The Pittsburgh Penguins face the Washington Capitals tonight in Game 6 at Consol Energy Center.
The Penguins don’t need to close out their Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Washington Capitals tonight. One of the perks of notching a grind-it-out Game 3 win where they played less than their best for stretches and a dramatic overtime victory in Game 4 was a commanding series lead that affords the black and gold 3 chances to punch their ticket to the Conference Finals.
However, with one of those opportunities gone by the wayside after a 3-1 loss in Washington Saturday they’d be well-served to end things tonight, rather than risk making a trip back to the Verizon Center for a deciding Game 7.
Three times the Pens have beaten the Capitals in a Game 7 (two of those coming in Washington), but like insurance policies and spare tires, having playoff history on a team’s side is often best when not put to the test. Funny things tend to happen in a one game winner-take-all scenario. Funnier things happen when one of those teams is long overdue.
While nobody would argue that the Pens have an opportunity in front of them more golden than the trim on those throwback jerseys that have fans feeling nostalgic to a previous era, making it happen is going to require a few key things.
Dissecting Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin’s performance over the course of the season, and their careers, has been standard practice. Shoot more, pass less, produce in big games, don’t take ill-advised penalties. Everyone has their two cents on what 87 and 71 should be doing, shouldn’t be doing and need to do more of.
More from Pittsburgh Penguins
- Pittsburgh Penguins: A Look Back at 2019
- Penguins Will Continue to Persevere Despite Injuries
- Penguins: Alex Galchenyuk May Finally Start Meeting Expectations
- Penguins’ Three Keys to Help End Islanders’ Point Streak
- Penguins: Without Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin Will Be an MVP Candidate
One thing is clear though – for the Pens to have their best chance at not only closing out the Capitals tonight but to ultimately claim a fourth Stanley Cup, their premier stars have to deliver in games like this one.
Only one goal between the two in this series so far has Pens fans in a panic, but statement games from star players when they’re needed is something championships are borne of. The Pens have been able to scratch out victories despite not getting great production from Crosby and Malkin thus far, but tonight would be the perfect time for one or both to break out.
Matt Murray has been every bit up to the task of stepping into the playoff fire thus far. He’ll have to be that and more to finally shut the door on a Capitals team that, despite struggling down the stretch of the regular season and being visibly frustrated throughout much of this series, has the firepower to unleash a scoring barrage at any time. Alexander Ovechkin doesn’t want to go out in the second round yet again, definitely not to the Penguins.
T.J. Oshie already has a hat trick and game-winning overtime goal under his belt in the series. Evgeny Kuznetsov was still the Caps’ leading scorer in the regular season despite being quiet throughout the postseason (read: has the potential to break out at the most inopportune time for an opponent.) To avoid going back to these guys’ home ice for a deciding game, Murray needs to play lights out again in Game 6.
Beating a team three times in a row is tough in any sport, let alone in the NHL Playoffs. But it happens, which is why this Penguins team that has been delivering largely impressive performances for the last three months needs to produce perhaps its most impressive to date in Game 6 and deny Washington the opportunity harness the power of so many odd fortunes (or misfortunes) that come with a Game 7.