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Steigerwald: Pens vs. Preds Shows How a Seven Game Series Can Turn on a Dime



Matt Murray By Michael Miller (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Remember when it was almost impossible to imagine the Nashville Predators beating the Penguins in four out of five games?

Remember when Predators coach Peter Laviolette yanked Pekka Rinne from goal and everybody said the Penguins were in his head and he was toast?

Remember when everybody was saying that Matt Murray had made his coach look like a genius for replacing Marc-Andre Fleury with him?

Seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it?

Seven game series are funny that way. What seems so certain on Saturday can be turned upside down by Monday.

I don’t know about you, but after the last two games in Nashville, the Penguins beating the Predators in two of the next three games seems as improbable as the Predators winning four our of five seemed four days ago.

Did I mention that seven game series are funny that way? Of course,  this could still end up being a six game series and end in Nashville Sunday night.

The goalie who was supposed to be toast has a 1.00 goals against average and a .961 save percentage in the last two games.

The goalie who looked like a brilliant decision last week has a 3.25 and an .864 the last two games.

Fleury had  two shutouts in the three games he played before his teammates hung him out to dry in Game 3 against Ottawa. I’ve always felt GAA and save percentage are overrated and are just as likely to be misleading as revealing, but if you’re a fan of those stats and you’ve been using Murray’s numbers to justify him being locked in as the starter, they’re about even right now.

Murray didn’t give up any blatantly soft goals in Game 4 but he also didn’t steal the game because Rinne was stealing it at the other end of the ice.

Murray has been solid most of the time but he hasn’t stolen a game yet. Fleury may have stolen two series.

He has to figure out a way to help is team score four or or five goals again. That’s what he did in Games 1 and 2.

So, here we are at Game 5 and all the momentum seems to be in the Predators’ favor. Nobody should call you crazy if you say that they have outplayed the Penguins in nine or 10 of the 12 periods played so far.

But the Penguins actually played a good road game Monday night and they just couldn’t break Rinne, who played out of his mind.

Nothing new here.

The team that gets the best goaltending twice will win two more games. Rinne has a history of blowing hot and cold, but right now, he looks a lot more likely to steal one than Murray does.

Remember that this is a team that started its playoff run by sweeping the Blackhawks and holding Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews to a goal and an assist each.

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have three goals and three assists between them after four games in this series.

The Penguins have home ice now but they also have most of the pressure and, whether Mike Sullivan wants to admit it or not, it’s their goalie who’s now in the toaster.

No sport more unpredictable than hockey

Keith Jones of NBC flat out predicted after Game 2 that the Predators would win two games in Nashville and return to Pittsburgh tied at two game apiece.

-If the Penguins lose Game 5 just about everybody will declare the series over because there is no way the Penguins can win a Game 6 in Nashville. Remember when the Penguins lost Game 6 to the Capitals and the consensus was that they had blown a 3-1 lead and couldn’t win a Game 7 in Washington?

There is a lot of hockey left. Enjoy the ride.

Remember how the Predators were domed when they lost their leading scorer, Ryan Johansen in the Western Conference Final that they went on to win without him?

The guy who replaced him and doesn’t have his own stall in the Predators’ locker room, Frederick Gaudreau, scored the game winner last night on a wraparound and has goals in three of the four games in this series.

-Crosby passed  Mike Bossy, Gordy Howe, Al MacInnis and Bobby Smith and moved into 20th place in playoff scoring with his goal Monday night. He created multiple scoring chances in Game 4 but Rinne was unbreakable.

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