Penguins forward Jarome Iginla had a smile on his face – yes, you read that right – when he spoke to the media on Wednesday afternoon.
Iginla was his usual friendly, contagiously enthusiastic self despite last night’s 6-4 loss in Game 4 to the Islanders.
He discussed Thursday’s Game 5 with optimism, excitement and anticipation rather than dread, doom and gloom, saying he felt the team would rally from last night’s setback and embrace the challenge ahead.
“I think for our group, we stay confident,” he said. “We have a lot of guys who have won Stanley Cups before, won different things, been in a lot of playoff series. And this is fun, it is. It’s a best of three, you’ve heard it said a lot. I think you enjoy it. We get ready for a bigger battle than we had last game and I think we just keep the focus there and love that challenge. I know we have a lot of great competitors in there that feel good today, are excited to play tomorrow and are looking forward to it.”
Iginla even went so far as to say that Tuesday’s defeat and the situation they are in now is not the end of the world. In fact, this could just be the beginning.
“I think this could be great for us,” he said. “I think that guys are still very confident and it’s hard, it’s a battle out there and the Islanders are playing great. I mean, they’re playing aggressive and we plan on matching that and finding a way to win this series. I think this could be great for us.”
It can be easy to get caught up in comparing this series to last year’s first-round defeat to the Philadelphia Flyers. But if Iginla and his demeanor today are any example, this is a different team.
Yes, the Penguins made mistakes, turned the puck over, had mental breakdowns and allowed the Islanders to score easy goals as a result. But despite all of that, Game 4 could have gone either way. The Penguins had a chance to win that game until the very end. And while they lost in the final minutes and let their chance to make Game 5 an elimination situation, that’s just it – it’s not an elimination situation right now. It’s not like the Penguins are down 0-3 in the series. It is tied 2-2. It’s a best of three now, with the Penguins having home-ice advantage.
“You fight for the home ice to get this opportunity, to have more games played at your home,” forward Chris Kunitz said. “With that being said, we still have to go out and win those games.”
The Penguins have played nowhere near their best hockey and the series is tied 2-2. And don’t forget last week’s Game 1, where the Penguins showed what they’re capable of when they shut out New York 5-0 and imposed their will on the young Islanders.
“Obviously we haven’t played our best hockey yet,” defenseman Paul Martin said. “But we can’t change anything about what’s happened already, now our focus moving forward is the preparation and getting ready for this next game.”
The Penguins must adopt Iginla’s mentality going into Thursday and not only focus on the challenge ahead, which is winning that game, but have fun with it. This is the PLAYOFFS. This is what all of these guys play for. Adversity is a constant throughout the postseason. It’s how they respond that matters. And Iginla believes they can and they will.
“The Islanders are playing hard, but we’ve been in position each game not playing as good in certain areas as we’d like,” Iginla said. “We’ve given ourselves a chance to win each game and we have a chance once again in Game 5 and we believe if we get that chance, we seal it.”