Every day until the season starts we’ll explore an intriguing storyline for the upcoming year.
They entered the playoffs as Stanley Cup favorites. They left embarrassed.
We are, of course, referring to the Pittsburgh Penguins, who lasted just six games of the 2012 postseason. Even worse, they fell to their archrivals from Philadelphia in a wild, nasty series that saw the teams combined for 56 goals and hundreds of minutes in penalties.
For Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, the loss is still fresh.
“I remember at different points, just kind of being in shock,” Crosby told the Post-Gazette recently. “A lot of different flashes go through my mind when I think about the series.
“Basically, what it came down to was, we didn’t deserve to win. We didn’t play well enough, all the way through.”
It’s hard to argue with that last part. The list of things the Penguins failed to do against the Flyers included protecting leads, killing penalties, and – perhaps most memorably – maintaining their composure.
Crosby in particular had trouble controlling his emotions, a surprise to many given his experience on hockey’s biggest stages. Only 25, he’s already played in two Stanley Cup finals, winning once, and an Olympic gold-medal game in which he scored the winning goal in overtime.
Yet after the Flyers took a 3-0 series lead, this is the spread that ran in the Philadelphia Daily News:
And while the Pens won Games 4 and 5 to make it more than interesting, they lost the sixth one badly – a game that began with Flyers star Claude Giroux crushing Crosby with an open-ice hit.
Moments later, Giroux would open the scoring, creating exactly the sort of magical moment Crosby is famous for producing.
As the Penguins prepare to kick off the season Saturday in (of course) Philadelphia, perhaps they can draw inspiration from the fact they’ve rebounded from disappointment before.
In 2008, they lost the Cup finals to Detroit. The next year, they got their revenge, taking out the Red Wings for the championship.
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