The Penguins will carry a two-game winning streak into the playoffs, but unless you’re not tuned in you have heard a few chords of concern about their chances to threepeat as Stanley Cup champions. Don’t be, assured a former Penguins player.
Tyler Kennedy, a winger with the 2009 Penguins Cup team, can’t go as far as predicting the club will win it all again, but he exuded confidence when asked last week for his evaluation, even before we knew that the team’s first-round opponent would be Philadelphia.
The Penguins, he claimed, can kick it into postseason mode like no other club, thanks to stars such as Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Matt Murray and Phil Kessel.
“I think they’re so good, they’re the only team that can turn it off and turn it on,” Kennedy said. “I feel like Geno and Sid and Murray and Kessel and their top guys can flip the switch. I really do.”
Most hockey players – Crosby chief among them – would scoff at the idea of playing one way in the regular season and then kicking it up several degrees in the playoffs. Kennedy realizes that.
“But I think he knows when to go hard, when not to go hard, especially once they made the playoffs,” Kennedy said of Crosby. “I know they wanted to play the right way the last couple of games.”
Gunning For The Penguins
The Penguins enter the playoffs on a two-game winning streak that earned them second place in the Metropolitan Division and home ice for at least the first round.
Before that, though, they were a more pedestrian 5-3-2 over 10 games that included losses to also-rans Montreal, Detroit, the Rangers and the Islanders. They also wear a figurative target as the two-time defending champions.
“Put it this way: Everyone in the league is gunning for the Penguins, and everyone knows they’re the team to beat,” Kennedy said, but he’s not deterred.
“Whenever you have Sidney Crosby and Malkin, they’re the two best players in the league right now. Believe me, I played against them and it’s hard to stop those guys. Now they have three lines. They’re just so scary. One guy can win a game by himself. Now they’re working together. They just have so much firepower and so many ways to beat you.”
Go ahead, make your case for a weak spot.
A mostly mediocre performance by the penalty killing down the stretch?
“In the playoffs, guys are blocking shots with their face, so that will come around,” Kennedy said. “It’s not like guys aren’t jumping in front of pucks now, but, believe me, they’re making themselves a little bit bigger in the playoffs, so I think that will definitely come.”
Some inconsistency by goaltender Matt Murray?
“With Murray, I feel people are hard on him because everyone loved Flower (Marc-Andre Fleury) so much,” Kennedy said. “But the biggest thing I love about Murray – you know in that big game he’s bringing it.
“He hasn’t had very many bad games in big games. He’s always there when you need him, and that’s what you need out of a goaltender. When you need that big stop, Murray’s there to make that big stop. That’s why I love Murray.”
It doesn’t seem anyone is knocking coach Mike Sullivan, and Kennedy offered a strong endorsement.
“I think they all respect Mike Sullivan, and Mike Sullivan’s got them all right where he wants them,” Kennedy said. “A lot of coaches have problems with those big superstars, and I think Sullivan’s got them where they have a very mutual respect, and I think that’s what makes that team work right now.”
Kennedy, 31, is busy getting a new career as an independent development coach and trainer going, but he attends a lot of Penguins games and still has a relationship with many players and organization members.
He’s a believer.