In this space, I have often been referred to as Ian Sen-des.
The clever wit who came up with that was probably fed up with my perceived bias towards the Ottawa Senators.
So with the playoffs upon us, everyone is waiting for my annual “Go Sens Go” prediction. The one where I predict that Crosby will be neutralized by Philchenkov and Sutton will obliterate Malkin with one hit.
That may very well happen, but I am taking a totally objective look at this series. I’m not going to have my judgment clouded by the fact that I sometimes sleep in Spartacat pajamas.
And here’s what I think: Pittsburgh will win this series in six games.
Instead of giving you the usual boring stuff about how Crosby and Malkin are world-class players, I’m going to highlight some other reasons why I think the Penguins not only win this series — but they win the Stanley Cup again.
Role Players – Here’s what I really like about the Penguins: They have three players on their roster that have scored the winning goal in Game 7 of a Stanley Cup final. Not one. Not two. But three freaking players. Mike Rupp (2003), Ruslan Fedetenko (2004) and Max Talbot (2009) have all scored the winning goal on hockey’s biggest stage. Those types of intangibles are invaluable at this time of year.
Great Teams Can Flip A Switch – I understand the argument that the Penguins have played too many playoff games over the last two years. Some people believe it will catch up to them and fatigue will be a factor. But it’s my belief that the Penguins understand what it takes to win in the playoffs, which is why you didn’t see them go crazy trying to win the division down the stretch. The great teams know when and how to turn it on and off.
The Penguins have won 30 playoff games over the last two years. They know how to get it done. And look at some of the great teams in recent history, like the Islanders, Oilers and Penguins. When winning their last Cup, they treated the regular season as the warm-up act. Gretzky’s last Cup in Edmonton came with his team finishing in second place. The Islanders last Cup in their dynasty run also came with a second-place regular season finish. And the last time the Penguins won back-to-back Cups, the second one came when they didn’t win the Patrick Division. People tell you that there is no magical switch to flip once the playoffs start and that you had better be playing good hockey going into the post-season. But the great teams know how to flip that switch and I believe Pittsburgh has arrived at that point.
Fleury Has Arrived – Is there a better money goalie in the Eastern Conference right now? Some people might argue in favour of Ryan Miller, but I’d have no issue hitching my wagon to the guy that has back-stopped his team to two straight Cup finals. And Fleury’s last post-season save was arguably the most clutch save in playoff history, robbing Nicklas Lidstrom from point-blank range to preserve a Game 7 win in the dying seconds. When you have that memory fresh in your mind, you probably feel like you can do anything.
The Senators know they are underdogs in this series. They don’t expect anyone to pick them to win. And I just don’t see anyone in the East — Washington included — that is going to beat Pittsburgh. It’s just the Sens’ poor luck that they drew the best team in the first round.
And I won’t take any offence if people start calling me “Ian Pen-des.”