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Steigerwald: Desperation, Not History, Will Decide Game 7



Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby
Sidney Crosby. By Michael Miller (Own Work) | CC BY-SA 3.0

The good news is that the Penguins are 5-0 in Game 7 road games, better than every franchise in the NHL, NBA and Major League Baseball.

The bad news is that it just means even the hidden vigorish favors the Capitals Wednesday night in Washington.

Of course, what happened in the past–recent and distant–means nothing in a seven game series. So, it’s useless to point out that in 1992, the Penguins were beaten 7-2 by the Capitals in Game 4 at Mellon Arena to fall behind three games to one and went on to with that series and the Stanley Cup.

That probably won’t bother the Capitals or help the Penguins Wednesday night.

The media and fan reaction to the ups and downs of a seven game series is always interesting, though.

Back in 1992 the Penguins were defending champions and fans and media felt they were owed another Cup win and hardly anybody gave the Penguins a chance to win the series after four games.

Why would they? They were outscored 13-4 in Game 2 and Game 4 losses.

It’s been a long time since a Pittsburgh sports team pooped the bed the way the Penguins did in Game 6, but the good news for them is that it won’t matter in Game 7.

Actually, if it affects the Penguins at all, it’s more likely that it will be in a positive way because of the unprecedented level of embarrassment.

The truth is, when the puck is dropped, nothing that happened the last two weeks or the last 25 years will matter.

It will be two teams that have shown that each is capable of beating the other on a given night, regardless of building. That’s the beauty of Game 7s. They only happen when two teams have proven that there’s no way to predict what’s going to happen when they play each other.

After some of the ridiculous declarations made by some in the local media when the Penguins were up two games to none and then 3-1, you might think that they would learn a lesson and wait a little longer next time, but they won’t.

Lots of them did the same thing in 1992.

And if the Penguins advance to the Conference Final, they’ll do it again.

In Game 6 the Penguins not only never came close to matching the Capitals’ desperation level, they didn’t match the desperation you might expect from them on a Tuesday night game  in February against Winnipeg.

Kris Letang’s name was coming up a lot.

The analysts remembered that they had said the Penguins wouldn’t win a series without him and their struggle to get the puck from their own end through the neutral zone reminded them why they had said it.

That was a big problem but a bigger one was their inability to keep the puck in the offensive zone.

Eighteen shots on goal in a potential series clincher?

Come on.

If you’re a Penguins fan and you insist on looking for some history to get you through the night, you don’t have to go back any further than Sunday night.

The Edmonton Oilers had their Game 6 at home against the Anaheim Ducks. Two nights earlier they had a 3-0 lead and were three minutes away from going up three games to two. The Ducks scored three goals and won it 4-3 in double overtime.

The Oilers were obviously shell shocked and given little chance to recover. They scored five goals in the first period in Game 6 on their way to a 7-1 win.

Now, of course, the Ducks are so devastated from stinking up the building Sunday night and blowing a chance to end the series that they’ll never recover.

Guess what. When they drop the puck for Game 7, nothing that happened in Games 1 through 6 will matter.

There is something about Game 7s that’s always different from the first six: The desperation level is equal.

And don’t kid yourself. Wednesday night in Washington, there won’t be a player on either team who will be thinking about what happened in 1992 or the fact that the Penguins have won eight out of nine playoff series against the Capitals.

It’s impossible to predict a winner in a Game 7. Any attempt to do so is really no more than a guess, but I’m still going to make a prediction.


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