He's banged out beastly Homer-esque comments with a high level of consistency.
Memorial Day is in the rear-view mirror. Kennywood’s open. It’s 9:00 at night and it’s still light out. When you step out of the house in the evening, all you can smell is someone out firing up a grill. If you’ve got neighbors like mine, random fireworks are going off during the evening as the 4th of July inches closer. Then again, if you’re closer to downtown, it could also be the Pirates having one of their 50 Fireworks Nights. The local news anchors are already wasting time acting awkwardly excited for Steelers season. It’s been almost a month since the Pens skated off Mellon Arena ice for the last time.
The Summer of Suck is officially here. The fact that the Flyers are one game from elimination, one game from potentially losing the Cup on their own ice is small consolation to the fact that our team isn’t there playing for it instead. But this is what happens when you’re dealing with the toughest trophy in pro sports to win. This is why you cherish last year.
A year ago right now, you didn’t even know your own name. The Pens had just dropped Game Five to the Red Wings. Wasn’t pretty. Five to nothing. Fleury was chased. How did this happen?
The Pens had all the momentum; they were the team that clawed back to even from a two-games-to-none series deficit by winning Games Three and Four. Back to Detroit and the next thing we knew, the Wings couldn’t miss. The Wings we saw in Games One and Two of the 2008 Cup Finals were back. It looked like there were ten Wings skaters to the Pens’ five. Fleury was being pulled. Frustration boiling over, Sid was barking at anyone in a red jersey. Malkin got into it with Zetterberg. The Pens were jeered off the ice in Detroit.
We as fans started watching Game Five with the hopes that the Pens could steal the game and return home with a chance to end it triumphantly at Mellon Arena. We were instead left to contemplate the finality of another season ending with Bettman handing the Cup to Lidstrom on our ice. However drunk you were the night of Game Five, the harsh reality of the Pens having to win two straight against the Wings and all their mystique and their subplots and Hossa was enough to slap you sober. Or drive you to one more shot. Or one more bottle.
Funny thing, though, this game. While c-blog, the message boards and the Penguins blogosphere began to crumble – and if you didn’t harbor at least a little bit of worry, you’re lying your ass off – the guys who had the most reason to be concerned seemed absolutely, positively the least affected.
If you recall, that was the first morning skate after the disaster that was Game Five. If you followed the team, the beat writers or some fans on Twitter or on the radio, you began to hear rumblings coming from the morning skate that the team never looked as loose as they did during that practice. When it was coming from the likes of Dave Molinari, you know it was legitimate.
How much of a beast was Guerin through all that? How about Bylsma almost seemingly relishing the notion of the team having its backs completely up against the wall? Maybe it was enough to get those thoughts of seeing white and red jerseys carrying the Cup on Mellon ice out of your head. Maybe after hearing about it, the prospects of winning two straight seemed just a little bit better. Or at the least, maybe it got you thinking that if they at least took it to a Game Seven, all bets were off and you were OK with that.
Tomorrow night, the Cup will be in Philadelphia. While the image of Flyers fans having to watch Bettman hand it to Jonathan Toews warms my heart to some degree, it’s still nowhere near the same thing. If this goes seven, the Cup will have a new home come Saturday morning and the book will be closed on this 2009-10 season. It will be one year removed from the best day of our lives.
September can’t get here quickly enough.
Some quick thoughts, dudes…
- It’s just over three weeks before the end of June, which means 4th of July is just around the corner, which means July 1st is even closer to being right around the corner, which means we’re a little more than three weeks away from some idiot NHL general manager giving Evgeni Nabokov a four-year, $24 million deal to come backstop their team to another playoff collapse.
- In fact, I’d like to thank Peter Chiarelli for not even waiting until July 1 to officially torpedo the free agent market for defensemen by handing Dennis Seidenberg a four-year deal for $13 million dollars.
- The fruit basket is in the mail, Mr. Chiarelli. The card should read, “Thanks a bunch. Love, the Agents of Anton Volchenkov, Dan Hamhuis and Zbynek Michalek.”
- Dennis Seidenberg: 4 years, $3.25 million cap hit per year. Kris Letang: 4 years, $3.5 million cap hit per year. Brooks Orpik: 4 years, $3.75 million cap hit per year. Have you hugged Ray Shero today, Pens fans?
- Going to be interesting to see what kind of impact Seidenberg’s deal has on the rest of the market for defensemen. Age is going to play a factor for some guys – Gonchar, for instance, may not see quite the impact on his salary demands. But guys like Volchenkov (age 28), Hamhuis (age 27) and Zbynek Michalek (27) have to be salivating at the prospects of what Seidenberg’s deal could do for their respective values.
- Reports from TSN say Guy Boucher is about to be named the new head coach in Tampa. This after Boucher was linked over the weekend to the head coaching position in Columbus. Boucher is one of the top up-and-coming young coaches in the game and is a brilliant offensive mind. He was an assistant coach in Rimouski during Crosby’s tenure there and then made his name through the junior hockey ranks and most recently at the AHL level (with Montreal’s affiliate in Hamilton). Going to be really interesting to see what he could accomplish on a team that showcases Stamkos, St. Louis and Lecavalier.
- The league needs to embrace more young offensively-oriented coaches like Boucher and push these trap-loyal dinosaurs like Jacques Lemaire out the door. Coaches like Lemaire are largely the reason why the game became entirely unwatchable through the mid-to-late 1990s. The league hasn’t been this flush with dynamic young offensive talent since the early-to-mid 1980s. They need coaches who embrace that and not stifle it behind systems that choke creativity out of the game.