Most experts predicted the Eastern Conference Finals would wrap up in five games. Through three games of the series, it seems like that could still very much happen! Just not in the way anyone predicted, unfortunately. But it is not time to panic about the Penguins’ unexpected 2-1 series deficit, dear friends. It is time to rank things about their unexpected 2-1 series deficit.
Part of the reason it seems hard to get into this series, other than the Penguins’ current inability to make the goals so we love, is that despising Ottawa doesn’t come as easy as hating, say … the Washington Capitals or another franchise Pittsburgh has more history with.
Ottawa is just … Ottawa. The capital city of Canada. It stands on the south bank of the Ottawa River in the eastern portion of southern Ontario and borders Gatineau, Quebec, forming the core of the Ottawa–Gatineau census metropolitan area (CMA) and the National Capital Region (NCR). I mean, what is the deal with that? (Thank you to Wikipedia for providing those very interesting Ottawan facts.)
“A method of scoring in many sports, or the physical structure or area where scoring occurs.”
While I’m rolling with the Wikipedia, I thought it might be helpful to remind the Penguins what goals are. After entering the series as the highest-scoring team in the playoffs, the Penguins have just three goals through three games. Bad! Here are all of them:
For next week’s Power Rankings, Penguins, your homework is to provide many more goal highlights to embed in the column.
In what was supposed to be a cakewalk to the Stanley Cup Final, the Penguins are two games from elimination, can’t score, suddenly can’t stop the puck from going in the net, may have a goalie controversy (Editor’s note: *do* have a controversy) and are wracked with injuries.
7. NOT PANICKING!
Game 3 was just one of those bad games that even great teams have every so often, right? Had things gone the other way in OT in Game 1, the Pens would be up 2-1 in the series even while not playing their best hockey. A team with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel will start scoring, Marc-Andre Fleury has been arguably the best goalie in hockey for a month, the team’s Plan B in net is a Stanley Cup winner, and the Penguins have long-proven they can overcome injuries. Right?
Nobody is panicking.
NOBODY IS PANICKING!
6. Goalie controversy
After pulling Fleury for Matt Murray, Mike Sullivan had this to say after the game: “I haven’t even given any consideration to that at this point.”
I have given consideration to that, however. And here is my one thought: If Sullivan goes to Murray for Game 4 after how well Fleury has played in the postseason — and how very average Murray was for the second half of the regular season — we’ll finally know for sure that Fleury is not in Pittsburgh’s long-term plans.
And actually, after further consideration, I have a second thought. (You’re in luck!) The fact that Sullivan didn’t just say, “Of course Fleury will be back in net for Game 4. One bad period doesn’t change how he’s played the whole postseason,” feels like it doesn’t bode well for the future of The Flower.
5. Rock, paper, scissors
Let’s lighten the mood and look back at those halcyon days of three days ago when Phil Kessel was playing Rock, Paper Scissors on the bench and scoring game-winning goals.
4. Pittsburgh Pirates
Hey, how about those Pirates, huh? They’ve won three of four, including Gerrit Cole (above) shutting down the first place Nationals on Wednesday night.
No? The Pirates? The professional baseball team? Sidney Crosby once took batting practice with them? Ah, there you go.
3. Being Sidney Crosby…
…instead of looking like an extra cut from “Pirates of The Caribbean 17: Stuck Somewhere in Canada in the Ottawa–Gatineau Census Metropolitan Area.”
2. Home-ice advantage
The good news is that even if the Penguins lose Friday night in Ottawa, they’re not out yet. They’ll come home Sunday and would get two of a possible final three games in the series in PPG. Plus, Ottawa would be holding the dreaded 3-1 series lead, the most dangerous lead in all of sports, unless you’re the Penguins playing the Capitals. (Editor’s note No. 2: This is false. 3-1 is a disaster. Oh, perhaps you were being glib, DJ.)
1. Talent and skill
The Penguins have far more talent and skill than the Senators. That isn’t homerism. That is fact. And talent and skill should win out in the end … if not in our society, then at least in this series. If it doesn’t, we are all doomed to forever live in a hellscape of a world run by the worst amongst us. Even worse: hockey will go back to those days when the New Jersey Devils and their neutral zone trap ruled/ruined the game. Yuck. Save the world, Penguins. Overthrow the Senators. Resist.