For the second time in three playoff home games, the Penguins face a pivotal point in their series – and, probably, their future.
They trail the New York Rangers, 1-0, in a best-of-seven affair. Game 2 is at Consol Energy Center on Sunday night, with Game 3 at Madison Square Garden on Monday night. So, in a span of about 48 hours, Round 2 could swing wildly.
Avoiding a 0-2 hole is more important than it might seem to the Penguins, who are led by several players that twice overcame such series deficits during the Stanley Cup run in 2009. Each of those 0-2 holes came with Games 3 and 4 set for Pittsburgh – Mellon Arena, where the Penguins were a lot more dominant on the 2008 and 2009 Cup Final runs.
The Penguins went 18-3 at home at the Igloos over those postseasons. They are just 9-10 at home in the playoffs at Consol Energy Center, and have dropped Games 1 and 2 of series at home each of the last two postseasons – to the Flyers (2012) and Bruins (2013).
Since twice rallying from 0-2 holes in 2009, the Penguins have not exactly handled that specific adversity well. They went just 2-4 in series games after those deficits to Philadelphia and Boston, falling behind 3-0 in each circumstance.
So, indeed, Sunday is big for the Penguins.
Lose, and all that external pressure that players acknowledged was internalized negatively during Round 1 – yeah, all of it becomes a real factor again. Coaches, players, maybe even members of the front office, will be wondering about their jobs if this series against the Rangers goes to a bad place quickly.
The Penguins cannot lose in by an unceremonious trouncing for a third consecutive postseason. That just will not sit well with a couple of successful people that happen to be the majority co-owners.
>> Our #TribHKY Sunday cover story looks at the leadership of franchise centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/6044885-74/malkin-penguins-crosby#axzz30cWB7C7J
>> With the “Insider,” Josh Yohe examines the home overtime woe that has befallen the Penguins: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/6043898-74/overtime-penguins-game#axzz30cWB7C7J
>> Jason Mackey examines the impact a Staal – Marc, not Jordan – can have on a playoff series: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/6044903-74/staal-rangers-game#axzz30cWB7C7J
>> Yohe with some newsy notes, led by the readiness of Brian Gibbons: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/6044895-74/gibbons-penguins-game#axzz30cWB7C7J
>> Columnist Joe Starkey suggests playing with James Neal might spark the slumping Crosby: http://triblive.com/sports/joestarkey/6044872-74/sid-stempniak-game
Good luck, Marathoners. What a great day for Pittsburgh with the big race, a Pirates home matinee and an evening Penguins playoff tilt.
Be EXCELLENT to each other,