By: Casey Johnston (@PensNationCasey)
We have arrived at a point some would have thought unthinkable just a week ago. After dropping game 1 in overtime, the Penguins had shut out the Rangers in back-to-back games and defeated them in a third that saw New York have only 15 total shots on goal (the Penguins only had 15 shots in game 3, but a shutout victory masks a few problems).
A game seven, regardless of the round and teams, can be an exciting thing. However, not all game sevens are created equal. Some are like the 2009 series between the Washington Capitals when the Penguins had to battle back from a 2-0 deficit to defeat a team that was having some regular season success against them. That game 7 came shockingly easy for the Penguins. They scored two goals eight seconds apart in the first period and then scored three more in the second before the Capitals responded. The final score was 6-2. If you are lucky then this is how your favorite team’s game seven will go, an easy win after six games of holding your breath.
Another example from those 2009 playoffs came in the final round against the Detroit Red Wings. Like the Capitals, the Red Wings jumped out to a 2-0 series lead. The Penguins won the next two games before the Red Wings came back and won game five by a blowout score of 5-0. Everyone remembers how games six and seven went. The Penguins won both games by a score of 2-1 to capture the franchise’s third Stanley Cup. If you are a little less lucky then your favorite can still win its game seven, but it will be a nail biter.
Others feel like the the 2011 game seven against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Penguins jumped out to a 3-1 series lead before the Lightning came back to force a game seven in Pittsburgh. Of course, the Penguins had the big mitigating circumstance of missing Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, necessitating the need to go into that game seven with Mark Letestu and Max Talbot as their second- and third-line centers (and just to remind everyone how scary those times were, Letestu was only the second-line center because Dustin Jeffrey was injured). The Lightning comeback highlighted the fact that the Penguins were defeated in three other games in that series by scores of 5-1, 8-2, and 4-2. Even missing the two best players in the world did not shield the Penguins from the criticism of blowing a 3-1 series lead. Despite throwing 36 shots at Lighting goalie Dwayne Roloson, the Penguins could not net a goal. They lost the game with a 1-0 score. If you are unlucky, this is how your favorite team’s game seven will go.
It should not be difficult to figure out which of these scenarios the Penguin’s game seven against the New York Rangers is most like. While no team has a series in the bag after winning three games (just ask the San Jose Sharks), the Penguins had won their three games in a fairly dominating fashion with shutouts in two of those three games. This game seven is a surprise. There is no way to predict how it will go or which team will be the dominating force. Just enjoy it for what it is and hope your favorite team gets one more lucky bounce.