Gary Bettman spoke yesterday and gave us a thorough explanation of where the NHL stands as far as a return to play plan.
Here’s what we know: The Pens get the Habs in the play-in round. It’s a best-of-five series.
The Penguins should win, and if they don’t, it should piss you off. The Pens are better than Montreal.
Who could they play in round two? Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, or Tampa. Philly is, in my opinion, the worst of those teams. One of those things is not like the other.
I think the Pens are better, and Pittsburgh will have played a series to warm them up. I’d be okay with that matchup.
If not Philly, give me Tampa.
I’m not really a big believer in the old sports cliché, “they’ve never won it, so they can’t win it.”
If that were the case, then the Caps wouldn’t have won the Cup. The Pens wouldn’t have won in 1991. However, there's something to be said about pressure and gripping the stick too tight.
I can’t get game seven, 2017 between the Pens and Caps out of my mind.
The Caps were better than the Pens that year, but they couldn’t get over the hump. After the game, to a man, in the Caps dressing room, said the pressure got to them.
There’s a mental hurdle there.
Back to Tampa. They were the best regular season team that I’ve ever seen in 2019. They didn’t win a playoff game.
Not a good experience. That has stuck with them.
I know this because their players union representative, Alex Killorn, made it clear that the Lightning voted “no” for the return to play proposal.
The reasoning was because the Lightning don’t want to play a hot team that had to win a playoff round. That’s basically what happened to them last year against the Jackets. Columbus came in as a streaking hockey club that was on a different emotional level because they had to fight to even make the playoffs. The Lightning had been coasting for a while.
Alex Killorn and his teammates are afraid of something similar happening to them this year.
It sounds to me like they’re fragile. Mentally weak. The Penguins core is obviously playoff tested.
If I could have my pick of who the Pens could play in the round of 16, I'd take the Flyers. If not Philly? Tampa.