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Molinari: Penguins Have No Business Winning Game 7 … But Don’t Rule It Out

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PIttsburgh Penguins, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Bryan Rust, NHL Trade

The Pittsburgh Penguins talk a lot about how resilient they are, how they’re able to overcome even extreme adversity.

They’re correct, on both counts. They’ve had to prove it a lot more times in 2021-22 than any team would care to.

But no challenge — and no setting — has been as daunting as the one they’ll face Sunday evening in Game 7 of their opening-round playoff series against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

They’ll be compelled to contend with an opponent fueled by the confidence born of back-to-back victories, one turbo-charged by a crowd which is rabid at its most tranquil and that has a goaltender who has been far more adept at stopping pucks at home than he was at PPG Paints Arena.

And the Penguins might be doing it with a goalie who hasn’t played in a month and a No. 1 center who conceivably will be functioning at less than 100 percent after some timely headhunting by the Rangers earlier in the series.

Which, incredible as it sounds, is a best-case scenario for them.

(Bear in mind that if they entered Round 1 with a reservoir of good fortune, it hasn’t been drained much through six games.)

Will all-star goalie Tristan Jarry, out since breaking a bone in his foot April 14, get the start over Louis Domingue, who lately looks as if he’s come by his No. 3 spot on the depth chart honestly?

And if Jarry, who’s hasn’t had a meaningful practice since being injured, plays, can he realistically expect to deal effectively with the volatile offensive likes of Chris Kreider, Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad? Seems like an awfully big ask.

Same with counting on Sidney Crosby — assuming he’s cleared to participate — to instantly regain the form he had before New York defenseman Jacob Trouba decided to bury an elbow in his skull late in the second period of Game 5.

That clearly was the pivotal moment in this series. When Trouba took out Crosby, the Penguins had a 3-1 advantage in the series and a 2-0 lead in Game 5.

Now, New York is on the cusp of cusp of winning a series for the first time since 2017.

Quite a coincidence, huh?

Dealing with injuries is part of the challenge of winning a championship in this league; dealing with one inflicted on your best player with obvious malice aforethought shouldn’t be.

Having Crosby and Jarry — or even one of them — return would give their teammates a psychological boost. Getting Rickard Rakell, who was hurt in the first period of Game 1, would be a nice plus, too.

And history might give them a little cause for optimism, too: The Pittsburgh Penguins’ all-time record in Games 7 played on the road is 6-0.

Of course, while that stat is eye-catching, it will have no tangible impact Sunday.

Perhaps it is a reflection of the culture and unrelenting will to succeed that have existed in the franchise at times over the course of its existence, but it’s not as if it’s the by-product of a gene that’s passed from generation-to-generation of Penguins players.

If the Rangers end that streak — and by all logical metrics, they should — Trouba should catapult to the top of the list of early contenders for the Conn Smythe Trophy.

Sure, he is just a second-pairing defenseman who has been held without a point in four of the first six games, but no one in the league has done more to influence the outcome of a series than Trouba.

If not for him going after Crosby, the Penguins would have spent the past few days resting and preparing to face Carolina or Boston in the second round.

Instead, they now face the very real possibility of a fifth consecutive series loss, a streak dating to the second round in 2018.

Make no mistake, New York is a quality team and should get better over the next few seasons unless that salary-cap ceiling scuttles it. Although the Rangers don’t look to be a true Cup contender yet, with a core than includes the likes of Adam Fox, Igor Shesterkin and Panarin, they easily could develop into one in the near future.

There’s no shame in losing a best-of-seven to a club of that caliber; the shame would be for the Penguins’ core of Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Crosby to have this as the final act of its remarkable 16-year run.

This was a series they could have — and should have — won.

Of course, it still isn’t over, and history tells us that the Penguins just might find a way to make it happen.

Perhaps Marc-Andre Fleury’s Game 7 road heroics against Washington and Detroit in 2009 will be matched by Jarry, or some unlikely guy will score an overtime series-winner, the way Darius Kasparaitis did against Buffalo in 2001.

And, of course, Crosby might be back in the lineup and able to take his game immediately to the rarefied level he’d consistently reached in the first five games before Trouba decided it was time to separate him from his senses.

If that happens, Crosby could almost singlehandedly launch his team into the second round.

Any and all of that is possible, even if it’s not the way to wager.

Then again, the Penguins have shown numerous times since last fall that bad circumstances often bring out the best in them.

Logic says that their season should end Sunday night.

History — both distant and recent — suggests that the outcome is not settled just yet.

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Andy
Andy
2 days ago

IF and it’s a big IF we get those guys back, we win. No and’s if’s or but’s about it. Jerky shirky is very shaky. If the Pens play the game they played in game 5 (1st 35 minutes) rags will not win

Keith
Keith
5 hours ago
Reply to  Andy

This comment didn’t age well 🤣

charmaine dawso
charmaine dawso
2 days ago

as usual, great read……and this fan is hoping their game 7 winning on the road holds true tomorrow night….

DiegoPittFan
DiegoPittFan
2 days ago

The Penguins will win and it’s not going to matter who’s in goal

WPuck
WPuck
2 days ago

I don’t know. I have watched that replay over and over again and to be fair, it didn’t look to me like Trouba was head hunting. It seemed like a hockey play to me. Also, there was a face-off earlier where Sid’s head snapped back right after the puck was dropped. I bet that’s the play that he was actually injured on and the Trouba collision just made it worse.

William Maloni
William Maloni
2 days ago

Louis should no p[lay tomorrow and I don’t care what shape Jarry is in. He’s better in goal than Louie.

Vince Gori
Vince Gori
2 days ago

Got to believe! Need a break from the refs already.

Puck
Puck
2 days ago
Reply to  Vince Gori

But you were ok with the break the refs gave the Pens in game 1 by disallowing the NYR legit game-winning goal in regulation time. I’ll bet you were ok with that.

Andy
Andy
1 day ago
Reply to  Puck

You mean the goaltender interference? Right? You know when an opposing player does not allow the goalie to get back to play his position or the puck? Oh, that call

Hank
Hank
1 day ago
Reply to  Andy

Except when pushed which was the case and skates were to the side trying to avoid the net

Keith
Keith
5 hours ago
Reply to  Andy

Yeah… The call that didn’t take into account that kakko was PUSHED into the Penns goalie… Way to forget that trivial piece of info 🙄

Keith
Keith
5 hours ago
Reply to  Puck

Exactly… The NHL has had such a love fest for princess cindy for so long that the Penns fanbase has forgotten what it is like to actually have a game called against them How many more power plays did the Penns have compared to the Rangers? How many 5-3 power plays did the Penns have and didn’t score? How many games did the Penns have a lead (not to mention 2 goal leads) and let it go to waste? The Penns took out Lindgren for a number of games and Goodrow never came back… But just focus on trouba making… Read more »

Sally R Wakefield
Sally R Wakefield
2 days ago

Pretty bad when you have take out other team best player to win and hit him in the head to do it. What goes around comes around and they can kiss Stanley Cup goodbye!

Tom
Tom
2 days ago

Dave, no faith.

SAQ
SAQ
2 days ago

Another masterpiece, pathetic writing. All because you don’t agree and you continue to slander Trouba. Better hope you never run into him, he may give you one.

Ethan
Ethan
2 days ago
Reply to  SAQ

Says the Sad Sad SAQ! I’m sure Dave is really quaking in his writer boots!

Paul
Paul
2 days ago
Reply to  SAQ

Trouba is a highly overrated, overpaid thug. There was a reason why the Jets didn’t want to make him the 14th highest-paid d-man in the league.

Stephen Powanda
Stephen Powanda
1 day ago
Reply to  SAQ

Screw Truba

Anthony Corrado
Anthony Corrado
1 day ago
Reply to  SAQ

Trouba stinks and hes a PUNK.
Its unbelievable he got away with that thuggery.
Hopefully Karma rings true and we finish what we started in game 5.
Its time to pound these Rangers.

Andy
Andy
1 day ago
Reply to  SAQ

Tough talk from the keyboard. Go get’em keyboard cowboy, or maybe cowgirl

Hank
Hank
1 day ago
Reply to  Andy

Trots was right these guys are crybabies probably the biggest in the league

Paul
Paul
2 days ago

Expect Jarry to be in goal on Sunday, at which point it will be put-up-or-shut-up time. Because if his team losses, it will be all on his shoulders. A minor league goalie got the team his far, now the onus is on the All-Star to complete the job and atone for last season’s pathetic performance. And I don’t want any b.s. excuses about time off and/or back bounces and/or how the defense let him down, either.

Last edited 2 days ago by Paul
Pete
Pete
1 day ago
Reply to  Paul

If the team loses its on THE TEAM. No one person can win or lose a game. C’mon man!

Paul
Paul
1 day ago
Reply to  Pete

The team with the better goalie almost always wins Game 7.

Last edited 1 day ago by Paul
Uros
Uros
1 day ago
Reply to  Paul

You’re right about everything and I wouldn’t even play him if it were up to me. I know I was, but I seem to remember you were also pretty keen on bringing in a goalie. The management was telling us all year that it will be fine. I seem to remember also about a D man, but management told us Chad and Mark will be fine. So we got scoring help. People think Rangers beat us, but go back and look and you’ll find we’ve beaten ourselves. It’s really difficult to choose clips for a comedy compilation because there are… Read more »

Paul
Paul
1 day ago
Reply to  Uros

The Lightning got lucky in the last two games. One blown call and one very iffy one probably changed the outcome of one or both. Can’t recall a team that has had more respect from the league/referees than them. I know they’re desperate to sell hockey in Florida — good luck with that in Broward County — but they need to be more discreet about it.

Uros
Uros
2 days ago

The problems are deeper than Lindgren’s and Trouba’s headshots. This Rangers team is so bad that they were loosing a series 3:1 against a team with Domingue in goal (really think about that for a moment) , a very weak defense and a player that was the missing piece, according to some, actually missing. Incredibly, the missing piece wasn’t missing on D or in goal, but scoring. There’s no problem winning against such a bad team, but does anyone really want that?

Pete
Pete
1 day ago

Imagine Jarry winning game 7 after last year. What a great redemption story that will be!

Jeff Young
Jeff Young
1 day ago
Reply to  Pete

And imagine if he doesn’t. Gulp!

Paul
Paul
1 day ago
Reply to  Jeff Young

Does it matter? He’ll still cut commercials with the Ol’ Two-Nine and Fake News will still make excuses for him. Don’t you know that he’s an All-Star and first-ballot Hall of Famer?

Last edited 1 day ago by Paul
Stephen Powanda
Stephen Powanda
1 day ago

Yo Dan you win or you lose. Has anyone ever mentioned the game is more physical in playoffs. Every team has injuries and I have been a Pen Fan since 67. Lets WIN tomorrow.

Ed
Ed
1 day ago

Funny how no one here is talking about the phantom goalie interference call on Kakko late in the third in Game 1. Without that, it’s a very different series. Playoff hockey means sucking it up, both players and fans. So suck it up, snowflakes, and enjoy Game 7. Better team will win; loser will feel it was robbed.

Paul
Paul
1 day ago
Reply to  Ed

One Cup, 82 years. #Pathetic

moe
moe
1 day ago

This article is nonsense. For a Penguins beat writer to come in and slam the team, and sow doubt about the health and status of Crosby, Jarry and Rakell, also throughout the write up be pessimistic about winning, it is seriously flawed.

Let us play the game on the ice and win tonight to prove Pens are better. Seriously, NYR and Shisterin are no match to the march of the Penguins, let us prove it again tonight.

Mark Sciarmrk
Mark Sciarmrk
1 day ago

That was the only way the rangers could have made a series out of it was to take the best player in the world out of the game with a thug move .. that don’t happen we win the game and the series in 5 . LeTS GO PENS

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