For just the third time in the AHL's 77-year history, a team has rallied back from a 3-0 deficit in a playoff series. The Penguins also became just the 18th team to rally back after being down 3-1 in series, and were the eighth team in AHL history to win Games Six and Seven on the road. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton joined the 1960 Rochester Americans - who beat Cleveland - and the 1989 Adirondack Red Wings - who beat Hershey - as the only teams in AHL history to overcome the 3-0 series deficit.
If there is one guy who might eb feeling this pain more than anyone, it's Trent Whitfield. Whitfield was also a member of the 2010 Boston Bruins who, as you may recall, were up 3-0 and staring down a berth in the Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks. It was the upstart Philadelphia Flyers who shocked everyone by downing the Bruins in four straight games instead, sending Trent Whitfield and the Bruins home as only the third team in NHL history to lose after being up 3-0 in series.
Let's give credit where credit is due as well. The Penguins buckled down and really played well in front of Brad Thiessen. They outscored the Bruins 14-2 in the final four games, using timely special teams goals and solid checking to help their own cause. They outhustled the AHL's best regular-season team in winning races to loose pucks, they capitalized on scoring chances, and they suffocated the Bruins in their defensive zone. In short, the Penguins played as well as the scores indicated in those final four games.
It's not like the Bruins didn't have chances, though. Game Six was led by the Bruins before the Penguins tied the game midway through the second period. Despite Providence firing 47 shots at Thiessen, the Penguins prevailed on their 18th shot of the game in overtime when Trevor Smith scored. If you're going to throw 46 pucks at a goaltender, you'd expect to score more than one goal, but Thiessen was equal to the task on all but one of those shots. In that case, you have to dig deeper and find a way to win. Providence simply could not.
With the victory, the WBS Penguins advance to the Eastern Conference Final where they will play the Syracuse Crunch. Syracuse, as you may recall, was the Norfolk Admirals team last season who won the Calder Cup before Tampa Bay made the decision to move their AHL affiliate to northern New York. Needless to say, the Crunch have been there before, so don't expect them to roll over for the Penguins either.
The first game of the 2013 Calder Cup Eastern Conference Final goes Saturday, May 25 in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Expect a great game with rowdy fans on Saturday after the Penguins' stunning comeback. Syracuse was 5-3 against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this season, proving that this series may be tougher than Syracuse's previous series where they swept both the Portland Pirates and the Springfield Falcons out of the playoffs. Trevor Smith of the Penguins was a member of the Norfolk Admirals last season, so he may be able to provide some insight into defeating the Crunch. All in all, though, this looks like it's going to be a great series of hockey!
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!