There’s not much time to let this one sink in.
Sure, the Penguins added their name to the history books with Wednesday’s 5-0 Game 7 win over the Providence Bruins. They became just the third team in the AHL’s 77-year history to come back after losing the first three games to win a best-of-seven series. After surrendering 12 goals to the Bruins in a pair of losses in the first two games, the Penguins quieted the Providence offense by allowing just four goals the rest of the way.
Now, after eliminating the AHL’s top team from the regular season, the Penguins face the league’s hottest team in the postseason, the Syracuse Crunch.
Syracuse swept both its opponents in each of the first two rounds of the postseason for a perfect 7-0 record and has outscored the opposition 30-15. During the regular season the Penguins were 3-5 against the Crunch, who scored the most goals in the AHL’s regular season with 247.
But worrying about the Crunch is thinking a bit too far ahead, according to head coach John Hynes.
At least that was the case in the moments after the Penguins Game 7 win in Providence on Wednesday.
“I haven’t thought beyond this series. We were so engrossed with finding a way to win this series I haven’t thought about the next,” Hynes said.
But one thing that Hynes and his team did have time to think about is being a part of history.
Not only are the Penguins the third team - and the first since 1989 - to win a series after falling into a 3-0 hole, they also became the 18th team ever to win a series after trailing 3-1, and the eighth ever to win both Game 6 and Game 7 of a series on the road.
Needless to say, the Penguins accomplished a lot in a single playoff round.
“What we accomplished is difficult and it speaks volumes about the character of the group,” Hynes said. “Anytime you can be in sports and make history, this team did it and that’s special. That’s part of leaving a legacy.”
With their legacy in place, the Penguins will look to continue to build on the many positives they established through the first two rounds of the postseason.
The penalty kill has been perfect on the last 20 power play opportunities they faced. The Penguins power play has been equally sharp in the postseason, connecting on 13-of-51 chances for a league-leading 25.5 percent.
Goaltender Brad Thiessen leads all playoff netminders with a 0.89 goals against average and .970 save percentage.
Combine it with Wednesday’s Game 7 shutout win to clinch the series and the Penguins have a lot to feel good about heading into the conference finals.
“It’s hard to explain,” Thiessen said. “You go down 3-0 and things are looking pretty bleak. Slowly but surely we started getting momentum.”
Thiessen said the Penguins turnaround occurred the day after a 2-1 overtime loss in Game 3. That’s when they started taking things one game at a time, he said.
“We had a meeting the next day after Game 3. Coach Hynes was talking about when you’re down 3-0 and you probably don’t have a chance to come back. But he said what are the reasons we can win just one game? We listed five or six why we felt we could win one game, did that and moved on to the next one,” Thiessen said.
The Penguins not only set a record with their on-ice performance, they established some new highs in the social media world as well during the Providence series (figures from Brian Coe, Penguins vice-president of operations):
1) The team’s YouTube highlight video of Game 5 reached 30,000 hits (cumulative) by Wednesday night – that’s the highest of any of the 260 videos the team has posted on YouTube.
2) Penguins Twitter followers jumped by 490 in a 24 hour span from Wednesday morning at 8 a.m. to Thursday at 8 a.m. According to SportsFanGraph.com, the only hockey team to have a higher 24 hour growth than the WBS Penguins during that period was the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings.
3) The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins now have 18,654 followers, second most of any team in the AHL (Toronto is first).
4) According to SportsFanGraph.com, the team’s Facebook growth of 107 in the 24 hour period ranked ninth among all pro hockey teams, ahead of the LA Kings (89) and behind the Chicago Blackhawks (203)
5) The wbspenguins.com website set records yesterday (mostly Wednesday night) with 6,884 visits; 5,839 unique visitors; 13,958 page views.