Really, there is absolutely no reason to doubt that Game Five of the Pittsburgh-Rangers series will be finis for this tournament, and most certainly extinction of the Penguins as a threatening National Hockey League species.
The fact that the Blueshirts have won each of their three victories by identical 2-1 scores is the most deceptive aspect of the opening round, which continues Friday at The Garden.
How can anyone take Sidney Crosby’s sextet seriously when it has totaled seven goals over four games? (By my P.S. 54, Brooklyn arithmetic class, it comes to an average of less than two goals a game.)
This, by the way, with the Crosby-Malkin former duo producing two goals (all Crosby’s) and one assist.
Taking a three-games-to-one-lead with their 2-1 edge on Wednesday night at CONSOL Energy Center, the Rangers were pancake-flat in the first period. Actually, when you think about it, that was a good thing.
“Our coach (Alain Vigneault) came into the dressing room after the first,” Rangers’ steady defender Marc Staal said, “and let us have it pretty good. It was a wake-up call.”
The only reason the New Yorkers needed an alarm to go off was that they, naturally, have not brought their “A” (as in attack) Game to full potential. Not even close.
I bet you they do Friday before a rip-roaring Garden crowd just as interested in a first-round wrap-up as the Rangers are for a couple of days off.
Henrik Lundqvist, who doubles as goaltender and majesty and philosopher extraordinaire, understands the opposition’s mind as well as the Penguins do.
“It’s desperation mode for them,” Henrik said, “and the key is to match that. We have to grab every opportunity to get to finish the series. We can’t just think we have four chances. We have to go for it.”
Following King Henrik’s game plan, the Rangers should prevail because they are top heavy with talent, while the Penguins are anemic in that department.
My Pittsburgh correspondent, Vince Comunale, concurs.
“As the series has progressed,” Comunale said, “it has become more obvious that the Penguins are just outmanned.”
They also have been outsmarted. Before Game One, Pitt rookie coach Mike Johnston stressed that his club had to stay out of the sin bin. Yet in every game, the Penguins have taken thoughtless penalties.
Lucky for Pittsburgh, the Rangers power play has been on a sabbatical, but it should reawaken Friday.
Unlucky for Pittsburgh, Captain Crosby has played down to a Blake Comeau level while Malkin has performed as if he was just promoted from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League.
“We need to make sure we’re desperate,” said Crosby. “The only thing we can do is go out there, be desperate and get the series back to Pittsburgh.”
That, by the way, could happen.
Maybe in 2017 or 2018. Certainly not this year.
After Friday, figure the Penguins to waddle their way back to the NHL’s frozen tundra while the Rangers await the start of the second round.
So far, this round has been easier than it has looked and still the Blueshirts have looked good enough to be up 3-1.
Can that sometimes elusive fourth win be far beyond?
The Maven says about 10 p.m. Friday!