The Penguins’ success against the Washington Capitals in the playoffs — especially in the Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin era — is a dominant one, and with their backs against the wall tonight in Game 6, it’d be treated as no surprise to see them laugh in the face of adversity and elude elimination once again.
Reporter Josh Yohe tweeted out an incredible postseason stat last night, stating that Pittsburgh, when up against elimination by the hands of the Capitals, have an outstanding record of 9-1 in its history versus the Washington club, including 4-0 all-time on home ice. Luckily for the Penguins, Game 6 will be played inside the electric PPG Paints Arena, where they’ve not only garnered an excellent home record this season, but have obviously used it to their advantage against Barry Trotz’s club.
Per Yohe’s latest article at The Athletic:
• In 1992, the Penguins fell down 3-1 against the Capitals before winning the final three games, two of which came on Washington ice. Mario Lemieux putting up 17 points in the final five games of the series probably helped.
• In 1994, the Penguins actually did lose a series to the Capitals but were still able to stave off elimination in Game 5 at home before seeing their season end in Washington in Game 6.
• In 1995, the Penguins again fell down 3-1 before winning Game 5 in overtime, and rolling to victories in the final two games.
• In 2009, the Penguins stormed into Washington and won Game 7 in the most famous series these teams have ever played.
• In 2017, facing elimination again in Washington, Marc-Andre Fleury’s gem led the Penguins to a 2-0 win.
This team has always proved its worth whenever the stakes are highest, and with the tall task of winning two games in a row, one being another Game 7 in our nation’s capital, to advance to their third-straight Eastern Conference Final, Pittsburgh’s heads, most notably the head coach’s, are calm, cool, and collected.
Coach Sullivan: "We are a team. It's all about an attitude going in. It's a great opportunity - that's how we have to look at it. We have to control what we can and put our best game on the ice tonight. We have to stay in the moment and not get overwhelmed by the circumstance."— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) May 7, 2018
Sullivan also went on to note that the Penguins have a track record of responding well to adversity:
“I think it comes down to character and the people we have in our dressing room,” he said. “They’re not afraid of challenges and they embrace these types of situations.”
Even during the slurry of player interviews after morning skate, none of the Penguins seemed worried or nervous. And why should they be? It’s just another game to them. They’ve been here so often, time and time again, that’s it’s basically just a regular thing they’ve gotten used to.
“Whether you have experience or not in this case, you just go out there and focus on winning one game and make sure you leave everything out there,” said Crosby. “In important games like this, I think you just need to be focused and make sure that you don’t do anything different. (You just need to) make sure the desperation level is there and let everything else take care of itself.”
Desperation has been a pretty big factor in pushing these Penguins to play at their best this year. Let’s hope it continues to yield positive results tonight in Game 6. To be honest, considering the aforementioned list of successes, we don't have any evidence to doubt that it will.