Good evening everyone. The playoff march of the Penguins start tonight, and as usual there's someone important hurt. All season the Pens have shown a remarkable ability to play at a high level despite being shorn of key pieces, and tonight is no different. Brooks Orpik and Sidney Crosby both cast imposing shadows. However, that which the Pens are, they are- and they've been the best team in the East by a country mile even while going through forwards like Spinal Tap went through drummers. At some point this post-season, the Pens will need to get both of them back. However the cupboard isn't exactly empty at this point.
While every playoff game is important, one gets the sense it's more important for Marc-Andre Fleury. Right now his 2009 run looks like the aberration when compared to the last 3 playoffs. He certainly played much better this season after early wobbles and needs to continue the strong play. You can only live off your reputation for so long. Should Fleury return to giving up a goal on the first shot he faces the Pens have a cromulent backup but no one really wants to pull the pin on that grenade. It's also important for the head coach. Maybe Bylsma's job is in jeopardy. Maybe it's not. All that we know is this team will be favored in every series it plays until and unless it gets to the Finals. I don't know about you, but I don't think I want to root for the Atlanta Braves of hockey, and not just because their fans are obnoxious. Really, this should be a matter of redemption for every player on the Pens team who's been on the team the last 3 seasons.
The opponent for the first round is the New York Islanders. They appear to have 3 things going for them- 1) John Tavares is really good; 2) Neither Sid nor Geno have scored against Nabokov; 3) they're 3-0 in the playoffs against the Pens. I'm pretty sure that's the list. On paper, the Isles should just be happy to be here. They played their way down to the #8 seed by dropping their last three games and have problems defensively. However, games are not played on paper, as we all know.
Should the Pens lose there will be copious amounts of panic and RJ will enjoy the increased traffic. There will also be hilarious threads. Should the Pens win there will be, well, copious amount of panic about something. Such is life when you wear the crown of expectations. Let's get it done.