doing that, too.
Because the way things were going in the first period, it looked like the Penguins were bound on the first boat back to Long Island Lapse Land. They were atrocious. They were awful on the power play, allowing another short-handed goal right away. Awful on handing Kyle Turris an open net later on. Awful on …
I know, I know. You don't want to read any of that.
Which is fine because if there's any staying power for what the athletes did after the first intermission to compose themselves, then assert themselves, you might not be reading it so regularly anymore.
James Neal and Jarome Iginla finally busted out, two goals each. Sidney Crosby scored … my goodness, what was that? The seven-goal tidal wave shut up silly talk that Craig Anderson might have been getting in their heads. Tomas Vokoun typically never lost equilibrium. The power play figured it out. The penalty-killing sharpened. The hits started happening.
And nobody stood out in this regard quite like Kris Letang. All he did was shrug off a harrowing first period — partly at fault on both Ottawa goals — to the tune of four assists thereafter.
Letang is as tough on himself as anyone. Couldn't help but wonder if he had a few harsh words in the mirror during that intermission.
“No, not really,” he replied. “There were just a couple of things that happened. I got in between blocking a shot and making it tough on Tomas on the second one. ... But we knew what we wanted to do, and we stayed with it. All of us.”
He wasn't alone in sounding that way in a locker room that carried a confidence factor unlike any of this postseason.
Listen to Vokoun: “We played great. Obviously, it was a tough start. But that's the thing about this team: We shake it off.”
Iginla: “Our attitude was really good, really focused.”
Crosby: “We made a few mistakes. But besides that, we were carrying the play.”
Brooks Orpik: “Once we got going, we really sensed they couldn't keep up with that.”
Couldn't keep up?
The confidence doesn't surprise me, to be honest. The Penguins have been building toward this for a while, and they — notably Dan Bylsma — were particularly wise to focus on the positives of Game 3 rather than the disastrous final minute of regulation.
Even seemed like, to a degree, they fed off it.
“I think we were just so frustrated by the way we gave away that last one,” Orpik said, spitting out “frustrated” the way you say “Flyers.” “Everybody knew this series should have been 3-0. I mean, you talk about moving on, getting past it … I don't think you can. I think you carry over that frustration and kind of take it out on them.”
Take it out on them?
Hey, whatever works.
Fact is, even if the Penguins still are trying to find themselves strategically, even if some personnel still need shifting, this team is absolutely loaded with talent.
Don't forget that among all these ups and downs so far.
They've got it all.
And maybe, just maybe, this was the beginning of the end of that looking like a potential waste as opposed to … oh, I'll just share Letang's closing thought with me: “We're not done, you know. We're not. But it's important that we're confident. It's huge, actually. I remember back in 2009, anytime something would go wrong in one period, we were so confident in our game that we could come right back and play the right way and win. That's how I'm starting to feel about this team.”
I don't have to remind how 2009 wound up, right?