By Michael Farber, SI.com
The Pittsburgh Penguins might - or might not - have tanked their final regular-season game against the Philadelphia Flyers in order to draw the slumping Ottawa Senators and not the robust Flyers in the first round. Certainly, Ottawa general manager/coach Bryan Murray thought so - or at least claimed he thought so if only to help rally his team.
Now, maybe the Penguins didn't capitulate against Philadelphia, but they certainly turned in a desultory performance. If it quacks like a duck ...
There was much consternation about bad karma and warnings about being careful of what one wishes for in the wake of that sad performance. But now, 10 days later, it seems clear that the Penguins have had the best wish this side of fairy tale. Pittsburgh has a stranglehold on the series. Ottawa is down 3-0.
"I'm surprised we're up 3-0 this early in the series," said winger Marian Hossa, as if his Penguins could be up 3-0 after, say, five games - and truly spent.
Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson returned for Game 3, but played, mostly valiantly, on one leg. Without the injured Alfredsson, Mike Fisher and Chris Kelly and with sub-par goaltending, Ottawa was a cushy landing spot for the Penguins. Maybe karma is overrated.
In a late-season conversation with Alfredsson, I was chiding him for the Swedes' loss to Slovakia in Turin in the last game of the Olympic round-robin, which set up a knockout game against Switzerland rather than Canada. In a nearly two-minute five-on-three against the Slovaks, a power-play unit of Alfredsson, Peter Forsberg, Mats Sundin, Fred Modin and Nick Lidstrom didn't manage a shot on goal (although Lidstrom hit a post).
"They had great penalty killers," said Alfredsson, who recalled shooting wide on that power play.
If the Swedes didn't quite tank - and coach Bengt Ake-Gustafsson was open in his preference for a match against the Swiss - they were at least as discreet against Slovakia as the Penguins were against the Flyers. Sweden, of course, rode the easier route to the gold medal. Now Alfredsson is one game from summer.
Maybe this defines the phrase "what goes around comes around." Or maybe not.