Sunday, May 18, 2008

Pittsburgh advances to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 1992

Penguins shutout Flyers 6-0, take the Eastern Conference title 4 games to 1

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The future is indeed now as the Pittsburgh Penguins, powered by youth and tempered in the crucible that is the Eastern Conference playoffs, have earned their first Stanley Cup Finals appearance since 1992. The Penguins shutout the Philadelphia Flyers 6 to 0, taking the Eastern Conference Finals 4 games to 1.

The Philadelphia Flyers, showing signs of life with a game 4 victory, received a morale and defensive boost as defenseman Kimmo Timonen returned to the lineup after being sidelined by a blood clot in his right ankle. Flyers defenseman Braydon Coburn remained on the shelf due to the facial lacerations he received when a slap shot by Penguins defenseman Hal Gill deflected off fellow Penguin Evgeni Malkin's stick. However, the return of their best player, as described by Flyers head coach John Stevens, just would not be enough for Philadelphia.

The Penguins came out of the gate on fire and never looked back. Penguins left winger Ryan Malone opened the scoring with a power play goal at 2:30 of the 1st period. Seven minutes later, center Evgeni Malkin scored as Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Martin Biron got his stick tangled up with Ryan Malone behind the net, allowing Malkin to tap the puck in under Biron's left pad from behind the net.

Right winger Marian Hossa, acquired at the NHL trade deadline, one-timed a beautiful pass from Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby to put the Penguins up by 3 goals midway through the second period, which seemingly deflated the Flyers. Malone scored again on a power play, this time on a deflection from Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar 11:42 into the second period. Pittsburgh center Jordan Staal scored a late goal in the second frame when he poked the puck past Martin Biron with just 52 seconds left.

Philadelphia appeared to have scored a goal in the waning moments of the second period. However, referee Paul Devorski ruled that Flyers left winger Patrick Thoresen was interfering with Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and waved the goal off.

The Penguins scoring department closed up shop with left wing Pascal Dupuis scoring with a deflection off his leg from Marian Hossa's slap shot from the right point 4:03 into the third period.

While the offensive firepower of the Penguins was on display, the incredible Penguins team effort on defense cannot be overlooked. Marc-Andre Fleury was once again spectacular in net, stopping all 21 shots that he faced. Meanwhile, as a team, the Penguins blocked 15 shots from ever reaching Fleury, with defenseman Brooks Orpik leading the way with 4 blocked shots. Kudos go to Pittsburgh head coach Michel Therrien for instilling a great back checking ethic into his forwards.

Time will tell whom will face off against Pittsburgh, but one thing is certain: the evolution is complete. With a suffocating defense and incredible scoring power, the Penguins are a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.

Congratulations to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the 2007-2008 Eastern Conference Champions!

Illness in the Igloo

Three Pittsburgh Penguins players are under the weather of late. Center Evgeni Malkin and right wing Peter Sykora both missed practice, but did play in the 6-0 trouncing of Philadelphia on Sunday. Sykora left midway in the second period and did not return to the game. Left wing Gary Roberts was scratched from the line up once again due to illness.

The Waiting Game

The Penguins have their tickets punched for the Stanley Cup Finals. The question is, who will they face? Will they face the President's Cup winning Detroit Red Wings, lead by Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen, or will they face the Dallas Stars, lead by goaltender Marty Turco and his spectacular play in net?

These questions could be answered Monday evening as Detroit visits Dallas for game 6 of the Western Conference final.

Eastern Conference Finals - Statistics

Philadelphia Flyers

Daniel Briere: 1 goal, 1 assist, 2 points, -4
Mike Richards: 3 goals, 0 assists, 5 points, -1
R.J. Umberger: 1 goals, 3 assists, 4 points, +1
Vaclav Prospal: 0 goals, 1 assist, 1 point, -2

Martin Biron: 1-4, 18 goals against, 145 shots faced, .877 save %

Pittsburgh Penguins

Sidney Crosby: 2 goals, 5 assists, 7 points, +4
Evgeni Malkin: 3 goals, 2 assists, 5 points, +2
Ryan Malone: 3 goals, 3 assists, 6 points, +3
Marian Hossa: 4 goals, 5 assists, 9 points, +4

Marc-Andre Fleury: 4-1, 6 goals against, 132 shots faced, .954 save %