Good evening everyone and welcome back to the second round. When we last left our heroes they were white-knuckling their way through a series-clinching Game 6 over Columbus. We learned a few things last series. For one, the Pens can win in the playoffs with subdued performances from their superstars. In the past the team has ebbed and flowed with the performances of Crosby and Malkin. The depth guys made their mark last round, namely Matt Niskanen and Brandon Sutter. Niskanen can taste the 6 year, $60M offer from the Flyers he's getting, while Sutter has raised his game to levels he hasn't previously reached. By the end of the series the stars were finally getting it together. The big guns will need to be clicking going forward. We learned the Pens can occasionally change their style if necessary. We learned (well, were reminded) that Pens fans are completely bi-polar. We also learned that Columbus is annoying, desperate for attention, and in need of someone to care about them. They're Costco-brand Washington Capitals. When Mr. Burns couldn't get Spielberg for the film festival, he got Spielberg's non-union Mexican equivalent. The Pens couldn't get Washington to beat up on in the playoffs, so they got a reasonable facsimile. (The Flyers are definitely "Football to the Groin".) The Pens weren't perfect, but they were good enough, which is all a team needs in the playoffs. Survive and advance.
The opponent for this series is the New York Rangers. They did the Pens and the rest of the hockey world a favor by taking out the Flyers in 7 games last round (1975 Forever!). Their reward is a brutal schedule with the first 3 games played over 4 days and no periods of two days off at all. They have only themselves to blame since they mailed in Game 6. The Rangers have had issues with their superstar producing as well, as Rick Nash looked like a scared bunny for long stretches of that series. The playoff history between these two teams has tilted towards the Pens over the last 25 years. The last time these two teams met was 2008. The Rangers had their shot to win Game 1 after going up 3-0 but the Pens stormed back, took the lead, blew the lead, then won in OT. In Game 5 the Pens blew a 2 goal lead then won in OT. (I had the GDT for Game 5 of that series. Time is a flat circle.) And it goes without saying that Adam Graves deserves an eternity of suffering.
The key to this series will likely be for Fleury to equal Lundqvist. The Rangers are deeper but the Pens have greater talent, and should have an advantage at center. Crosby will need to find the back of the net. He's been contributing and carrying the play but at the end of the day superstars must stand up and be counted in the postseason. Defensively, the Pens need to electro-shock Letang after every dumb decision until he stops being dumb. When he's at his best the Pens are hard to stop.
The first game of a series is always important. We've already established that Pens fans are incapable of perspective and remaining calm, so there's no need to remind everyone of that fact and further stress-test the boards. I say we set fire to the Rangers as a warning to all those who seek to stand in front of the Penguins. Who's with me?