Can 1991 happen again?
The Pittsburgh Penguins find themselves down 2-0 to the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference final. People may look at recent history and count the Penguins out. After all, the last 16 teams to jump ahead 2-0 in a conference final went on to play in the Stanley Cup final.
The last team to make a comeback? The 1991 Penguins. Their opponent? The Bruins.
After losing 6-3 in Game 1 and 5-4 in overtime in Game 2, the '91 Pens strung together four straight wins to move on and eventually win the franchise's first Stanley Cup.
Could history repeat itself? Who knows, but it's always fun to look back and see.
In the 1991 comeback:
1. Mario Lemieux
Had 11 points (4 goals, 7 assists) in 4 wins
I realize it was 1991, when goals certainly came at a higher frequency, but Lemieux basically put the team on his back. For this year's edition to have a chance to come back, Sidney Crosby will have to do the same. Take this into consideration, coming into the conference final, Lemieux was averaging 1.4 points per game; Crosby? 1.5 ppg.
2. Larry Murphy
Had 7 points (2 goals, 5 assists) in 4 wins
With Paul Coffey out with an injury, the Pens looked to Murphy to pitch in with points from the blue-line. Today, while they don't have the same kind of hole in their lineup, Kris Letang averaged over one point per game in the regular season for the Pens and is tied for the team lead in the playoffs. That said, he has been held off the scoresheet in the conference final with a minus-5 rating.
3. Tom Barrasso
Allowed just 7 goals in 4 wins
Barrasso allowed 11 goals in the first two games, but the netminder bounced back to allow just two goals combined in Games 3 and 4. All told, Barrasso stopped 115 of 122 shots and, after clinching the series in six games, he offered up this quote up to reporters: "Let's cut through the baloney. A lot of people said I could never win a big game. Well, I just won two of them." I don't care who is in net -- Tomas Vokoun or Marc-Andre Fleury -- but they need to pull off the ol' "give your team a chance to win."
4. Mark Recchi
Had 7 points (1 goal, 6 assists) in 4 wins
Recchi, then 22 years old, actually led the '91 Pens in scoring during the regular season, with Lemieux limited to just 25 games, and ended up second in playoff scoring to Lemieux. Let's see, a player in his 20's coming off an impressive regular season who picked it up in the playoffs ... sound familiar James Neal?
5. Ulf Samuelsson
Held Cam Neely to 2 points (1 goal, 1 assist)
Settle down, Bruins fans. First off, I know he didn't exactly do it "legally." I'm certainly not suggesting someone like Matt Cooke do anything outside the rules to stop a sniper like David Krejci, but at least get under his skin a bit. I want to make it clear that I'm not predicting this will happen, but if history does decide to repeat itself, well, it may happen like that!
Eastern Conference final
Pittsburgh vs. Boston
May 1-11, 1991
Game 1: Bruins 6, Penguins 3
Game 2: Bruins 5, Penguins 4 (OT)
Game 3: Penguins 4, Bruins 1
Game 4: Penguins 4, Bruins 1
Game 5: Penguins 7, Bruins 2
Game 6: Penguins 5, Bruins 3
Follow Rob Pizzo on Twitter @robpizzo
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