Unsolicited memo to the NHL: there's no stopping Sid and Geno.
That would be Pens superstar centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The tandem has terrorized the National Hockey League for the past dozen seasons, and if Pittsburgh's 7-0 victory in Game 1 against the Flyers at PPG Paints Arena on Wednesday is any indication, Philadelphia will be the next victims.
Exhibit A: Spin-o-rama
The Pens were on a power play in the first period when Malkin took a hooking penalty. A determined Malkin was released from the penalty box and avenged his mistake.
The Russian stud corralled the puck in the defensive zone and skated through the neutral zone with three Flyers in his way. He easily skirted by Jakub Voracek then split Claude Giroux and Shayne Gostisbehere at the blue line.
Malkin was forced to the outside by Gostisbehere, but somehow, someway, managed to rip a rising backhand shot far side beyond the outstretched blocker of Brian Elliott, off the post and into the net to give the Pens a 3-0 lead.
Game over at the 14:09 mark of the first period. There was still 45 minutes of hockey left to play, but Malkin ended any doubt of the outcome with one of the best goals he's ever scored. Even the crowd, sensing the inevitable, began a "We want the Cup!" chant following the goal.
Video: PHI@PIT, Gm1: Malkin goes end to end for pretty goal
Exhibit B: Backhand homerun
Pittsburgh had the puck in the offensive zone for an extended shift. It worked the puck back to Brian Dumoulin on the point. His shot deflected off of a stick and popped into the atmosphere. The rubber returned to the stratosphere at the blue paint, where Crosby was waiting.
The Pens captain pulled off the no-look, backhand, airborne stick swing to whack the puck into the net to give the Pens a 5-0 lead.
You know, the usual from Crosby. Just a typical baseball swing goal.
In proper defense of the Flyers, there is just no defending that.
Video: PHI@PIT, Gm1: Crosby flashes hand-eye coordination
Malkin dekes along the inside of the Flyers' blue line, swirling around two players before cutting by a third on his way to the high slot. From there, Malkin ripped a hard shot that eluded goalie Petr Mrazek, who replaced Elliott after Crosby's goal, but dinged off of the far post.
After Crosby scored another goal in the third period, he "capped off" a hat trick by re-directing Dumoulin's shot/pass into the goal to put the Pens up by a touchdown, 7-0. That brought down downpour of hats.
Video: PHI@PIT, Gm1: Crosby completes natural hat trick
It was quite the opening salvo by Pittsburgh's "two-headed monster." And it was a statement: the Pens are still the champs.
The Pens are chasing history, trying to become the first team to three-peat as Stanley Cup champions since the New York Islanders won four in a row from 1980-83.
Pittsburgh survived an 82-game malaise of up-and-down, inconsistent play during the regular season. But now that the stakes are high and history is on the line, the club elevated its game. And the team was led by its two dynamic centers.
There's still a lot of hockey left. But if Crosby and Malkin keep playing the way they did tonight, the city of Pittsburgh might want to start their parade preparations.