The Pittsburgh Penguins, the defending Stanley Cup champions, saw their chances of repeating as champions take a bit of a tumble on Monday and Tuesday. Firstly on Monday, the Penguins lost to the Washington Capitals in overtime of game three of their best-of-seven series. During that game, MVP-candidate Sidney Crosby took a shot to the head, one that did not look dirty in my opinion. However, the effect of the hit could still be costly. Reportedly, Crosby will not be available for game four of the Washington/Pittsburgh series.
Tom Gulitti, writing at NHL.com and basing his statements on information from Pittsburgh’s head coach (Mike Sullivan), stated the following in a mid-day article from May 2nd:
“Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby has been diagnosed with a concussion and will miss Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Washington Capitals on Wednesday” (NHL.com).
The situation in the series is that the Pens lead 2-1 and game four will be played on home ice for them. However, if Pittsburgh should lose the game then that would create a 2-2 situation with Washington hosting two of the next three if the series should go seven. Crosby may be back later in the series, but concussions are certainly tricky to assess. Day-to-day can turn into something long term, and it could be that Washington just had some serious hope injected into their post-season – just when it started to look dire.
The Caps still have to beat a Pittsburgh team that doesn’t have Sidney Crosby, and that’s not going to be straight forward. The Pens came close to taking a 3-0 lead in the series without the services of their best player on Monday, fighting off of a two-goal lead in game three and forcing overtime. However, for a tortured franchise in Washington, a club whose playoff aspirations following stellar regular seasons always seem to hit a brick wall, any kind of reason to be optimistic should give them some energy and a lot of others seem to see it this way too. The Capitals, despite playing on the road, are actually considered small favorites to win game four with the sportsbooks (i.e.,. bet365).
They are still the fourth favorites to win the Cup at the moment in the volatile Stanley Cup antepost market. That’s actually a weird spot for a team trailing 1-2 in the second round to be. As a counterexample, Anaheim is trailing 1-2 in the second round and is considered 6th favorite. That Washington is considered a bigger favorite than Anaheim despite being in practically the same situation could be taken a few different ways. But to me, it partly suggests that many are wondering if there is more to this Crosby situation than meets the eye. A win in game four for Washington and any further bad news for the Penguins (like Crosby having to miss game five) and the Caps could be Cup favorites before the weekend.