Penguins insider: Golden opportunity arrives with Game 5
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.
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.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Ex-teammates say Kessel unfairly criticized
- New Penguin Kessel’s shot is what makes him special
- Russian winger Plotnikov could join Penguins in August
- Hurricanes owner rips Rutherford, Penguins
- Penguins’ Kessel ‘thrilled’ with chance to play with Crosby, Malkin
- Penguins get their man in making trade with Toronto for Kessel
- Downie, Ehrhoff lead list of likely Penguins leaving in free agency
- Penguins notebook: Rutherford proves savvy in deal
- Penguins insider: Finding Russian to pair with Malkin makes sense
- Penguins intend to sign Russian winger Plotnikov, target Tikhonov
- Penguins bringing back defenseman Cole with 3-year extension