Things have been looking up for Philadelphia Flyers arch rival Pittsburgh Penguins, but 2 huge wins by Tampa Bay have changed the Pens’ outlook.
It would be a very long summer for Philadelphia Flyers fans if Pittsburgh Penguins were Stanley Cup champions again. As dumb as Penguins fans’s obsession is with 1975, another Stanley Cup win would be salt in the wound.
This possible outcome has been perilously close for some time. The Penguins have been rolling since about January. The wins kept coming, even when Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin weren’t doing much damage.
That success was thanks in large part to the “HBK” line of Phil Kessell, Nick Bonino, and Carl Hagelin. These are all newcomers to the Penguins, so Flyers fans do not have the same deep-seated enmity towards this group as other staples of their lineup.
Truthfully, I find it pretty hard to hate Phil Kessel. He’s a very talented player and can be hilariously awkward in an unintentional(?) way. He also got very harsh treatment in Boston and Toronto, so I’d feel bad hating him.
Either way, none of that makes seeing the Penguins winning playoff games easier to swallow. I’ve previously written on trying to take some joy in rooting against the Penguins without the Flyers to watch, but it hasn’t born fruit. Yet.
Things seemed to be heading in that direction for the Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Pens dominated game 3 with nearly 50 shots on goal, and took a 2-1 lead in the series.
Fortunately for fans in Tampa and in Philadelphia, the Lightning bounced back. They stormed to a 4-0 lead in Game 4, but 3 late goals by the Penguins reminded everyone that this will not be easy.
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With the series back even, my heart sank last night when the Penguins took a 2-0 lead. Furthermore, the Lightning could hardly get a shot on goal. But it is darkest before the dawn.
The Lightning came from behind twice to force overtime, and scored the winner almost immediately into the overtime period. Just like that, the Penguins on are on the brink.
There’ still hockey to play, however. Nobody should plan on seeing this Penguins team roll over, other than when Kris Letang makes a fool of himself diving to draw a penalty.
An extra element to watch here is the return of Marc-Andre Fleury. “Flower”, as his teammates call him, has been…not good…in the playoffs the last several years. A loss with a soft goal or two from Flower would be pretty soothing to Flyers fans and make the world feel right again.
The Lightning now will have 2 chances to eliminate Pittsburgh. I’m sure Pittsburgh will battle, and it’s not like the Lightning are controlling these games by any stretch. Still, the game 5 loss stunned Penguins fans.
Perhaps it’s best I just it leave it at this.