For the first time since the days of Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr, the Pittsburgh Penguins are going to the Stanley Cup Finals. In a statement victory on Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh, Michel Therien’s young squad made it clear that there was only one goal on all their minds: hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup over their heads and carrying it triumphantly back to the Steel City.
While the Western Conference Finals looked like a cakewalk for the Red Wings at first, it has turned out to be a slugfest between two hockey powerhouses. Whoever comes out of this clash of titans still remains to be seen. One thing is certain: if the Pens play at the level they played on Sunday, the team that survives the Western Conference Finals will have more than their hands full.
Sunday saw the Penguins playing as a complete unit, getting consistent contribution from all four lines. Marc-Andre Fleury was perfect in net, making the saves he needed to, including two huge game-changers in the second period, when the Pens only led 2-0. After two huge saves by Fleury, the Pens quickly popped in three more goals to close out the second period and basically seal the game. The production did not only come from Pittsburgh’s superstars, although they did contribute. Malkin and Crsoby both scored, but the contribution from grinders like Ryan Malone and Jordan Staal (whose goal in the last minute of the 2nd period sent Philly to the locker room down 5-0) was what truly doomed the Flyers.
If the Penguins can continue to supplement the expected production from the Crosby-Hossa-Dupuis and Malkin-Sykora-Malone lines like they have in the series leading up to the Cup Finals, they will be very difficult for either Dallas or Detroit to handle. Staal’s contribution on the penalty kill and some of the clutch goals he has scored have been crucial to the Pens impressive 12-2 record in the playoffs. Goals from fourth liners like Maxime Talbot and Georges Laraque have come at opportune monets and helped change the face of games that could have gone against the Pens’ interests. With the momentum that they carry out of the Philadelphia series combined with the type of hockey that the Penguins have been playing, a Stanley Cup is by no means out of the question.