The prevailing sentiment after the first two games of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals is that the series, for all intents and purposes, is over. Don’t try telling that to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
While nobody in their right minds would lay their money down on the Penguins becoming the first team since the 1971 Montreal Canadiens to overcome a 2-0 series deficit in the Finals and go on to capture Lord Stanley’s Cup (Montreal defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3), if Evgeni Malkin’s outburst late in Game 2 was any indication, don’t expect the Penguins to go down without a fight.
Unlike a year ago when the Penguins were overwhelmed in the opening two games of the Finals against the Red Wings, the opening two games in this year’s Cup Final have been much more closely contested. Last year, the Penguins were out-shot 70-41 and out-scored 7-0 after the first two games. This year, despite being out-scored 6-2, the Penguins have out-shot the Red Wings in both contests holding a 65-56 edge overall. There is also a sense that, with a couple of bounces going their way, we may be talking about a series tied at 1-1 or even possibly 2-0 in the Penguins favor.
The 2009 Penguins have also faced more adversity in their run to the Finals compared to last year’s version and that experience can only be beneficial as they try to rebound from a 2-0 series deficit. In 2008, the Penguins lost just two of their first 14 playoff games and did not trail at any point in a playoff series before they encountered the Red Wings. None of their three series prior to the Cup Final also lasted past five games.
This year, prior to sweeping the Carolina Hurricanes in the Conference Final, the Penguins needed six games to knock off a tough Flyers squad in the opening round before engineering a major comeback against the Capitals in the Semi-Final after falling 2-0 in that series. This is not suggesting the Penguins will pull off the seemingly impossible and stage an epic comeback against the Red Wings, but what is definitely true is that this year’s Penguins are much better suited than last year’s squad that forced the series to a sixth game to attempt to bounce back.
We’ll know soon enough in Game 3 if that’s really the case.