Much has been made this week of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 0-6 record under coach Dan Bylsma when having a chance to eliminate an opponent on home ice. Honestly, the fact that they’ve come up empty every time over the course of four years leads one to believe there has to be a regression at some point.
In this case, that would mean the Penguins are “due” for a win in the type of situation they face Friday night at Consol Energy Center, holding a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven second-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Ottawa Senators.
If this scenario seems familiar, it’s because Pittsburgh carried an identical series advantage over Ottawa in the first round of the 2010 playoffs. That particular Game 5 went three overtimes before Matt Carkner’s deflected slap shot trickled through Marc-Andre Fleury, ending a long April night at Mellon Arena:
The 2010 Senators went on to build a 3-0 lead in the resulting Game 6 at Scotiabank Place, but the Penguins rallied back for a 4-3 win, capped by Pascal Dupuis’ series-clincher in overtime. The memory is a good reference point for anyone who thinks finishing Ottawa will be perfunctory for Pittsburgh, Game 4 blowout be damned.
The Penguins also won three of its first four games against Tampa Bay in the 2011 first round before the Lightning stormed back for a series victory. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin didn’t participate due to season-ending injuries, putting an asterisk next to that series for anyone looking to draw comparisons to this year.
Nevertheless, recent history hasn’t been savory for the Penguins in this spot. Nothing like a little more stress in a postseason that has already featured plenty of pressure for the top-seeded team in the Eastern Conference.
In today’s lineup news:
- Penguins winger Brenden Morrow returned to the ice for Friday morning’s gameday skate after missing Thursday’s practice and sitting out Game 4. Although the gritty veteran appears healthy, Beau Bennett and Jussi Jokinen skated alongside Craig Adams during line rushes, indicating they will stay in the lineup at the expense of Morrow. Bennett and Jokinen returned to game action Wednesday after missing six and five contests, respectively.
- On the Senators’ side, Jason Spezza centered Milan Michalek and Daniel Alfredsson during a morning workout. Spezza was bumped up to the top unit after playing for the first time in months (herniated disc) in Games 3 and 4. Kyle Turris, who has two goals in the series, was the Sens’ second-line pivot between Colin Greening and Erik Condra.
And now, to help you get ready for tonight’s Game 5, Larry Snyder and I welcomed Pittsburgh Magazine digital editor Sean Conboy (@SeanConPM on Twitter) to this week’s Gospel of Hockey podcast to discuss the series and the Penguins’ postseason at large. Sean writes the fantastic Pulling No Punches blog on pittsburghmagazine.com, featuring the observations of his astute hockey mind.
Larry and I also dug into the other ongoing NHL playoff series, the historic AHL comeback of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (still alive in the Calder Cup playoffs) and the recent doings of native Pittsburghers Brandon Saad, John Gibson and Matt Bartkowski.