BOSTON -- By now, maybe you've come to some uneasy peace with the hurtful truth that the Penguins are in a profound playoff pickle, but just imagine how grim their situation might be had Howlers in Bloomfield not banned the sale of Sam Adams beer for this conference final.
Right. Oh, the humanity.
Yeah, that worked well.
Walking past the statue of Samuel Adams in front of historic Faneuil Hall near the lunch hour Thursday, I offered a silent apology in the tactless "if anyone was offended" mode.
"Sorry Mr. Adams," was how it went, approximately. "And thanks for not having the fine people of Boston retaliate by withholding their own semi-relevant foodstuffs. I've encountered no shortage of Heinz Ketchup, for example, either downtown or in the near northern suburbs."
Adams, should you know him only for his fine Boston Lager and even finer seasonal brews, organized the American Revolution and signed the Declaration of Independence, according to the statue's markers, but could he have put a hockey puck past Tuukka Rask?
Not bloody likely.
Not even Evgeni Malkin can do that. Malkin can shoot a puck hard enough to break a man's leg, Boston's Gregory Campbell being such a man in Game 3 the other night, but not hard enough or precisely enough to elude the phenomenal Fin.
Thus we have a Penguins team that is not merely down, 3-0, to the Bruins, but is being swallowed by the long shadows of history. Will the Penguins tenure of coach Dan Bylsma, on this Friday in June, end right here in the shadow of The Old North Church, or will the Penguins finally be persuasive enough to force a change of venue for a possible Game 5?
"I'm not coaching, don't coach, and have never coached for my job," Bylsma said at the Ritz Carlton hotel later yesterday. "I coached this hockey team [starting] in '09 and I came here to win hockey games, and that's where we are right now.
"We know exactly what's in front of us with the odds of being down, 0-3, but I believe in that group; I believe in that team; I believe in how we battle and how we're gonna battle and how we're gonna go in knowing we have an elimination game and win Game 4."
There are many who feel as if anything short of a four-game winning streak that begins tonight will result in Bylsma's termination, but I'm not sure of that. Nor would I be an advocate.
What I do know is that the Penguins remain capable of winning four in a row, and that if there's a modern hockey franchise capable of losing a playoff series that it leads 3-0, that franchise is the Boston Bruins, who did that very thing just three springs ago against Philadelphia.
Of the three teams in all of hockey history to pull that stunt, one is skating around pretty much intact from 2010, with the same stabilizing presence behind the bench. Claude Julien avoided the ax that year, won the Stanley Cup the next and could win another this month.
Perhaps, that should be instructive.
"We've been through this situation against the [New York] Rangers," Julien was saying down the hall from the Bruins dressing room. "We were up ahead, 3-0, and we all know how hard that last game was to win. One thing we do know is that we have to play better than we did [in Game 3]. We might have won the game, but we certainly were not pleased. We know they played better, but I don't think we did."
Julien keeps insisting that the Penguins have a potent offense in the absence of any empirical evidence from Boston's 11-2 scoring edge, but he sees no point in overstating his knowledge of the expectations Bylsma's had to deal with, particularly since Pittsburgh management doubled down on Cup speculation with Ray Shero's flurry of trade deadline moves.
"Expectations are high in a lot of cities," said Julien, who coached in the Montreal crucible for three years before his six-year run in Boston. "Montreal is awhile ago, but they're high everywhere. I still remember, a few years ago, the expectations in Vancouver, and we all know what happened there afterward [the rioting when the Canucks lost in the final].
"That's part of our job."
Controlling the rioting?
Well no; it sometimes might just feel that way.
"The opportunities you get to coach in cities that really care about their team are great opportunities," Julien said.
"You just have to be willing to live with the ups and downs and the criticizing and the rewards from it. I've said all along, you can't ask for better than being in a place that's excited about the game, and Boston is one of those places that's really excited about their hockey."
The Penguins, maybe you've noticed, are run by cool hands. This is a franchise whose ownership and executives consider the audience their shareholders and who share their expectations passionately.
On the ice, the Penguins will begin to take on a different look very soon after the end of this season, and, perhaps, this series.
Should that come tonight in a completed sweep and should Bylsma's position be among the primary changes, this series can go into Penguins history as the Boston Massacre.
Gene Collier: email@example.com. First Published June 7, 2013 4:00 AM