This was the Pittsburgh Penguins team who won eight straight playoff series, not the listless team which showed up in October. And, Sidney Crosby reminded everyone why he is the greatest grinder to every play the game.
Crosby scored three straight goals, two deflections and a rebound, including a pair in the third period to reinforce the message as the Penguins trounced the Philadelphia Flyers 7-0 at PPG Paints Arena.
The Penguins flipped the switch. The Penguins also placed a heaping spoonful of doubt in the young Flyers heads. How could a powerful performance like that not make the Flyers wonder if they have enough to win?
Matt Gajtka‘s PHN Extra column today had a pretty damning quote from Claude Giroux.
For 82 games, the Pittsburgh Penguins scuffled, struggled, had ups but unnecessary downs and made the playoffs by only four points. In the final few weeks of the season, when they were supposed to “flip the switch” they lost to divisional rivals, the New Jersey Devils and Washington Capitals.
That Penguins team looked nothing like the Penguins juggernaut which showed up for Game 1, Round 1 on Wednesday night.
Penguins fans, also seemingly bored by the last six months of hockey, broke out the good china and silverware. Last night, the PPG Paints Arena intensity equaled the Stanley Cup Final. The scoreboard noise meter even hit 110 decibels. While that certainly isn’t an exact scientific measurement, typically that same gimmick reaches only 100 in the regular season.
It was something special. It felt like a continuation of last June.
Crosby had a natural hat trick, including a pair of goals in the third period. The Flyers didn’t have a chance to send a message or build momentum for Game 2. Crosby did it for them.
“You go to the net,” said Crosby. “You have to go to the net this time of year, that’s usually where the pucks are.”
The Flyers didn’t have a chance. Not that Crosby would admit the Penguins finally flipped the switch.
“We executed. We capitalized on our chances,” said the Penguins captain. “There’s always areas you need to improve on.”
In fairness, the Penguins are human. They actually allowed the Flyers to play with the puck for a few minutes in the first period. Crosby himself made a couple errant passes, one of which allowed the Flyers to generate their best offensive pressure of the game.
That was early in the first period. Crosby adjusted, as did his linemates Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust. Since the Flyers tried to prohibit Crosby from playing with the puck, he simply didn’t. He switched from playmaker to finisher. From creative to grinder. And from covered to dominant.
That’s Sidney Crosby.
Guentzel also had a four-point night, with a power play goal and three assists. He, too is getting a reputation as a playoff performer. Two of those assists were on Crosby markers. Guentzel, who isn’t the best quote on the team, couldn’t help but marvel at everything.
“I’m just excited to play here,” he said. “And in the playoffs. Obviously, the building was going tonight. So, you get a bit excited. Hopefully, (the offense) keeps coming.”
The Penguins overwhelmed the Flyers like Godzilla tearing through Tokyo or some other CGI creature beating down Manhattan before Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson saves the day. The rest of the series won’t be that easy. It can’t be that easy. But, the Penguins flexed their muscles and taught the young Flyers lesson.
The Penguins scored five goals in each of the four regular season matchups. The Flyers haven’t yet found an answer. If the Penguins maintain their intensity, another lesson could be forthcoming in Game 2.
After all, the Penguins finally flipped the switch.