The opponent has changed and the stakes have been raised.
The Penguins’ objective remains the same.
Since the start of this abbreviated season it has been about defense, about keeping the puck out of the net.
It’ll continue to be about that for the Penguins against Boston in the Eastern Conference Final and, if they do a good enough job of that against the Bruins, beyond.
“We’re obviously playing a lot more responsibly this year than we did last year defensively and in the neutral zone,” Brooks Orpik responded when asked why this season’s Penguins had been able to enjoy consistent postseason success for a change.
“I was hoping we’d learn that after the way we played last year (in the playoffs against Philadelphia). Collectively, we just weren’t very good. You can win some 6-5 games in the regular season but it’s going to catch up to you in the
playoffs and I think we learned the hard way last year.
“I think our approach this year has been to keep the puck out of the net. That’s been our first priority. And if you look around at the talent we have in the (locker) room, if we do that I like our chances. We’re going to get some goals eventually with the firepower we have here.”
That firepower makes the Penguins a team that doesn’t have to take chances and force the issue offensively and risk getting itself in trouble at the other end as a result.
They’ll get a few goals eventually just because of who they are and what they are.
They’ll be unbeatable over the course of a seven-game series if they think defense first, if they dedicate themselves to smart, responsible, disciplined hockey and let the rest inevitably take care of itself.
Dan Bylsma’s been preaching that since before the start of the season.
And so far in the postseason he likes what he’s been seeing.
“We’ve gotten better at defending,” Bylsma assessed. “There’s a lot of talk about our points and our goals per game but we’ve gotten better at defending.
“We definitely got better in Round Two as well in that regard.”
If that continues in Round Three there will be a Round Four.
And eventually a parade.