He's banged out beastly Homer-esque comments with a high level of consistency.
"We'll meet you in the schoolyard, baby, for all the marbles…"
Those were the epic words of Mike Lange, uttered after the Pens won Game Six of the 2008-09 Stanley Cup Finals. Just a few nights prior, the Red Wings smoked the Pens by a score of 5-0 in Game Five, taking a three-games-to-two series lead and leaving the Pens absolutely zero margin for error. The 2-1 victory in Game Six was the return salvo by the Pens, forcing Game Seven back in Detroit and prompting Lange's now-infamous radio call.
Strange, then, that the Pens are once again faced with a trip to the schoolyard, yet this somehow feels so much different. After dropping Game Six in Montreal last night, it's back to Mellon Arena tomorrow night for Game Seven. Sure, the stakes aren't exactly the same; the winner of this Game Seven doesn't get to carry the Cup around the ice after the game…at least not yet, so to speak.
But take this all down to its most basic.
The Pens and their faithful find themselves at the same spot they found themselves after Game Six of the Detroit, the same spot they found themselves after Game Six of the Washington series last year – namely, tied three-games-to-three with an opponent with one game left.
Kind of strange, then, was this little dynamic that happened in the wake of last night's loss. Getting to this point this time feels a hell of a lot different than it did last June against Detroit. More frustration, lots of it felt by yours truly as this game progressed. It got me to wondering. Does winning Game Six to stave off elimination really mean that much more to the perceptions of your team heading into Game Seven?
Imagine we could flip the results of Games Five and Six. Imagine that with the series tied at two, the Pens drop Game Five by the 4-2 score we saw last night. Imagine, then, that Fleury comes out and posts a near-shutout in Game Six in Montreal. The Pens, down three-games-to-two heading in, win 2-1, stave off elimination and force Game Seven back in Pittsburgh.
If that happens, is anyone – fans, media – pointing a finger at Fleury? Is there any talk about defensive lapses, sloppy play or turnovers killing the Pens?
Or are those articles instead being written about how the Pens may have found a way to counter the collapsing defense of the Habs? Is there anywhere nearly as much talk about the Pens still possibly losing the series to an eighth seed? Or does much of what's written now start to question the Habs and their durability to withstand another Game Seven on the road?
Flip the results of Games Five and Six and we're still right here, headed to Game Seven, only Fleury's the hot goaltender and the Habs are the ones with the questions to answer.
This is how the perceptions change. This is how the stories change. Now we get the same old questions about Fleury. There'll be the questions about whether the Pens can play their game, get the first goal, and get another goal to build that elusive two-goal lead. We get all the talk about how this COULD be the last hockey game ever played at Mellon. Or that the first Pens game ever played there was a loss to the Canadiens, and that the last game played there COULD be as well. That's the kind of crap that Paul Alexander will be yammering on about on 93.7 The Fan all morning on Wednesday. That's the kind of stuff you'll hear from Ron Cook or Paul Zeise on Sunday Sports Showdown.
But at its heart, at its most basic point, the Pens are right back at that same spot they found themselves after Game Six last year.
In the schoolyard, baby.
Playing for all the marbles.
Saw this quote on twitter last night from @jtkola:
"It's the only way to live life…think you're gonna win…don't hang your head…life's too short, every day's a bonus…" – -Badger Bob