In 2012, the Penguins blew leads in games 1 and 2 of their series against Philadelphia. It was embarrassing, and in my opinion, the low point in the Crosby/Malkin era.
Crosby fought Giroux. Kris Letang blew his lid. Malkin was a menace. The trio combined for 21 points and 36(!!!) penalty minutes.
The Penguins were the better team that year. I think they’d have beaten any team in hockey other than those Flyers. Philadelphia had gotten under the skin of the Pens all year long. Philly led the league in penalty minutes with over 1,300. Sid and his mates didn’t know what to do.
The Pens gave up 12 powerplay goals in the series, and more goals in 6 games than they did in their entire cup run in 2009. The team totally lost composure.
That was under Dan Bylsma. That was then, this is now. With Mike Sullivan at the helm, the Penguins have bought into the mantra, “just play.”
This team doesn’t flip a goose as quickly as the 2012 team did. Sure, Malkin will take an untimely penalty every now and again and Letang can lose his cool. But this team is far more mature under their Boston-born coach.
The Penguins could have unraveled in the 2016 playoffs when the Capitals were on a comeback charge in game 6. They didn’t succumb to the pressure, and wound up winning the game in overtime.
The Jackets tried to run the Pens defense out of the building last year. They were hitting everything that moved. The Penguins played their game and wound up winning the series in 5.
Last year, the Penguins went 37 minutes without a shot in game two of the Stanley Cup final. Previous Penguins teams, specifically the 2013 version against Boston, would have lost their cool and spontaneously combusted. Not this team. Not with this coach.
In 2012, when the Flyers tried their nonsense, the Penguins blew up. This year, when the Flyers are dumb, the Penguins go on the powerplay. I'd say this strategy is working a little bit better.
Six years ago, the emotion of the rivalry got the best of the Pens. Now it’s not even a possibility. With Sullivan in the fold, the Penguins “just play.” And when they do that, the Flyers can’t win.