TribLIVE

| Sports

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Penguins insider: Golden opportunity arrives with Game 5

Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Penguins' Kris Letang and Jussi Jokinen celebrates with Jerome Iginla after Iginla's third-period goal against the Senators on Wednesday, May 22, 2013, at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Penguins' Kris Letang and Jussi Jokinen celebrates with Jerome Iginla after Iginla's third-period goal against the Senators on Wednesday, May 22, 2013, at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - The Penguins' Douglas Murray hits the Senators' Chris Neil during the second period Tuesday, May 14, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>The Penguins' Douglas Murray hits the Senators' Chris Neil during the second period Tuesday, May 14, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.

Penguins/NHL Videos

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Josh Yohe
Thursday, May 23, 2013, 10:45 p.m.
 

Defenseman Douglas Murray knows all about postseason heartache. He played the first seven seasons of his career in San Jose, after all.

And so, the Penguins would be wise to heed the veteran's advice: Put Ottawa away Friday at Consol Energy Center.

“As the playoffs go on,” Murray said, “the more rest becomes important. It's not a cliché.”

No, it certainly isn't.

Hockey history, in fact, strongly urges the Penguins to win in Game 5 if they intend to win the Stanley Cup.

Here's why:

Since the NHL switched the first round from a best-of-five to a best-of-seven series in 1987, only one Stanley Cup winner — the 1996 Colorado Avalanche — was forced to play in six or more games in every series leading to the Stanley Cup Final. The other 24 champions during that stretch all earned at least one series victory in five or fewer games on the road to the championship.

The Avalanche made up for their grueling road by eliminating Florida in four games during the 1996 Stanley Cup Final.

“You need to get that rest at some point,” Murray said.

Aside from the historical evidence that suggests wrapping up the series in five games would behoove the Penguins, another factor is worth noting.

This team seldom has displayed a hint of killer instinct in recent years.

The Penguins struggled mightily but somehow emerged with a victory in Game 6 against the Islanders during the first round of these playoffs.

Dating to 2010, the Penguins are 1-6 in playoff games when they have an opportunity to end a series. They never have eliminated an opponent at Consol Energy Center.

The previous time the Penguins ended a series on home ice was Game 5 of the 2008 Eastern Conference finals against Philadelphia.

Under coach Dan Bylsma, the Penguins are 6-8 when presented an opportunity to clinch a series. In home games in such situations, the Penguins are 0-6 under Bylsma.

Previous playoff failures, though, don't concern this team. That shoddy — some even have admitted it was lucky — performance in Game 6 against the Islanders still resonates. The Penguins wish to not only win Game 5 but to do so impressively.

“Putting a team away really is the toughest game,” Murray said. “Our last time to close out a series on Long Island, to be honest, they took it to us a little bit. We're looking for a better game in this one.”

The Penguins likely would play the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference finals. The Bruins have a 3-1 series lead on the New York Rangers, who staved off elimination Thursday with a 4-3 overtime win at Madison Square Garden. Still, the Bruins could end the series quickly.

Every Stanley Cup champion before has enjoyed a quick series at some point. The Bruins might be well rested when the Eastern Conference finals begin.

Game 5 against Ottawa presents the Penguins with the same, invaluable luxury.

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jyohe@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Penguins

  1. Rossi: ‘Hockey guy’ Sutter will be missed
  2. Penguins trade Sutter to Canucks, sign free agent center Fehr
  3. New Pens winger Fehr ready for defense-first role
  4. Sutter: Staal effect felt on 3rd line with Penguins
  5. Reliving the moment a decade ago that shifted the Penguins history
  6. Rossi: ‘Hockey guy’ Sutter will be missed
  7. Penguins to appear on national TV 18 times in 2015-16
  8. ‘Warning track’ makes Pittsburgh debut at Southpointe’s Iceoplex
  9. Penguins bring in analytics expert from Carnegie Mellon
  10. Pens assistant GM Fitzgerald leaves for Devils