Sidney Crosby. Alex Ovechkin. Head-to-head. It has the potential of an epic showdown. Here’s Sid’s take on facing one of his top rivals, “I think it brings out the best in both of us, you know, I feel that in the past, that’s been the case…I think there’s been a lot made of it. I think at the same time you know we want to be at our best.”

Marc-Andre Fleury apparently still hasn’t been cleared to play, but if and when that happens, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivfan will have an interesting and perhaps difficult decision to make. If Fleury gets the green light to play, does Murray start his franchise goaltender? Or does he stay with the hot hand and Murray? I asked Murray that question in a one-on-one interview, “It takes a lot of players to win the Stanley Cup. This playoff is a war of attrition, and we’re gonna need each and every guy on our roster to help us win games, so when that opportunity avails itself to us, that we feel Marc is ready to play, that’s a great challenge to have from our standpoint.”

The Capitals clinched the series with the Flyers with a 1-0 win on Sunday. So up next is the series that many fans have been waiting for. Sidney Crosby against Alex Ovechkin. The NHL probably won’t announce a schedule until round one is completely over, but the Pens will play in Washington for games 1,2,5 and 7. The Pens will host games 3,4 and 6. These teams last met in the playoffs seven years ago. It was a series that featured a game with dueling hat tricks from Crosby and Ovechkin. The Capitals took a 2-games-to-none lead, but the Pens won the series in 7 (on their way to a Stanley Cup championship). Today, after the win over the Flyers, Ovechkin was asked about facing the Pens, “great team, it’s going to be good for the league, for the fans, and for us. It’s going to be an interesting match.”

The Penguins are now in firm control of their first-round best-of-seven with the Rangers. Thursday night’s 5-0 win gives the Pens a 3-games-to-1 lead. They can finish off the Rangers on Saturday at the Consol Energy Center. The Game 4 win came with three power play goals. That was more than enough. The power is back in the power play. Just ask Kris Letang, “I think on our power play we moved it quick. We played it simple. We put the puck on the net with the deflection. At one point, Geno’s goal, it was a little scramble, it came out and he walked in and shot, so when you shoot the puck, you put teams on their heels and and you can capitalize like that.”

 

The Penguins will have Kris Letang on the ice tomorrow night for Game 4 between the Pens and New York Rangers. There was concern that Letang could have been suspended after slashing Viktor Stalberg in the face, knocking out three of his teeth. The Rangers believe the slash was intentional. Letang apologized to Stalberg, and he explained what happened on the play, “It was a fast play. I went in the corner trying to clear the puck. My stick was up and I got hit at the same time I was going forward, so unfortunately I hit him and he was bleeding, but not in a million years would I try to hit somebody in the face like that.”

Sidney Crosby scored the first goal. Matt Cullen came up big on the second goal. The Penguins then sealed it with an empty netter in the final moments. Game 3 goes to the Pens. Here’s the locker room reaction:

Sidney Crosby:
“I think our mindset is just playing the right way, doing the things that have got us here, you know the past is the past, right now I think we’re trying to make sure we’re better every game. I thought we took a good step tonight here in doing that.”

Matt Cullen:
“We talked a lot about getting back to our game and playing with a little more attitude and determination.”

Patric Hornqvist:
“We almost played like a little Rangers style there in the 3rd period, we were always on the right side of the puck and we were reloading and didn’t sit back either. We always tried to score when we got the puck and just a great third period, and that’s something we had to keep here for the next game.”

Marc-Andre Fleury didn’t say much after Monday’s practice, but his body language spoke volumes about his chances of playing at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night. Once again, Fleury was on the ice for the Penguins workout, but he alternated time with the other injured goalie, Matt Murray. Fleury shed very little light on where he is in his recovery from a concussion, but he couldn’t hide his disappointment, “I don’t know, it’s very frustrating to not play and keep talking about it, you know it’s tough. It feels forever…um yeah.” Then I asked him what has to happen for him to play tomorrow? His response, “feel good.”

Next time you find yourself complaining about the Pittsburgh teams, take a look at what’s happening five hours to the east. While the Penguins, Pirates and Steelers have all enjoyed success recently, fans in Philadelphia are dealing with mediocrity, and in some cases futility. The Pirates have three straight postseason appearances. The Phillies had 99 losses last year. The Steelers are coming off a 10-win season and another playoff appearance. The Eagles are coming off a 7-win season and no playoffs. The Pens are riding a streak of 10 consecutive playoff appearances. The Flyers found their way back to the playoffs this year, but they’re looking like they might be swept in the first round. And then there’s the Philadelphia 76’ers. Last season, the Sixers broke the record for the longest losing streak in American professional sports history with 27 straight losses. They won only 10 games the entire season. The goal is to win championships. At least in Pittsburgh, there’s a chance of that happening.

Remember when Major League Baseball experiemented with “helmet” caps for pitchers in spring training? Well, you can bet Gerrit Cole wished he would’ve had one yesterday. Cole had a close call in the 6th inning. A ballw as hit right back at Cole. It knocked his cap off, but fortunately didn’t hit him flush in the head. Cole talked about the scare after the game, “Yeah it didn’t get me that good.” Reporter question: “Did it make contact with your head there?” Cole: “Yeah.” Reporter: “When you went down you were stunned a little bit?” Cole: I hit the deck  pretty hard. I was just trying to get out of the way.”

Monday, September 18 at Washington 7:10pm
Sunday, September 12 Cincinnati 1:00pm
Sunday, September 25 at Philadelphia 4:25pm
Sunday, October 2 Kansas City 8:30pm (WPXI)
Sunday, October 9 New York Jets 1:00pm
Sunday, October 16 at Miami 1:00pm
Sunday, October 23 New England 4:25pm
Sunday, October 30  BYE
Sunday, November 6 at Baltimore 1:00pm
Sunday, November 13 at Dallas 4:25pm
Sunday, November 20 at Cleveland 1:00pm
Thursday, November 24 at Indianapolis 8:30 (WPXI)
Sunday, November 24 New York Giants 4:25pm
Sunday, December 11 at Buffalo 1pm
Thursday, December 18 at Cincinnati 8:30 (WPXI)
Sunday, December 25 Baltimore 4:30pm
Sunday, January 1 Cleveland 1pm

 

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