And brace yourselves.
Is the blood boiling yet?
The Penguins haven't played since April 22, 2012. If the reports hold true as of this evening and the regular season begins on January 19, 2013, that means just about nine months will have passed between Penguins games.
Sure, we had the rest of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Sure, we had the draft (awesome event, by the way).
But for the most part, that gap was filled with little else but lockout garbage – hockey-related revenues, make-whole provisions, year-to-year variances, hardline owners, contract term limits, disclaimers of interest and hills the league would die on. For big taste, sprinkle in the Jordan Staal-Brandon Sutter trade, and then let that simmer for nine months in the frustration of a first-round playoff loss to the Flyers.
In other words, it's been a while. In fact, it's been way too long. Nine months after the Pens season ended and four months after this ridiculous, pointless lockout redefined Lt. Daniel Kaffee's concept of "galactically stupid", it's time to shift the focus back to the NHL ice.
We bet you won't even mind that first time Geno takes a bad hooking penalty or Flower gets beat high glove. You probably won't get as irritated that first time Martin or Letang turns the puck over at the blueline, or when Sid has that one game a year where his stick tape isn't just right so every little thing the opposing team does causes him to lose his mind.
Because the NHL is back, and that's a good thing.
Malkin will probably make up for it with a three-point night, inlcuding a goal that winds up on YouTube and a great postgame interview with Potash. Flower will make up for it by coming up huge in another moment that night (if he doesn't, Tomas Vokoun is there). And most nights, we'll be able to practically see the memories of that playoff loss to Philly last year driving Crosby's play on the ice.
James Neal will fire a wrister that dents the twine before the goalie reacts, and he'll look confused for a second before celebrating. Playing a whole year with Sid will still make Dupuis a 20-goal scorer and he'll punctuate it with plenty of "Thanks, Daaaan" intermission comments.
We'll welcome Brandon Sutter and hopefully let him be Brandon Sutter as opposed to "Jordan Staal's replacement", because we think Brandon Sutter will do just fine here. Steigy will throw out a "Little Tiger" reference to Kennedy as TK roars down a wing, beats someone off the boards for a puck and…probably rip the puck square into the goalie's crest . He'll score some, too, for sure. Kunitz will destroy some poor defenseman on a forecheck and get 10 goals called back again this year, shortened season be damned.
Tanner Glass will bring some additional speed to the lower lines and hit like he's trying to knock the building down. Joe Vitale will piss someone off. Dustin Jeffrey will hopefully be given a legitimate chance. And after fixing the lockout perhaps singlehandedly, Craigy Adams will win big defensive-zone faceoffs, score five goals out of nowhere and then develop the arc reactor on the plane flight to New York.
There will be plenty more to discuss. This is going to be a season unlike anything we've seen recently, what with the condensed schedule and tough division. That means games against the Flyers and Rangers that will leave you wanting to throw things. That means plenty of Flyers and Rangers jokes. There will be roster improvements to be made as Shero gets a sense of this team and realizes…hey there, cap space. It's going to be insane.
It's been a long nine months.