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East final – post-game (Game 3)

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.

Author: Rob Rossi

Rob Rossi has covered the Penguins for parts of every season that Sidney Crosby has played in Pittsburgh. So, since 2005. He has led the Trib's NHL coverage since 2007, when he became the primary Penguins beat reporter. He joined the Tribune-Review in November 2002. Rossi, 35, is local chapter president of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association. He also dabbles in radio, as ClearChannel's "Penguins Insider," and TV, as "NHL Insider" for Root Sports Pittsburgh, and as a semi-regular contributor to The Final Word, a Sunday sports show that airs on WPXI. In 2012, Rossi was recognized nationally by Penn State's John Curley Center for Sports Journalism for his coverage of youth sports for a Trib series that investigated concussion protocol. In 2013, he teamed with Carl Prine for an investigative piece about athletes' charities what was honored regionally. A graduate of West Virginia University and Keystone Oaks High School, Rossi was raised in Crafton and Green Tree and currently resides in Brookline. He is currently working on the authorized biography of Evgeni Malkin. Follow him on Twitter: @RobRossi_Trib

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