Monday, June 15, 2009

Stanley Cup Playoffs Recap

It was 2 months ago today on April 15th, that the Pens started their long and grueling playoff journey. It was a run marked by adversity, perseverance, and desire. To help explain the roller coaster ride, I will break down each series piece by piece.

1st Round: Philadelphia Flyers

When you talk about hockey rivalries you can look no further than the Pens and Flyers. A rivalry that really took off ever since Derian Hatcher took out some of Crosby's teeth during his rookie campaign back in early 2005. The series was marked by some outstanding goaltending by Fleury, most notably was the save he made on Jeff Carter in game 2. The Flyers were up 2-1 in the 3rd at that point and had Carter scored, the series would've been 1-1 headed back to Philly. Instead the Pens came back to win the game in OT and take a commanding 2-0 series lead. After the Flyers came and stole game 5 in Pittsburgh, the Pens had another miraculous comeback in game 6 with the help of "Superstar" Max Talbot. Down 3-0 five minutes into the 2nd period, the Pens were searching for some sort of spark, so Talbot dropped the mits with goon Dan Carcillo. Carcillo demolished Talbot in this fight and got the Flyer crowd pumped up, little did he know the Pens got some momentum out of it as well. Next shift Fedotenko puts in a goal, a little later Eaton scores on an odd man break. And nearing the end of the period Crosby swats it out of the air and the score is 3-3 heading into the 3rd. Sergei Gonchar's slapshot near the blueline sealed the deal as the Pens went on to win 5-3 and surpass their hated rival Philadelphia. Youngsters Claude Giroux and Darrell Powe both had great series for the Flyers.
Pens win series 4-2.

2nd Round: Washington Capitals

Years from now people will still be talking about this series. Which included the NHLs poster boys Crosby and Ovechkin, and throw in Malkin, Backstrom, Semin, and Staal. The Pens were down 2-0 in the series coming back to the Igloo for 3 and 4. But the Pens had chances to win both games but couldn't pull it off. In game 1, Simeon Varlamov (goalie) made a sensational save on Crosby. In game 2, Crosby and Ovechkin both had hat tricks in the game, with the Caps coming out on top. Geno was nowhere to be seen the first couple games, and under pressure he delivered in game 3 and then later in game 5 in OT. Series highlights include Letang's OT winner in game 3, Ovechkin's knee on knee hit on Gonchar in game 4, and Fleury's save on Ovechkin in game 7. Fleury's save came early in the 1st period and really set the tone for the rest of the game. The Pens had two quick goals in the 1st and slowly built their lead from there and the game was over mid-way through the 2nd period. Nevertheless, Washington got it to 7 games with 2-3 players basically. Ovechkin, Varlamov, and Backstrom were all very good. Semin had no goals in the series, Mike Green had no goals or was not a presence on the power play.
Pens win series 4-3.

3rd round: Carolina Hurricanes

The two hottest teams coming into the playoffs finally met in the East. Conference finals. Under head coach Paul Maurice, the Canes were a new team since he took over in December. Leading them to a 33-19-5 record. The Canes played two very tight series, both going to 7 games against New Jersey and Boston respectively. Against the Pens, they just ran out of gas. Goalie Cam Ward wasn't as good as he was the previous 2 rounds or the regular season. If Ward and Eric Staal show up, the Canes win. Neither of these two guys was a factor. Gill and Scuderi did a great job shutting down the Staal unit, and Ward let in too many softies this series. Although the Pens swept the Canes, each game was fairly close the first 2 periods. Series highlights include Geno's hat trick in game 2 as the Pens won 7-4. Specifically, Geno's backhand from around the net was spectacular. The Pens overmatched the Canes in every respect. They were too deep. The Canes 4th line was hardly used, whereas the Pens were easily rolling 4. Chad LaRose and Matt Cullen had good series. But Corvo, Pitkanen, and Seidenberg were not able to show their offensive skills off and they couldn't handle the pressure of the Pens forwards.
Pens win series 4-0.

Finals opponent: Detroit Red Wings

A rematch of last year's final took place once again. The Pens lost the first 2 again at the Joe, but this time around they were competitive in both games and had a chance to win them. The Pens held the fort at home and in game 4 the series turned around. The Pens were down 2-1 early in the 2nd period and on the penalty kill Jordan Staal made a power move and scored a shorthanded goal. The Pens went on to score 2 more goals in a 5 minute span and win the game 4-2. Game 5 in Detroit, the Pens were blown out because of overconfidence and frustration. They played their worst game of the playoffs. They rebounded in game 6 under another strong game from Staal/Cooke/Kennedy. In game 7, Max Talbot was the hero and Fleury had an amazing game and save at the end of regulation. Series highlights include Fleury's breakaway save on Cleary up 2-1 in the 3rd period in game 6, Geno's fight with Zetterberg at the end of game 2, Staal's shorthanded goal in game 4, and Fleury's save on Lidstrom at the end of game 7.
Pens win series 4-3.

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