East final – post-game (Game 3)

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A few post-game observations following the Penguins’ 6-2 victory Saturday over the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 3 of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference final, which the Penguins lead, 3-0:

STAR GAZING

1 – C Evgeni Malkin, Penguins. The two goals were sweet, but how about that drop pass to set up LW Ruslan Fedotenko’s goal?

2 – C Sidney Crosby, Penguins. Somebody – ahem! – is feeling pretty good to have included him high on his final MVP ballot.

3 – D Sergei Gonchar. With two assists, ‘Sarge’ is rounding into pre-knee injury form.

REVISITING ALEX

Since the conclusion of Round 2, many fans have asked me if I “really thought” the Penguins did a good job defending Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin, who scored eight goals and recorded 14 points in that seven-game series.

Well, after watching three games of the ECF, none of which Hurricanes C Eric Staal has been a factor, I can answer that question with a resounding Y-E-S. Consider: Staal and Flyers C Jeff Carter – man, doesn’t that first-round series against Philadelphia seem so long ago? – combined for one goal in nine playoff games against the Penguins. During the regular season, Staal and Carter combined to score 86 goals.

I thought after Round 2 that Ovechkin’s performance, though dominant, could have been even more damaging. He scored four goals in Games 1 and 2, and only four in the remaining games. Given what the Penguins have done to Carter and now Staal, I’d say holding Ovechkin – for my money the best pure goal-scorer in the NHL since Mario Lemieux – to less than 10 goals in a seven-game series is outstanding work.

STATS THAT MAY ONLY INTEREST ME

As you know, I’m not a huge fan of tying this Penguins team to the ones predating Crosby’s arrival in 2005. However, as a franchise, the Penguins are about to reach their fourth championship round since 1991 – one more than the Steelers, who have played in three Super Bowls, winning two, dating to 1991.

I have never understood the need for some Pittsburgh fans to pit one of the city’s teams against another, but if anybody is looking for a reason as to why Pittsburgh is one of America’s great NHL cities (in addition to its rightful recognition as the country’s best NFL town), consider what a current 30-year-old has seen from the Penguins since he or she turned eight in 1987: two Stanley Cup championships; six conference final appearances; 15 playoff appearances, with at least one series win in 12 postseasons; MVPs for Lemieux (1988, 1993 and 1996), Jaromir Jagr (1999) and Sidney Crosby (2007); and scoring titles for Lemieux (1988-89, 1992-93 and 1996-97), Jagr (1995, 1997-2001), Crosby (2007) and Malkin (2009).

QUESTION FOR YINZ

Who has been the Penguins’ MVP in the Stanley Cup playoffs? Yinz know the drill, dear readers. Send your thoughts via e-mail.

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