The Penguins know what they’re up against. They know that their championship dreams are on the line in Tuesday’s Game 6 at Mellon Arena. They know that a win will force a decisive Game 7 in Detroit, and a loss…well, they know what that means as well.
“Everyone knows that that’s the situation here,” defenseman Brooks Orpik
said. “Our backs are up against the wall. We’ve been in this position before. I think everyone is still pretty confident.”
But Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma doesn’t look at Pittsburgh’s current situation as a negative. In fact, he doesn’t think of the team as being one loss away from the end of the season. He views the Penguins as two victories shy of achieving their year-long goal.
“We have a challenge (Tuesday night) and it's a challenge of winning two hockey games to win the Stanley Cup,” Bylsma said. “It's a unique opportunity. And it's one I will gladly take over and over again. Our guys will be ready. We'll be focused. We know exactly what we have to do. Game 6 is where it starts for us. Two games to win the Cup.”
The Penguins’ character will be tested in Game 6 and Bylsma expects the team to respond to the adversity the way they successfully have all season.
“When you wake up in the morning you have a choice to make, and we have one coming into Game 6,” he said. “How are we going to come out and play? That's an individual thing and a team thing. And we're getting our guys focused to come out and play the best game of the series and win this hockey game here at home. That's what our focus is.
“We know some different thoughts that go through there, but you put those aside. Focus on what you need to play, what you need to do to bring our A game tonight. It's always about rebounding the next game. It's about finding more energy. It's about digging down as individuals and as teams, and good teams, winning teams do that.”
And the Penguins have been a winning team. As Bylsma said, they haven’t buckled yet in this postseason – even in the face of extraordinary obstacles. Now they’ll need to show their mantle one more time in a make-or-break Game 6 showdown.
“Do we put aside the doubt? Do we draw on what we are as individuals, as a team, to show our character and how we're going to come out and play tonight?” Bylsma asked. “That's going to be a story of Game 6. How did we play? How did we battle? Did we dig down? Did we have the will and determination necessary to win this game? That will be the story line for tonight's game.”We Must Protect This House
Pittsburgh was in a similar position in last season’s Stanley Cup Final. The team trailed the series, 3-2, with the critical Game 6 being played at Mellon Arena. Unfortunately, despite the team’s best efforts they fell to the Red Wings.
“I don’t remember Game 6 too well, but from what I remember it was really tight,” captain Sidney Crosby
said. “There weren’t a lot of chances and I remember working hard and emptying the tank just like everyone else but we obviously didn’t get the result. For me personally this year I want to make sure I do the same thing, find a way to contribute. These are big games and we need to make sure that we step up.”
Last year, Detroit celebrated its Stanley Cup victory on the Penguins’ home ice. Although the team doesn’t want that to happen again, it will not provide any more motivation for the Penguins, who are solely motivated by the chance to become the NHL champions.
“We’re motivated enough at this point, no matter what’s happened in the past and like I said earlier, I haven’t really thought about last year,” Crosby said. “You don’t really need any extra motivation at this point. We feel a lot different about ourselves and we are just focused on winning this game.”
“People talk about extra motivation and stuff, but we’re in the Stanley Cup,” Orpik said. “I don’t think anyone needs extra motivation. If there is such a thing as extra motivation at this point, I don’t know what it is.”
The Penguins have defended their home ice well this postseason. The team is 8-2 at Mellon Arena in the playoffs, including 2-0 against Detroit. With the fans support, Pittsburgh wants to improve that mark to 9-2.
“Hopefully the crowd is as good as they were in the first couple of games so we can feed off of them,” Orpik said.
“Our home crowd gives us a lot of energy and you feed off of that,” forward Maxime Talbot said. “They are into it, they cheer loud, they all dress in white and it’s a great building to play in. We feed off of that. It gives us energy confidence, momentum and I’m sure they are going to be there cheering really loud for us.”Petr the Great
There has been some suggestion that Bylsma may tweak his lineup in Game 6 by inserting forward Petr Sykora. But as usual, Bylsma wouldn’t reveal his intensions when asked about his lineup composition.
“(It’s a) game-time decision,” Bylsma said. “He'll be out there for warm-ups.”
Although he didn’t tip his hand, he did talk about what a player like Sykora can add to the team.
“Petr's exceptional skill, he can shoot it in the net,” he said. “That's why he continues to play in this league, and probably will continue to play in this league. When you get 25 goals a year you have something. When he gets the puck on the stick, he puts it behind the goalie.
“In a limited role situation, if he were to get the puck on the stick, you would expect him to rip it and have a chance for it to go in. So that's why he would be appealing.” Beard-a-thon
The Penguins announced that they raised more than $96,000
for the Mario Lemieux Foundation through the team’s charity playoff “Beard-a-thon,” the highest total in the NHL.
To date, the Penguins have raised $96,708. The Boston Bruins are in second place at $93,659, followed by the Carolina Hurricanes at $55,028, the Washington Capitals at $41,992, the New York Rangers at $28,304, the Chicago Blackhawks at $21,124 and the Detroit Red Wings at $14,870.