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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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Author: Rob Rossi

Rob Rossi is the lead sports columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has been called many names, but “Rossi” is the one to which he most often responds. He joined the Trib in November 2002 and was promoted to the columnist role in July 2014. Previously, he had covered the NHL’s Penguins (2006-14) and MLB’s Pirates (2006), while also working on beats associated with the NFL’s Steelers (2005-06) and the NCAA’s Pitt (2004-06). He has won national and local awards for his coverage of youth concussions and athletes’ charities. Also, he is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association executive committee and the Pittsburgh chapter chair. Raised in Crafton and Green Tree and a graduate of West Virginia University, he has covered a Super Bowl, All-Star Games in baseball and hockey, the NCAA basketball tournament and over 100 Stanley Cup playoff games, including the Cup Final twice. Oh, and his sports reporting has led him to brief chats with Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen; so that’s pretty cool. He is a regular contributor on TV with WPXI, Root Sports Pittsburgh and TSN. Also, he is the authorized biographer of Penguins star Evgeni Malkin.

 
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