If the Pittsburgh Penguins could figure out a way to not sleep through the first 20 minutes of a game, the team would have already punched their ticket to the Eastern Conference Finals.
But alas, they have not, and thus the New York Rangers pushed Game 7 on the Penguins Sunday night with an emotional 3-1 victory over their rivals.
And while people naturally will look to blame the scapegoat of Pittsburgh’s past two postseason difficulties, the ever inconsistent Marc-Andre Fluery for Sunday’s loss, that kind of blame would simply be taking the easy way out of this one; the Penguins are more of a mess right now than a spotty goalie.
Pittsburgh looks nothing like the team that, just a few days ago, had pushed New York into a win-or-go-home corner; in fact, the tables have turned quite drastically — starting with sleepy (but angry) Penguins captain Sidney Crosby.
If Pittsburgh’s Eastern Conference disaster against the Boston Bruins taught future Penguins opponents anything last year, it would be to aim for the captain first and the rest of the ship is bound to sink. A shame of a fact considering all the talent this Pittsburgh team has beyond the skilled hands of Crosby.
But Sunday night, the Rangers aimed straight for the helm, frustrating Crosby into a -1 rating on the ice and a uncharacteristic spearing move on New York’s Dominic Moore. Those of us with a bird’s-eye view can easily call the captain out to wake up, realizing as soon as he does, his team is sure to follow; it’s easier said than done.
And so these two teams will meet in Game 7 on Tuesday night — something that two games and two Penguins shutouts ago seemed a very far away reality. The only thing the Penguins need to worry about over the next 48 hours is finding a way (and the will) to stick to playing the game that got them here. If not, the Penguins’ postseason motto of “Buckle Up Baby” will ring eerily true. Because without Pittsburgh’s finely tuned machine of patience and perseverance working for them, Game 7 is going to be a bumpy ride.