It'll be a "do or die" situation in Game 7 tomorrow night for the Pittsburgh Penguins, where the doom and gloom is already in full effect after the Pens have lost Games 5 and 6 to the New York Rangers after first building a 3 games to 1 lead.
The bridge jumping has commenced even before the season is over, which isn't hard to believe given the fact that high expectations and playoff stress and pressure has seemingly gotten the better of the majority of Penguins fans. Or at least the vocal ones on social media or the nervous ones that have dumped thousands of their own dollars into ticket prices.
Blaming people isn't what I'm going to do, because it's not going to solve anything and it's not going to help me feel any better either. The Pens will either win tomorrow night, or they will lose. Either way, the sun is still going to come up on Wednesday morning and we'll all go on with our lives.
If they lose, they'll have to take another serious look in the mirror and evaluate which players and coaches should remain, and which should move on. It won't be pretty and it won't be fun to have another disappointing summer of reflection.
It can be difficult to enjoy the journey when the destination so frequently ends up being a disappointment for so many teams every year, but hey, that's the sport we love.
We do love it, right?
One thing Rob Rossi from The Trib hit the nail on the head was the Pascal Dupuis effect. His loss has been a major one and hasn't been one the team has been able to replace. They may have spent the money from Dupuis' salary cap hit on a Lee Stempniak or Marcel Goc, but the results are far from the same.
This team misses Pascal Dupuis, more on the ice than anywhere. That said, given the seeming current emotional state of Crosby, Dupuis is equally missed as a presence. He is the only player with the confidence, clout and cunning to do what might be needed: challenge Crosby to figure out this funk by ribbing him endlessly.
Bill Guerin did that five years ago, busting on Crosby at every chance.
Dupuis is not a carbon copy of Guerin, but he is the glue of this Penguins group. He also can - and more important will - say anything to anybody.
Pascal Dupuis is not walking through those doors. No one needs to bust Crosby's balls just to bust ‘em, but it's a shame that there's a void of leadership in the room. Maybe that's why Mario Lemieux made another appearance in the Pens lockeroom to sit and talk with Crosby. Just to remind him that he's the best player in the world, and that nothing is over yet.
Speaking of Crosby, one hint for him might be on the power play.
That stat speaks for himself. Crosby doesn't have to force shots, but as he goes the power play (and ultimately the team) goes. Getting something off the PP would be a huge help, and the Pens could use their best player putting the puck on net.
Each of the Penguins 3 wins this series, they've scored the first goal of the game.
Each of the Penguins 3 losses this series, New York has scored the first goal. In fact, in every a Pens loss this series, they've gone down 2-0 in the first period.
That isn't to say that whoever scores first is absolutely going to win, ala pre-2004 rules, but the game's first goal is going to be huge. Spot Henrik Lundqvist a 2-0 lead and that means you have to beat him 3 times (and probably 3 times in a row) in order to get a win. As it goes without saying, that's something that's not going to happen on most nights.
"Get a good start" is a cliché, but it will be imperative to at least not have a bad start. Looking back at the Pens last two Game 7 wins (vs. Washington and Detroit both in 2009), they jumped out to early leads and never looked back. Their last two Game 7 losses (vs. Montreal in 2010 and Tampa in 2011) the Pens surrendered the game's first goal and ended up losing.
It will be interesting to see how Dan Bylsma handles his lines in Game 7. Does he keep Evgeni Malkin on the wing with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz? That trio has faired decently, but hasn't been terribly productive.
James Neal only has one goal in the past eight games without skating normal shifts with his normal center in Malkin. Jussi Jokinen and Brandon Sutter have continued to be productive, but other forwards like Lee Stempniak and Beau Bennett have almost completely fallen off the radar. How much or how little Bylsma does might decide the far of the season.
A shakeup is always needed for any team that has only scored 2 goals in the last 2 games. The key will be pushing the right buttons and not changing too much, or too little. Malkin has been the best forward for the Penguins, how he's deployed will be a major factor.