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THN.com Playoff Blog: Pens' confidence key to success

Marian Hossa scored the overtime winner to send the Penguins to the East final. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Marian Hossa scored the overtime winner to send the Penguins to the East final. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

• To their credit, the New York Rangers did not fall to the ground and beg for mercy at any point in their second round playoff series against the Penguins. Unfortunately, as was proved again Sunday during Pittsburgh’s 3-2 overtime victory – one that also gave them a five-game series win and a conference final date against the Flyers – the Rangers’ veterans were no match for their youthful opponents on the Pens.

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist was fantastic, but Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury was even better. New York captain Jaromir Jagr was stupendous, but Evgeni Malkin was at least his equal. And, ultimately, the Penguins’ mixture of physical talent, youthful speed and veteran know-how was far superior to that of a Rangers team that still needs some tweaking (especially on the blueline) before it can be considered a bona fide Stanley Cup favorite.

The Rangers showed an admirable ability to rebound from deficits, but simply couldn’t close games out. The Penguins have also been able to rebound from in-game collapses, but they’ve leaned on a strong sense of self-assuredness to pull themselves back from the brink of total disaster.

That confidence – and not just one particular on-ice aspect of the Pens’ gameplan – is what’s gotten them where they are now: eight wins away from the whole enchilada.

• Once again, the referees managed to misplace their whistles in the third period – either that, or they both suffered from simultaneous asthma attacks – and provided more material for conspiracy theorists.

Not a single penalty was called in the third period – that is, until Chris Drury landed himself a double minor for cutting open Ryan Malone on a high stick with 1:18 left in regulation.

There was a feeling of unmistakable irony after Drury was penalized, because in the second period, Drury himself was cut open badly after being high-sticked – by Malone! –but no penalty was called by the refs.

I think the Hockey Gods are trying to call you out, Stephen Walkom. There can be no possible rationalization for your officials continuously putting their hands in their pockets in third periods of games.

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I’m normally one of your biggest defenders, but what’s going on is casting everything – the officials, the players, and the game itself – in a not-so-positive light.

• Finally narrowed down my choices as to who Sidney Crosby resembles with what he alleges to be a “moustache.” It’s either Mandy Patinkin in The Princess Bride, or Kevin Kline in Sophie’s Choice. Or Hollywood director John Waters. Or perhaps all-time baseball great Ryne Sandberg.

Okay, I still need to keep narrowing it down.

THN.com's Playoff Blogs, featuring analysis and opinion on the action from the night before, with insight on what happened and what it all means going forward, will appear daily throughout the NHL playoffs. Read more entries HERE.

Adam Proteau is The Hockey News' online columnist and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and Wednesdays, his Ask Adam feature appears Tuesdays and Fridays, and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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