Through the first two games of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Pittsburgh Penguins have shown that they have been here before. The Pens are playing a young Columbus Blue Jackets team that has never won a playoff series, and it has shown. Seth Jones and the Jackets have gotten out to great starts in games one and two, but have nothing to show for it. With just two goals on 72 shots, Columbus’ offense has gone dry.
With a 2-0 series lead, the Penguins are looking to put a strangle hold on the series on Sunday night. Marc-Andre Fleury and the Pens have won both games in relatively convincing fashion, 3-1 and 4-1 respectively. The Blue Jackets have tried to beat the Penguins physically, laying out 100 hits over the first two games, but it has not worked. Penguins’ head coach Mike Sullivan preaches the Penguins to “just play”, and they have.
Next man up
During warmups of game one, goaltender Matt Murray suffered a lower-body injury that has kept him off the ice for the time being. No problem, next man up. The Penguins have had the luxury of being able to have two star goalies all season long. Murray’s partner is Marc-Andre Fleury, and boy has he shined. Fleury has turned aside 70 shots in the first two games of the series, showing confidence and experience. Fleury leads all active goaltenders in career playoff wins with 55.
Carter Rowney started the season in the American Hockey League with the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins just hoping to crack the NHL lineup. Today, Rowney is a big part of the Penguins depth, playing on the right wing of center Matt Cullen. Rowney has been a spark plug for the Pens, leading the way in the hitting department.
With every injury the Penguins encounter, an opportunity is born for a young player to make an impact. Last year, it was Conor Sheary, Bryan Rust, and Matt Murray that seized the moment. Similarly, players like Carter Rowney and Jake Guentzel are fulfilling the opportunity this year.
Next man up.
Time to make history?
The Penguins have the opportunity to win back to back Stanley Cups for the first time since the 1998 Detroit Red Wings. Although it has only been two games for the Pens, they look poised for another deep playoff run with depth scoring and simple defense on display.
Looking around the Eastern Conference, there are no teams playing as well as the Penguins right now. The Presidents Trophy winning Washington Capitals are in a battle with the Toronto Maple Leafs, with both games needing overtime. That series is tied at one. Meanwhile, the Western Conference champion Chicago Blackhawks are down 2-0 to the Nashville Predators in a shocking start to the series.
While the Capitals and Blackhawks are battling to get out of round one, the Pens are just beginning to elevate their game.