Penguins Notebook: Avoiding Game 7 was crucial
The Capitals' Alex Ovechkin, center, celebrates with teammates after scoring in the second period against the Rangers yesterday at Madison Square Garden in New York. The Capitals went on to win and force a Game 7 in Washington in the first-round NHL playoffs series.
Share with others:
The Penguins' 5-3 victory Saturday at Philadelphia in Game 6 of their opening-round playoff series spared them the stress of facing the Flyers in a seventh game at Mellon Arena this evening.
If history is taken at face value, they should be more than a little relieved.
For while the Penguins were understandably delighted when the New York Rangers beat Philadelphia at the Wachovia Center in the final game of the regular season to deny the Flyers home-ice advantage in Round 1, playing Game 7 at home hardly is a guarantee of victory.
In the case of the Penguins, perhaps it isn't even an edge at all, given that they are 3-0 in Game 7s on the road but only 2-4 in them at home.
They've lost seventh games at Mellon Arena to the New York Islanders (1975 and 1993), Philadelphia (1989) and Florida (1996) and won them against New Jersey (1991) and Washington (1995).
Their Game 7 road victories came at Washington (1992), New Jersey (1999) and Buffalo (2001).
Saturday was the third time the Penguins have rallied from a three-goal deficit to win a playoff game but the first time it has happened on the road.
Considering how dire their situation appeared to be after Philadelphia built a 3-0 lead early in the second period, what the Penguins did in Game 6 might have been even more impressive than their comebacks against the Rangers (2008) and Chicago (1992).
"We knew we were going to face adversity at some point, and obviously we did at the end of the first period and the start of the second," defenseman Mark Eaton said. "It was all about how we responded."
They did it the way interim coach Dan Bylsma hoped they would -- the way teams have to if they hope to survive in the playoffs for more than a few days.
"The Stanley Cup playoffs are not a breeze," Bylsma said. "They're not a walk-through. You're going to get tested, and you're going to have your back against the wall.
"We certainly were tested. We were really tested. They put us back on our heels and they knocked us on our butt a couple of times."
Reaching the second round means the draft choice the Penguins sent to the Islanders for Bill Guerin at the trade deadline will be upgraded to a third-rounder.
The price initially was a No. 5, but became a fourth-rounder when the Penguins qualified for the playoffs and a No. 3 when they won a series.
Philadelphia coach John Stevens has been knocked out of the playoffs by the Penguins for two years in a row, so he probably has more insight than most on the similarities -- and differences -- between the 2008 Penguins and this spring's edition.
"They've added some guys late in the year that gave them some grit that maybe they were missing with the absence of a guy like [Ryan] Malone," Stevens said. "Obviously, [Chris] Kunitz has provided some of that.
"But the biggest difference for me is probably that they're a little more aggressive up ice. Last year, by the end of the year, they really played a patient 1-2-2, not [taking] chances, [waiting] to capitalize on turnovers.
They're still very responsible defensively, but they're much more aggressive up ice."
First Published April 27, 2009 12:00 am