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John Steigerwald: Never Say Never in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.



Evgeni Malkin. By Michael Miller (Own work) | CC BY-SA 4.0

So, as it turns out, the series isn’t over yet.

I was stunned to hear all three panelists on KDKA’s Sunday Night Sports Showdown say that there was no chance that the Capitals could come back from the two-game deficit and beat the Penguins.

(I had said on WPXI’s Final Word at the same time that it was ridiculous to suggest that it was  over but I thought the Penguins would still win in six.)

Showdown host Bob Pompeani tried to get a panelist to admit to the possibility but couldn’t.

How can anyone who has ever seen a seven game series in any sport declare one to be over after two games?

There was plenty of wild-eyed optimism among local media and fans after the Penguins won Game 2. Fans I understand.

The media should know better.

When I watched the DVR of the show Sunday night I almost screamed at the TV, “Yeah, but what if Crosby takes a two-handed to the head and is knocked out of the series?

And now here we are.

I would have had the same reaction if the Capitals were up two games to none and someone in the media had ruled out the possibility of the Penguins coming back.

It’s hockey. People get hurt and miss games.

“The Hit”

Was Matt Niskanen’s cross check on Sidney Crosby an intent to injure?

I don’t think so.

I think it was like the hit that Crosby took from David Steckel in the 2011 Winter Classic. That was the first of two concussions that cost Crosby almost two seasons.

Steckel probably didn’t try to seriously injure Crosby but he intentionally didn’t try to avoid an opportunity that presented itself.

Crosby was falling toward Niskanen and Niskanen chose not to pass up the opportunity to give him a shot to the head.

Then there’s Alexander Ovechkin.

He found himself trailing Crosby, who was driving hard toward the Capitals net. He decided to slash Crosby below the shoulder, move his hands down the shaft of the stick, two hand him in the head and give him a slew foot.

That’s what sent Crosby stumbling toward Niskanen.

Here’s what former Penguins defenseman Paul Coffey had to say about that on Canadian TV: “The thing everybody’s overlooking — and we’ll never, never know because Sid got hit twice — is the two-hander he took to the back of the neck and head by Ovechkin. When Crosby was falling down, that could’ve been the initial blow that hurt him. Nobody knows, and nobody’s talking about that. That was a brutal two-hander by Ovechkin to Crosby when he was going to the net.”

The referee, of course, had a a perfect view of everything Ovechkin did and showed no interest in putting his arm up and calling a penalty.

Now we know that Crosby will at least miss Game 4 and probably more. Does it mean the Penguins have no chance to win the series?

Of course not.

Never Say Never

Somebody could give Ovechkin a two-hander to the head in the first five minutes Wednesday night and even things up.

Or Marc-Andre Fleury could stand on his head again.

Or Evgeni Malkin, who’s  averaging more than 1.3 points per game when playing without Crosby, could prove that he’s a better player than Ovechkin by going on a tear.

Sorry, but I don’t think the Penguins will win the series if Crosby doesn’t play again.

But then, I didn’t think the Penguins would win their series with the Rangers back in 1992 after Adam Graves accidentally broke Mario Lemieux’s wrist with an accidentally perfectly placed two-hander.

Never say never in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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5 years ago

I’ve said it elsewhere and I’ll say it here. This will be one of the most intense and emotional games these Pens have played in a long time. They want to win this one for Sid. Look for the emotional leaders to rise up: Hornqvist, Kunitz, Malkin, Bonino. And Sully will make sure they, and the rest of the players, channel this energy into the “Just Play” that will ultimately demoralize the Caps in a way far more meaningful than an eye for an eye. The Caps will lose this game and be forced to return to Washington with their… Read more »

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