|Posted by Radatz on June 11, 2017 at 11:05 PM|
Admit it, you knew this was coming. For every faceoff win and all the time spent in possession of the puck, Nashville had seemingly two giveaways, largely dopey passes to zones, sometimes with wide open men in clear view. The Penguins almost invariably pounced on the unforced-loose-puck machine and eventually it paid off. Wouldn't you know that the winner would come from behind the goalie, but it's been happening a lot. Pittsburgh deserved it. They played smarter, rarely tossing pucks around. In a game where both teams worked hard, their superior passing and puckhandling skills eventually won out. It was bound to happen. When they had the puck, which they didn't for a lot of the game(s), they did something productive with it.
It was a trademark of a postseason that saw them largely outplayed territorially by a 108-point team (Columbus) and a 118-point top seed (Washington), yet still win. Their biggest challenge by far came from a 98-point team (Ottawa) who took them to the absolute brink by virtue of superior organization. With healthy stars they may even have won. But Pitt hung on. By contrast, the 94-point bottom seed of the playoffs was a relative cakewalk, for all the high hopes. Nashville remained enigmatic, but it wasn't enough to stop a determined (and quite deterministic) foe.
True, Nashville had their injury problems much like Ottawa, perhaps worse. But Pitt had a few. Forgotten in the glitz is the loss of their starting goalie moments before game 1 of the first round, forcing his aging, washed-up-10-times replacement into the net cold. All Fleury did was beat teams that probably should have beaten Pittsburgh. Fleury was reminiscent of Bledsoe vs. Pittsburgh in the first year of the millenium's most fabled dynasty. All he did was beat the heavy favorite on their own field, then, minus much explanation, resume sitting while his upstart successor took the reins again. Of course, we don't know if Murray is the next Tom Brady of NHL goalies (or even the next Fleury, really), but he came back and played very well. The unlikely tandem was, but for Anderson, the best goaltending package of the postseason. They were supposed to be a weak spot. Didn't happen. They may have been Pittsburgh's strongest asset.
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