Without So Much as a Whimper
It was less than two years ago that a young team, led by two superstars and a few savvy vets, had beat the winningest franchise of the past two decades. That team was the Pittsburgh Penguins and the team they beat was obviously the Detroit Red Wings.
Since that Stanley Cup winning year, the Penguins have had two 100+ point seasons, but no success. Last year, the Penguins struggled to beat the Ottawa Senators before falling to the giant killer Montreal Canadiens in the second round of the playoffs. This season, the Penguins would lose in the first round, without a whimper, without so much as a bang. They lost their final game by a score of 1-0, after having a 3-1 advantage in the series. And as the dust settles, questions of how they lost still remain.
There is no doubt that the Tampa Bay Lightning played phenomenal hockey at times, while the Penguins decided not to show. There were other times when the Penguins dictated play from net to net, but couldn’t get a quality shot on net. Roli the Old Ass Goalie had a great series. In many ways, he outplayed Marc-Andre Fleury, but he never really wowed with his saves or had you jump out of your seat. He was always in perfect position and as long as he didn’t have to play the puck, he was great. Fleury had four unreal games in which he made save after save, and absolutely robbed the much more skilled Lightning, but unfortunately, everything caught up to the Pens.
After the Pens gave up the lone goal in game 7, the hearts of Pittsburgh fans sank deep into their stomachs. After watching the Pens play so tough, so strong, and so well for the entire game, this one play had that feeling of the end. At that point my roommates started to scream at the TV, chant and discuss how they are going to come back, but my mindset was very different. I saw a team that had given everything they had for four months and saw very little production, a team that finally realized that they were undermanned, overmatched, and unfortunately done. They never quit, they never stopped playing and gave their hearts to every play and absolutely made this city proud. They knew going into the playoffs that they would be undermanned and outmatched, but they tried their hardest to make sure it wasn’t the case, but on that one goal after all that hard work you could just see that it finally sunk in.
I am not disappointed in this season however. I am very happy for this team and like I said earlier, proud. This team has gone from Crosby, Malkin, and company, to a team of depth and heart. This was my second favorite season to watch behind the cup season of 2009. The Penguins proved that coach Dan Bylsma didn’t just inherit a great team, he made one. They showed that even fourth liners have to be leaders and goal scorers. The most important was they showed they are ready for any challenge and to accomplish this without Malkin and Crosby was amazing. I have more respect for this club and its coaches now, than I did even did when they won the cup. Last season, after the Pens were eliminated, I couldn’t watch hockey for a few days. Today I watched last night’s game again, just to see how good the Penguins were in a losing effort.
With a very long offseason ahead and many free agents, this Penguins club is going to look very different at the start of the season next year, but I can’t wait. They have so much potential and so much to show. This team will be back to a championship in the very near future. To those great fans that set the Penguins records again this season for the most sellouts, thank you. Thank you to the fans who once again gave Pittsburgh the best television ratings in the American markets. But to those fans who had the balls to leave that arena before those players saluted you for being there, I'm sorry for your pathetic actions. That team deserved better, but you don’t just get up and leave when they are waiting for their entire team to salute you the fans. I have the outmost respect for this club and hope for the best this offseason and I can’t wait till next season. Congrats to Guy Boucher and the Lightning on their victory.
Guy Boucher also made it public that the Penguins organization gave the Lightning the game puck and a gift for their assistant coach who was diagnosed with a brain tumor and said this was a classy move by the organization and very much appreciated by all of those close to Wayne Fleming.
Dan Bylsma for Jack Adams. I for one firmly believe that Dan Bylsma should be a finalist and winner for the Jack Adams award. He has shown all season his great coaching no matter who was in the lineup and what the challenge ahead of him was.