Written by The Burgh Blog writer: Austin Tocco
Well fans, I must say, I have gotten exactly what I wanted out of the Pittsburgh Penguins the last couple days. In game 1, the Penguins dominated most of the game, but gave up a couple lucky goals that allowed the Washington Capitals to defeat the Penguins 4-3 in overtime. I was content with the effort that the Penguins gave against the President’s Trophy winner. The Capitals are by far the best competition the Penguins will see, their skill, speed, toughness, and goaltending are above average. The Penguins proved that they could not only skate with them, but score 5 goals in two games on the likely winner of the Vezina Trophy for the league’s best goaltender. Playing in our nation’s capital was not going to be an easy task, seeing the sea of red around the arena made me nervous, I could not imagine what the Penguins were going through. In game 2, I wanted more, I wanted the Penguins to dictate the style of play, get an early goal and keep the crowd out of the game. The Penguins completely dominated play through half of the game, winning puck battles, drawing penalties, connecting on stretch passes, everything you need to be successful against a team like the Capitals. Carl Hagelin scored the first goal 7:08 into the 2nd period on a beautiful feed from Nick Bonino. The Capitals were able to strike back roughly 4 minutes later when Marcus Johansson found an opening in front of Matt Murray and converted. At this point, I am sitting on my couch biting my fingernails, praying the Penguins can take 1 game away from the Capitals at the Verizon Center before having the series shift to Pittsburgh. 15:32 into the 3rd, Eric Fehr’s goal proved to be the game winner from a beautiful feed by Evgeni Malkin. The crowd was out of it, they knew it would take a lucky bounce or an Ovechkin one-timer to get one by the stellar goaltender Matt Murray. The final horn went off and the Penguins defeated the heavily favored Washington Capitals in game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals by a score of 2-1. Why does this excite me more than anything you might ask, we proved that with Mike Sullivan’s style of play, the Penguins can dominate the best team in the league on their home ice. Playing on your home ice means everything, your crowd is what gets you going, the crowd gets under the skin of the opponent when need be. Quieting the home faithful is a huge achievement by your Penguins, now, they get to come home and perform against their crowd, who are more than ready to beat the Capitals in both home games.
I cannot believe the play of Pittsburgh defenseman, Kris Letang. I must say, I was not the biggest fan during the first half of the regular season, but it seems like Mike Sullivan really taught Letang how to stay composed and how to mature as a veteran defenseman. Letang has been here before, winning a cup with the Penguins in 2009, and playing in many playoff games. With Olli Maatta getting hurt in the first period, the Penguins were forced to only use 5 defensemen against the offensive machine, Washington Capitals. This allowed Letang to get on the ice whenever he could. His poise, stamina, and control of the game in the defensive zone secured a victory for the Penguins. Whether it was blocking a shot, or generating a quick breakout, Letang perfected it.
Letang finished with 35:22 of ice time which is more than half of the game he was on the ice. To put this into perspective, Crosby logged only 22:18, and he is the best player in the world. Sullivan clearly trusts the play of Kris Letang and as do I. Letang has a career game yesterday, shutting down the Capitals big guns in front of Matt Murray who stopped 23 shots. The veteran defenseman was getting harassed the entire game by specifically Mike Richards. Many of Richards’ plays could have been called for interference, but this is playoff hockey, I do not expect the referee to make those calls. Letang kept his composure through it all and truly led the Penguins to the biggest win so far this year. The Penguins faithful should really respect Letang for all his effort and his will to win because you can truly tell, he wants to bring a Stanley Cup back to Pittsburgh.
I am more than ready for Monday night’s showdown in Pittsburgh starting at 8:00pm on NBCSN. The Penguins are finally on home ice and looking to give the home crowd something to cheer about. Nothing would make me happier than to go up 2-1 in a series against a tough opponent like the Capitals. The Penguins truly have a legitimate opportunity in front of them, now it is their responsibility to take advantage of it and ruin the Stanley Cup chances of the heavily favored Washington Capitals who have never won a cup in franchise history.
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