ShareThis Page
Penguins have no choice but to treat outdoor game as serious business | TribLIVE.com
Penguins/NHL

Penguins have no choice but to treat outdoor game as serious business

Jonathan Bombulie
788663_web1_1131463919
Getty Images
The Penguins hold a practice Friday in preparation for Saturday’s Stadium Series game at Lincoln Financial Field on February 22, 2019 in Philadelphia.
788663_web1_788663-10a2a23f45154d7c8b14b214ae3c5fa8
AP
Workers continue preparations ahead of Saturday’s outdoor game between the Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers at Lincoln Financial Field.

PHILADELPHIA — As the Pittsburgh Penguins practiced Friday afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field in preparation for their Stadium Series game against the Philadelphia Flyers, a wave of pleasant nostalgia came over goalie Matt Murray.

In his mind, he was a kid again, breathing in the cold air of Thunder Bay, Ontario.

“My uncle had a pond in his backyard that we used to play on. That’s kind of where it all got started,” Murray said. “Used to go to the outdoor rinks with my buddies. We would skip school sometimes and go to the outdoor rinks … ”

Record scratch.

When the puck drops Saturday night between the Penguins and Flyers — weather permitting — those pleasant thoughts will be ripped right away from Murray and his teammates.

The Penguins have forfeited the right to treat the outdoor game as a joyous celebration of the origins of the sport, filled with as much pomp and pageantry as actual competition.

They’re barely hanging onto a playoff position in the Eastern Conference standings. They’re coming off a dismal 4-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night.

They have no choice but to treat the game as a desperate, mano-a-mano struggle for two points they badly need.

“From here on out, every game is going to feel like a playoff game,” Murray said. “No matter who the opponent is. No matter where the game’s being played. It’s just the time of year. That’s where we’re at.”

It won’t be an easy task.

They’ll be facing a desperate opponent. The Flyers’ late-season charge for a playoff spot is reaching the point of no return. They’re seven points back and suffered an equally humbling 5-1 loss to Montreal on Thursday.

The atmosphere will be hostile. Take the frothing horde that usually greets the Penguins at Wells Fargo Center, triple it, move it across the parking lot and let it tailgate all day.

“With the amount of people you can pack into this place, I would expect a challenging game,” captain Sidney Crosby said.

On top of that, the Penguins are hardly firing on all cylinders despite winning four of their last six games. Their special teams are sagging. Phil Kessel and Patric Hornqvist are locked in deep scoring slumps. They haven’t been particularly hard to play against in a while.

“We don’t have any sort of false notion that we’re in a playoff spot,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “We understand that we’ve got to go out and earn it every day. I think our players are well aware of it.”

Defenseman Kris Letang understands the gravity of the situation.

This will be the fifth outdoor game the Penguins have played since the concept was reintroduced in 2008. Does Letang still find it to be a special moment in his career?

“Not really,” he said.

That’s understandable. It’s not like this is Letang’s first outdoor rodeo. How many of these have you played in before, Kris?

“I don’t count them,” he shrugged.

Letang, needless to say, is all business.

“I think we have to approach it the same way we approach every game right now,” he said. “We have 21 games left. I think every one of them is really important.”

In the end, perhaps there’s a middle ground the Penguins can find between Murray’s dreamy nostalgia and Letang’s dour pragmatism.

Perhaps Hornqvist has found it.

“You need to have fun to win,” he said. “We just need to find ourselves. Last game was not our best, and we all know it. I think this is a great opportunity for us to have some fun and embrace this atmosphere and make sure we do all the little things right out there. Then we’re going to come out on the right side, I think.”

Follow the Pittsburgh Penguins all season long.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Sports | Penguins
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.