Friday, April 13, 2012

A Call To Arms

Friends, I don't know what to say, really. I might start off by saying that I'm still dismayed over the loss dealt to the Penguins on Wednesday night. I might start off by saying that I really do not know what to expect tonight.

Instead, I think I will bring up a speech delivered by my personal hero, Theodore Roosevelt. Moments before the speech, the former President, governor, prolific writer, and war hero had been attacked by a man named John Schrank, who believed that the ghost of former President William McKinley had visited him and told him to assassinate Roosevelt. He succeeded in shooting Roosevelt, but did not succeed in killing him. As Roosevelt staggered onto the stage, he waved to the crowd, asking them to quiet down for him. 

"Ladies and gentlemen, I don't know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose," he said, firmly cementing himself as the most badass man to ever walk this earth. Roosevelt continued to speak for an hour and a half, despite promising to only give a short speech.

He deduced that he would be able to give his speech because, as an avid hunter, he knew that he was not in immediate danger, as he was not coughing up blood.

Fellow Pens fans, we must realize now that we, as a whole, are not yet coughing up blood. We will not merely back down and call off the fight. We will not promise to shorten the battle, but will instead rage on past the constraints of time expected of us, much as Roosevelt did on that day in 1912. 

People say to me sometimes, "why do you refer to the Penguins as "we," when you are not one of the men on the ice". This is a good question, but as is true with many questions, good and bad, it is easily answered. Without the fans, there is no team. The fans pay the money, watch the games, and scream in the crowd. As such, this battle is not won by the 20 on the ice, but by the thousands everywhere. 

I know of Penguins fans in Pittsburgh, Boston, Nashville, New York, San Jose, Washington, Erie, and yes, Philadelphia, among others. I also know of fans in Belgium, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Russia, the UK, and China. The fight for the Cup is not decided in one building, but in many. 

It is also not decided in one game. Teams will snatch victory from defeat, and will toss victory away at the welcome sight of a rest. That is what we got from the Penguins the other night. It is unfortunate that such a thing should happen in the first game of the playoffs, much as it would be unfortunate that it should happen in any game of the playoffs. 

When the Penguins lost the first two games against the Capitals in 2009, it seemed like that was the end. When they lost the first two games against the Red Wings that same year, the feeling returned. In the end, we were left with the image of Sidney Crosby lifting the Cup, handing it to Bill Guerin, and the final image of Mario Lemieux lifting it for a third time as the owner of the team. 

Do not give up yet. The Penguins have a lot of fight in them. Be loud, be optimistic, and be ready for anything. It's a long road to June.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


It was a long, long time ago. In fact, now it feels like a lifetime ago, walking out of the Mellon Arena that day, having just watched the NHL's newest phenom, Sidney Crosby, score his 98th, 99th, and 100th career points. It should have been a joyous occasion. In a way, it was. Everyone leaving the building that day knew that the Pens' victory over the New York Islanders was only a sign of things to come. It couldn't be entirely fun for the 16,000 loyal fans that packed Lady Mellon that afternoon. While there was one away game remaining (a 5-3 loss to the Maple Leafs, in which Sid picked up two more points), the feeling of a season ending without a playoff spot was a fresh, sore spot in our hearts.

The following season, the Penguins clinched their first playoff spot since 2001. Though they lost to the Senators in the first round, the buzz surrounding the Penguins was incredible to be a part of. The very next season, the Pens lost in the finals to the Red Wings. I remember a phone call I had with my Dad, who seemed unfazed by the loss.

"You have to lose one to win one," he said.

"They'll get it next year".

Enter 2009. Game 7. Sitting in front of the TV in Curtis Kennedy's basement, 20 friends all around me. They could have been talking, I don't know. As time ticked down, all that mattered to me was the Cup.

16 seconds. A whistle. Numerous false faceoffs and an audible "WHAT THE FUCK" from a fan. Pens up 2-1. Wings get the puck, send it into the zone.

8 seconds. 7 seconds. 6 seconds. Whistle blows, Brooks Orpik is on top of the puck in the corner. One more faceoff in the defensive zone.

Zetterberg wins the faceoff.


Shot on net. Brian Rafalski.


Puck's loose. Lidstrom has a wide open net. Gets the shot off.


Marc Andre Fleury, the goaltender everyone said would fall apart, the former number-1 overall draft pick who nobody but us believed in, dives. The puck hits his chest.


The Penguins won the Stanley Cup.

It had been several months of the most exciting hockey I can remember watching. Rival after rival stood in our way. The rematch with the Red Wings, arguably the NHL's best team at any given time. All of it was over, as Sid grabbed the Cup from Gary Bettman and raised it over his head.

Scratch that, it had been several years of the most exciting hockey I can remember watching. From that day Sid scored his 100th point to that moment, it all seemed like one continuous J.R.R. Tolkein tale.

And now, if all goes according to plan, we get to do it all over again.


This year is different. The Penguins are the favorites, something I have to admit I'm not quite used to. Sure, they've had the star power for years, but it always seemed like the Canucks or the Capitals who got the headlines. Not this year.

The Penguins begin their journey with arguably their toughest challenge, the Philadelphia Flyers. The Penguins have only defeated the Flyers once in the Consol Energy Center. I don't think that matters. In a few of the previous matchups against them, it was not the Flyers who beat the Penguins. It was the Penguins who beat the Penguins. They allowed themselves to get suckered into the Flyers' garbage after whistles, which got them off their game. It's the same thing Max Talbot did in 2009, and it's the same thing he and his Flyer teammates do now. And it works.

If Marc Andre Fleury plays to his potential, the offense continues being a machine, and the blue line is not a revolving door, the Penguins CAN win this.

If the Penguins do not give in to the bullshit after the whistles, the Penguins WILL win this.

The Penguins are tougher (deny it all you want, Flyers fans). Simmonds and Hartnell are tough cookies, but the Penguins pack Dupuis, Asham, Engelland, Kunitz, Joe Vitale, and a whole lot of attitude from Crosby and Malkin. I'll take that crew into battle any day.

Penguins in 6.


Quick thoughts on the other series.

Bruins - Capitals

  • Yawn. The Bruins will win, the Capitals will choke. I feel like I've heard this story before. No way in hell Washington wins. If they do, I promise to chance the background of my blog to Alexander Ovechkin for a week. Bruins in 6.
Rangers - Senators
  • Again, yawn. the Rangers bore me. The Senators bore me. The Rangers will win, because the Senators suck. I'm less sure about this one, so I'm not making a bet here. The Senators have an excellent record in Madison Square Garden, so they could play spoiler here. Daniel Alfredsson is a unicorn, and Jason Spezza is so bad that his team's fans had a rally to support him last season. It drew about 30 people. Not making that up. Rangers in 6.
Devils - PANTHERS?
  • Before the season, I picked the Panthers to make the playoffs, so suck it, "experts". Honestly, the "experts" are never, ever, ever right. Why do they ask them their opinions? They're all failed coaches, anyways. Ask me, instead. I'll tell you who's going to win.
  • This is the most boring series of all time. I may be pleased that I was right about Florida, but I'm not pleased that they'll be on tv sometimes. I think even the fans in the arena will be hoping that other games will be broadcast on the jumbotron. I won't watch a minute of this. Devils in 7.
Canucks - Kings
  • The Kings appear to have the tools on offense. They just aren't that good. The Canucks, on the other hand are a machine, and will win this series easily. Just kidding. The Kings have Johnathan Quick. That dude's awesome. He's going to make a ton of saves, and cause the advil supply in Vancouver to plummet. Still, the Canucks are winning in 6. A very difficult 6.
Blackhawks - Coyotes
  • Sweep. Blackhawks. Next season's premier of "Portlandia": "Moving In," in which uHaul trucks ironically move a hockey team to a town that couldn't care less. Hipsters need a job and a shower. In fact, this really solidifies my pick, since the Coyotes will soon be associated with those morons in Portland. Blackhawks in 4.
Blues - Sharks
  • Go Blues. TJ Oshie is awesome.
  • I don't know why, but the Sharks have always been a team I love to hate. I think it's because I enjoy their reputation for being bigger chokers than Mama Cass. For the record, Mama Cass did not choke to death on a ham sandwich, as the legend would have you believe, but it's still funny.
  • Go Blues. David Backes is awesome.
  • Blues in 7.
Red Wings - Predators
  • If you're not aboard the Predators bandwagon, now's the time to get on. I've been there for two seasons now. What can I say? I'm a Weber fan. As a former defenseman, I can't help but love a team that chose to build around a goaltender and a core of defensemen. Their strategy is bold, but logical: can't score many goals, so don't let the other team do it either. This is probably the final ride for the Predators for a bit, as Weber and Suter are most likely on their way out. They'll be back, though.
  • This is probably the final run for the Red Wings. They haven't missed the playoffs in my lifetime, but their are rumblings of Holmstrom and Lidstrom retiring at season's end. If so, two of their biggest weapons are gone. the Red Wings seem to follow Ozzy's advice to never say die, but time does eventually run out. Like a gambler holding on to his last shot at winning, the Red Wings will go all in. This is the series I'm most excited for, aside from our own. This SHOULD be like Rocky vs Apollo Creed. Except it's real.
  • Ironic that it's the Predators who had a fossil on their uniform, since they'll be playing at least 4 games against a team that could be used to build Jurassic Park.
  • Predators in 7.
Get excited, people. If you're not, then I can't do anything for you.

Me? I'll be running around like mad, scaring my friends. 


Let's go Pens.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Playoffs Preview. Episode 1: The Flyer Menace

A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away....

It's almost time for game 82, but really, the playoffs have begun. Possibly 8 games in a row against the Philadelphia Flyers. A lot of things come to mind when I think of Philadelphia. Let's do some word association, shall we? Ok, I'm going to think the word "Philadelphia," then I'm going to write down the first word that comes to my head. 4 times, I think.

Philadelphia: cheese.

Philadelphia: sewer lids.

Philadelphia: Grimace from McDonalds.

Philadelphia: hookers.

As a (I loathe the word "buff"), I'm surprised nothing involving the American Revolution popped into my mind. It's a testament to how crappy that town is, that I can unequivocally deem them the cheese, sewer lid, hooker capital of the world, home of Grimace from McDonalds. Surprised it's not Mayor McCheese. I've even made a handy collage to give you a good image of what I think of when I hear "Philadelphia".

Believe it or not, the hooker is the first result when you google "Philadelphia hooker"
I skipped the cheese part, because cheese is not funny.

In all fairness, I've never been to Philadelphia, but then again...I've never been to a Garth Brooks concert. The point is, I don't have to go in order to know that it sucks.

Plus, I saw "National Treasure". That should be enough.

I found this today. It's Tony Granato and Dan Bylsma with KISS.

That's the coolest thing I've seen in a long time.

Let that picture sink in.

Gene Simmons. Paul Stanley. Those two replacement guys, aka fake Peter Criss and fake Ace Frehley. Disco Dan. Tony Granato.

Bonus appearance from Mike Yeo and Gilles Meloche. 

Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have met in the playoffs five times. The Penguins lost to the Flyers in 1989, 1997, and 2000. However, the Penguins defeated the Flyers in both 2008 and 2009, en route to the Finals in both years, winning the cup the second time around. Gotta hope that streak holds true in 2012, with the Penguins defeating Philly and making it to the finals. 

The Flyers have not won a cup since 1975. 

Some other things that were popular in 1975: Stevie Wonder, "Chico and the Man," and "the Rocky Horror Picture Show". "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" sucks. Worst movie I've ever seen.

If you like that movie, buy a Briere jersey.

Point is, that's a long time ago, and it's only getting farther and farther away. They still think it's 1975, though, and continue to play hockey like morons.

Actually, '75 also had "Jaws," the film for "Tommy," and Led Zeppelin's "Physical Graffiti". Those are some pretty cool things...still, 


This series is going to be annoying, it's going to be violent, and it's not going to be easy. Players will do stupid things, some will get injured, possibly badly. Coaches will snipe back and forth at each, maybe just one will. Players will whine, but they won't be the ones you're always told are whiners.

It'll be Little Debbie Briere.

Goalies are going to be the deciding factor of this series, as they always are. Flower's one of the best in the league, and I don't really doubt that he will continue to be. When he's on, nobody is harder to beat, and I'll stick by that no matter what. Still, the possibility exists that he could....nah, he's the man. Ilya Bryzgalov, though? The space cadet is going to get lit up like Heartwood Acres at Christmas time, he'll say some ridiculous thing to the media, and then he will become every Penguins fan's best friend as he lets in goal after goal.
Here's Bryz talking about his five-hole.

But remember, Bryz....when all is said and done, when your team is shaking hands with our team, and golf courses around Philadelphia are kicking it into high gear to prepare for your arrival; when you're watching the Penguins move on to the next round; even before that, when Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, and Sidney Crosby are ripping you to pieces in front of a bloodthirsty Consol Energy Crowd (though I'd prefer Hawaiian Punch or RC Cola to blood, myself)....just remember....

It's only hockey. It's only game. Why you heff to be maed?

The time has come.