I'm not trying to be dramatic, I'm trying to paint the picture. After all, the same well-reasoned, respected columnist who openly and boldly wrote this five days ago:
Everyone around town has been sharing their first-round predictions in recent days. Here`s mine: These Penguins are going to win the Stanley Cup. And when they do, few of us will even remember how they took out the Flyers. I`m not suggesting it`ll be easy. Clearly, it won`t, based on the rivals` heated, mostly even back-and-forth this season. But I am saying there isn`t another NHL team — not the Flyers, Canucks, Blues, Predators, Rangers or anyone else — that can match the Penguins` total package.
Within a couple hours of maybe the most pathetic playoff performance in Penguins history, the sloppy, senseless and stupid-beyond-words 8-4 loss to the Flyers in Game 3 on Sunday, the tattered remains of this team boarded an aircraft for Pittsburgh. That`s where they`re set to practice the next two days, then return here for Game 4. Do us a favor, gentlemen: Don`t come back. No, I mean it. Just fold the sweaters like you`ve folded mentally in these Stanley Cup playoffs. Pack up like you`ve packed it in, and head off to Moose Jaw or Magnitogorsk for the summer. But don`t come back here.This isn't meant to pile on to said columnist, but rather point out the huge change that's been made in just a few days.
Once thought of from Las Vegas to pundits to fans as one of the favorites to win the whole Stanley Cup, the Pittsburgh Penguins players are now idiots and assholes who haven't done much to merit even wear the crest.
But this piece isn't about what of James Neal's questionable hits, Kris Letang and Sidney Crosby starting post-whistle fights (not that they have head trauma issues or anything) or the all out goonery of Arron Asham that resembled something out of a Trevor Gillies or Micheal Haley novel. No, this isn't about that.
And it's not even about blowing a lead in every single game against Philadelphia Flyers team that has somehow been more composed, skilled, focused and better coached than their rivals. Or about Marc-Andre Fleury struggle to control rebounds and make routine saves, his confidence looking totally shot from a porous defense that's playing all-star game rules instead of NHL post-season mentality.
It's about just winning a game. One game. On Wednesday.
The Penguins did it 51 times this season, so they should remember how to do it. Seems like a stretch at this point, but hey, stranger things have happened.
60 minutes of solid effort. The forwards have done a good job of creating offense, but better decisions in getting the puck deep (and not allowing Philly to gain so much speed through the neutral zone) would be nice. The defense pretty much needs a complete lobotomy of the past 5 days and a fresh start. And Fleury needs to see pucks, stop pucks, control pucks.
On paper, fairly simple concepts. We've seen this since October, how the team has played. As a unit. And generally successfully.
Granted, it's going to be a lot harder to do in reality than just some words on a blog. Especially on the road, in a hostile arena. And going up against a supremely confident and team that is clicking very well
But, that's the hole they're in. And at this point there's no other choice.
Either the Pens will find a way to win a game, or they won't. Simple as that.