Jump Off That Bridge, but Pack a Parachute by @ExcitedBobErrey - PensInitiative | Pittsburgh Penguins Blog | Rumors | News

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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Jump Off That Bridge, but Pack a Parachute by @ExcitedBobErrey

To say it's not the start you want to a series is a bit of an understatement.  Each team starts on even footing, and if you can get up a couple of games in the series you're probably going to win.  I can't tell you the exact percentage, but teams that go up 2-0  win the majority of those series mostly because of a couple simple reasons.  Being up 2 games means that you only have to win 2 more to your opponent's 4.  Also getting that big lead indicates that you're playing better than the other team, which coupled with the extra leeway makes getting that coming back a difficult task.  But the NHL doesn't stop series when a team gets a 2-0 lead, or 3-1 lead.  They even make teams finish things up when one has gone up 3-0.  That's because teams can, and have, come back from those deficits before, the Pittsburgh Penguins in particular.  Beginning with the Cup runs in the early 90s, the Penguins have faced  2-0 deficits 8 times.  They've come back to win 5 of those, and 5 out of 8 is a much better percentage than the rest of the league.  Two of those losses the Penguins found themselves in a 3-0 hole, which is all but an automatic ticket home, but let's take a look back at the others.

1991 Wales Conference Final: Down 2-0 against Boston

Game 1: 6-3 Boston
Game 2: 5-4 Boston (OT)

The Boston Bruins came into the series as favorites over the Pittsburgh Penguins, having represented the Eastern Conference Wales Conference the previous year and finishing with the top seed in the conference heading into the playoffs.  They won the first 2 games in Boston and it appeared they were getting ready to punch their ticket back.

Game 3: Pittsburgh 4-1
Game 4: Pittsburgh 4-1
Game 5: Pittsburgh 7-2
Game 6: Pittsburgh 5-3

The Penguins came back to Pittsburgh, and a couple of games and identical 4-1 scores later they had tied the series.  Momentum had shifted, and they seized control in a rout before finishing things off back at Mellon Arena.  Pittsburgh finished things off against Minnesota in the SCF, bringing the first Stanley Cup back to the Steel City.

1992 Patrick Division Semi-Final: Down 2-0 and 3-1 against Washington

Game 1: Washington 3-1
Game 2: Washington 6-2
Game 3: Pittsburgh 6-4
Game 4: Washington 7-2

The Stanley Cup hangover proved to be a real thing in the regular season, as the Pens finished just 3rd in the Atlantic Division Patrick Division, and the title defense didn't get off the to the best start on the road in Washington.  The Capitals dominated in Games 2 & 4 to take 2-0 and 3-1 leads, and it appeared that Pittsburgh's reign on top was going to be short lived.

Game 5: Pittsburgh 5-2
Game 6: Pittsburgh 6-4
Game 7: Pittsburgh 3-1

The Penguins kicked off what would become an almost annual tradition in letting the Capitals get the big lead before ending their season in the most heartbreaking of fashions.  The comeback kicked off the run to a 2nd consecutive Stanley Cup, and after going down 2-1 against the Rangers the Pens would win 11 straight to bring Lord Stanley home.

1996 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals: Down 2-0 against Washington

Game 1: Washington 6-4
Game 2: Washington 5-3

In what was becoming a familiar scenario, the Penguins were fresh off a great regular season in which they won the Northeast Division yet still found themselves down 2 games to the Washington Capitals in the opening round.  And in familiar fashion:

Game 3: Pittsburgh 4-1
Game 4: Pittsburgh 3-2 (4OT)
Game 5: Pittsburgh 4-1
Game 6: Pittsburgh 3-2

The Pittsburgh Penguins once again showed why the Washington Capitals franchise was a joke as they flipped the switch on their defense and shutdown the Capitals.  The playoff run ended on a sour note as the favored Penguins couldn't hold off the upset from the Panthers in the Eastern Conference Finals.  While the Pens would make the ECF again in the Mario Lemieux era, this was the last great chance they had at winning a Stanley Cup.

2008 Stanley Cup Final: Down 2-0 and 3-1 against Detroit

Game 1: Detroit 4-0
Game 2: Detroit 3-0
Game 3: Pittsburgh 3-2
Game 4: Detroit 2-1

Pittsburgh surprised the hockey world in 2008, as the big deadline acquisition of Marian Hossa severely accelerated the Pittsburgh's postseason timetable, and the Penguins responded by breezing into the Stanley Cup Finals with only 2 losses on the postseason.  Just like the previous season, they found themselves exploited by a much more experienced team as Detroit dominated the first 2 games and took commanding 2-0 and 3-1 leads.

Game 5: Pittsburgh 4-3 (3OT)
Game 6: Detroit 3-2

Despite Petr Sykora's OT heroics and a furious push at the end of Game 6, Pittsburgh could not mount a comeback and ended up losing the Stanley Cup to Detroit in 6 games.  For the 2nd year in a row, the Penguins gained invaluable experience and learned what it takes to win in the playoffs.

2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals: Down 2-0 against Washington

Game 1: Washington 3-2
Game 2: Washington 4-3

The Pittsburgh Penguins found themselves in NBC's dream scenario during their attempt to represent the East again in the Stanley Cup finals as Sidney Crosby (and 19 other guys) faced off against Alex Ovechkin (and 19 other guys) for a spot in the ECF.  Because this is a Pittsburgh-Washington playoff series, the Penguins spotted the Capitals the early 2-0 series lead.

Game 3: Pittsburgh 3-2 (OT)
Game 4: Pittsburgh 5-3
Game 5: Pittsburgh 5-4 (OT)
Game 6: Washington 5-4 (OT)
Game 7: Pittsburgh 6-2

Because this is a Pittsburgh-Washington playoff series, the Penguins came back to win.  After playing 4 incredibly close games that included 3 overtime games, the Penguins made it look easy in Game 7.  For the first time this group of young players faced adversity in the playoffs and moved onto the next round.

2009 Stanley Cup Finals: Down 2-0 against Detroit

Game 1: Detroit 3-1
Game 2: Detroit 3-1

For the 2nd year in a row, Pittsburgh faced off against Detroit for the Stanley Cup, and for the 2nd year in a row the Red Wings won the first 2 games to take the early 2-0 lead.  The Penguins had faced this exact situation against the Capitals earlier in these playoffs and once again would need to win 4 of the final 5 games to win.

Game 3: Pittsburgh 4-2
Game 4: Pittsburgh 4-2
Game 5: Detroit 5-0
Game 6: Pittsburgh 2-1
Game 7: Pittsburgh 2-1

That's exactly what happened.  Pittsburgh answered Detroit's pair of 3-1 wins with a pair of 4-2 wins, and after a bad loss in Detroit that looked like it might put the Stanley Cup out of reach, Pittsburgh finished things off with a pair of 2-1 wins for the 3rd Stanley Cup in franchise history.

While Game 2 of this Boston series was an absolute nightmare, this series is far from over.  Pittsburgh returns 12 players from that Stanley Cup winning team that came back from 2-0 deficits, and they have an overabundance of veteran leadership.  The series shifts to Boston, and playing a road game might be just what this team needs to simplify things and make the smart play and help them get back to their game.

They need to stop the soft dumps into the corner.  Boston's defensemen are retrieving and clearing the puck quickly.  This extra emphasis on playing physical hockey and hitting the Bruins on the dump ins is leading Pittsburgh to do things that kill their possession time and keep the game moving towards their own end.  We've seen Bylsma bring the forwards further back to help the breakout before and he needs to do so again.  Boston is clogging the neutral zone and the long breakout passes aren't helping.  Not only does bringing the forwards back give the defensemen more options, it also prevents the forwards from being stuck up ice if and when the Pens do turn the puck over against the forecheck.  This team needs to make sure it's building its gameplan off a strong commitment in the defensive zone and allowing the offense to continue possessing the puck into the Boston zone instead of giving it up on soft dumps that.  This team has the talent to win 4 games against the Boston Bruins.  Winning Game 3 will go a big way towards swinging momentum in Pittsburgh's favor and getting the Bruins to play on their heals.  However, they need to be responsible in their own end.  They need to make the smart play clearing the puck off the walls instead of trying to force it up the middle of the ice.  They need to stop giving the Bruins extra odd man chances.  It won't be easy to win 4 out of the next 5 games, but this team has done it before.  Let's hope they can do it again.

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