Look past this 3-1 loss to the Washington Capitals on Sunday night and chalk it up in the “practice round” column. Ask yourself: Can the Penguins actually somehow lose to the Capitals in a seven game series?
I laughed, too. There’s the whole cliche that you shouldn’t overlook your opponent ever. The Penguins don’t do that come playoff time and they surely won’t begin that this season. But when they mightily handle their first round opponent and inevitably face the Washington Capitals in round two, should the Penguins even be scared until the Capitals give them a reason to be?
If you really believe what Philipp Grubauer did Sunday night to not be a fluke and that he could steal the show in a seven game series against the team that has effectively made them their little brother, you might just need to go watch the last two Stanley Cup runs and remind yourself we are talking about a perennial losing team who’s only banners include “Metropolitan Division Champion”.
The Capitals beat the Penguins Sunday in this solo battle. They won the Metropolitan Division again. Shocker, really. This one was a bit different, though.
Matt Murray didn’t have his finest performance on this night and that’s okay. It’s just been that kind of season. But the kid is a gamer. He’s been through hell and back this season only to finally have some health and peace of mind heading into the playoffs. I’ll take the battle tested kid fresh off of not one, but two, Stanley Cups before I take a goalie who’s biggest accomplishment in his career was this glove save he made on Sidney Crosby Sunday evening:
And I will certainly take Murray over Braden Holtby, or at least what’s left of him since the Penguins made him just a shell of his former self as he’s seemingly all but lost his grip on the starting job.
You think the goalie matchup is where it ends? Oh, lord no.
Tell me what group of four you’re going to take in a head to head matchup:
I’ll take the former and it’s not even close.
Did you see Malkin and Oshie’s dust up? Malkin wanted to take on the entire Capitals team. He was being restrained by an official as he continuously yapped at Kuznetsov and Oshie. His quote afterwards was absolutely perfect and sums up just how dominant the Penguins are over the Caps.
“It’s my problem,” Malkin said. “I took a penalty. I threw Oshie’s stick. Oshie was mad. We fought each other. It’s fine. But Kuznetsov can’t speak with me if you’re sitting on the bench.”
That last line illustrates just how Malkin views the Capitals. I’m better than you and so is my team and until you beat us, shut up and watch me lift that Stanley Cup over my head and prove me wrong.
Or, maybe, I’m just reading too far into it. But, either way, the Penguins will win this war whether they have to personally hand Washington it’s third playoff exit in as many seasons or whether they just outlast the pesky red sweaters further into the postseason.
“Champions of April” has a nice ring to it.