By Andrew Randas
LOWER BURRELL, Pa. – The Pittsburgh Penguins face off against the Washington Capitals Monday, May 4 in Game 2 of the NHL playoffs after losing to Washington in Game 1.
The Penguins will try to earn their first win against the Washington Capitals in Game 2 at Washington after a hard-fought loss 3-2 in their first game.
According to the Pittsburgh Penguins website, the Penguins left the regular season with 45 wins and 28 losses and entered the playoffs ranked second in the Atlantic division with 99 points putting them in the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.
Pittsburgh entered the playoffs with new interim head coach Dan Bylsma after the organization chose to fire Michel Therrien near the end of the regular season.
Therrien led the Pens to a 27-25-5 record before being relieved of his duties as coach.
“I think the Pens have played much better now with their new head coach, says Vince Labriola, a hardcore Penguins fan and hockey player. Therrien was too defensive, but now the new coach lets them play their game.”
Labriola said that Therrien did not take advantage of the Penguins powerful offense and chose to play more defensively, which caused them to lose many games in the regular season.
Labriola is a season ticket holder for the Pittsburgh Penguins and has been one for about four years.
“I’ve been a Penguins fan for life, he said. I only missed six games this whole season.”
Labriola said he played organized ice hockey for twelve years playing all throughout high school. He currently plays deck hockey at Blade Runners in Harmarville.
Other Penguins fans agree with Labriola.
Spencer Svoboda and Justin McGarry both feel that the Pens are on the right track with the new coach and new players.
“They’re playing at a different pace now, said Svoboda of the new Penguins situation. They are more physical and are more complete as a team.”
“The regular season started out good, but cooled down towards the middle, said McGarry. Towards the end, we got a new coach and then we started playing hot. I think the change made a big difference because we now have more confidence, and the players now connect better with the new coach.”
Svoboda thinks the Penguins and Capitals series will go all seven games with the Penguins coming out on top.
“If we win Game 2, we will take the series, Svoboda said. Either way the series will go all seven games.”
McGarry said that he called the Penguins winning against Philadelphia in the first series and called them to win against Washington.
“It’s a whole different series against Washington, he said. But I think we will still win.”
McGarry also said that the Penguins have to focus on the whole team for success and not just Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.
“The whole team has to work together,” he said.
Svoboda and McGarry are both veteran hockey players from the area.
Svoboda currently plays for the Pittsburgh Predators under 18 Triple A hockey team and the Junior Penguins Empire Junior B team
McGarry plays at Blade Runners in Harmarville and at Murrysville Sports Zone in Murrysville.
Svoboda said he plans to join the Boston Junior Rangers hockey team in Boston, Massachusetts for his senior year of high school.
“I just wanted a change from the Pittsburgh leagues, he said. I want more opportunity.”
Svoboda plans to play college hockey and hopes to play in the NHL someday.