(I've got to make this bad boy a quick one. Time's a-wastin'!)
All right, Penguins, you came out with a mighty strong statement last night: "We will dominate you!" It was the strongest performance I've seen you give all season. I was mightily impressed. Unfortunately, for Guinlandia, the Canadiens came out with an even stronger one: "We will win, anyway."
Yinz skated circles around the Habs last night, pinned them mercilessly to the boards, shot the lights out on those [expletive deleted] French Canadians for two periods straight. Then, as though Bruce Arians became your offensive coordinator, for a brief moment, you decided that a one-goal lead was enough and rested on your laurels. But before those little sprigs could be properly placed on your heads, the Canadiens had tied the game. Then the Letang own-goal, and you found yourselves on the losing end of a mighty fine performance.
So, what did we learn last night?
1) Flower, you have got to stop the brain farts!
Marc-Andre Fleury has got to be one of the most frustrating goalies to watch. He has such brilliant nights, some truly spectacular performances, but even within some of those performances, he lets by some of the dumbest goals you have ever seen hit the back of the net. What else can explain the first two goals last night? Just momentary lapses of Fleury's judgment which always seem to result in a siren going off in the building.
However, Flower, Jaroslav Halak thinks he's Dominik Hasek and Patrick Roy's love child. He simply knows where every puck is going to be during every second of the damned game. Last year, when the Caps' Semyon Varlamov was channeling every goalie great, I kept saying to myself, "Shoot the shit out of the guy, he can't stop fifty." However, Halak can stop 50. He can stop 150. Right now, he can travel back in time and stop the bomb from dropping on Hiroshima. He'd simply take that big ole stick of his, smack Fat Man out of the sky, and watch it explode harmlessly into the Atlantic! Yes, he is that good. You've got to be his equal before Little Boy explodes all over the Penguins' post-season.
2) While a game, this strictly business!
Last year, up until the last five minutes of Game 7, the Detroit Red Wings just knew they were going to beat you guys and take the Cup. Just a week and a half ago, I watched the Washington Capitals emit the same swagger against this Canadien team. I have the sinking suspicion that you guys feel the same way. But watch out! It is that same arrogance that always gives the underdog the chance of pulling off the upset. Just ask Peyton Manning. He falls under the gaze of his own media-generated majesty every year, and every year, but one, he feels the light air of the missing Lombardi trophy in his grasp.
These Habs are some crafty bastards. You can skate circles around them, pin them mercilessly to the boards, and shoot the lights out on them, and yet, they will still figure out a way to make the most out of the meager offense they possess and skate away with the win. Ya need to wake up. They're about to do the same thing to you. And, if this thing goes to Game 7, they most likely will.
3) Sit Staal.
I love the way Jordan Staal plays. If it weren't for him and his line, I doubt the Pens would've beaten D-Town last year. But the boy is injured.
Now, I know in sports (even women's) that there's the macho equivalent to "If you can lean, you can clean" mentality all of us who've worked for a shitty wage know. If there isn't a geyser of blood or bones popping out of the skin, many feel that the athlete has to get out there and help his/her team.
However, in Staal's case, he just wasn't skating like his usual self. He's really not helping his team right now. He's probably even hurting it. Worse yet, you're probably ultimately making his injury worse. I don't know what kind of "personal issues" Ruff has right now, but he should be out there instead of Staal. Let the boy rest a few more games, and, if you survive this series, see how he's doing then. Maybe he can tame the demons in Miro Satan's pants right now (no, seriously, is this the same guy who skated like molasses for the Pens all last year? I know his last name is Satan--but I'm really starting to suspect that the man is possessed).
4) Yo, Geno!!!
Hey, Evgeni, I'm glad to see that the Russian Mafia has finally released your family so you can once again play hockey like the Evgeni Malkin we all know and love. You've been skating real well this past game and a half. But you have got to finish!
You had two great one-on-one opportunities last night against Halak, but, instead of slamming the puck home, you seemed to gift-wrap the damned thing and gently hand it over to Halak like some kind of Goalies' Day present.
I don't know why you're being so cordial. Isn't this the same guy who bounced your Russian team out of the Olympics? If that ain't enough to piss you off, find something else. I don't know. Take a quick flight to Detroit, punch Zetterberg in the grill, and start smacking pucks through the back of the net like Shae Webber.
5)Don't think I forgot about you, Sidthia!
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm a big fan of El Sid's. I think, barring horrific injury or a run-in with a drunken college co-ed down in Georgia, he's pretty much a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame. And he's only, what, 13? I like how he decided to become a shooter this season and tied for the league lead in goals (I haven't seen anything like that since Jordan suddenly decided to rain threes down on Portland's head that one NBA Final after the commentators said he didn't have an outside shot). I also like, when he's being shut down, how he ups the other aspects of his game. That head-first dive he took in Game 3 to stop a breakaway pass was inspired. But let's face it: Sid the Kid is a little soft.
I mean, he already has a reputation as a bit of a crybaby throughout the league (or as one Canadian "cousin-in-law" put it to me once, "He's a homo."). I think, after the way he punked out of Game 7 last year (funny how he was all gimpy and couldn't find the strength to play the rest of the game but seemed miraculously healed when he lifted the Lord Stanley--yeah, I said it!). And, I swear to God, there have been so many shots of a red-faced, about-to-cry Crosby during this series, I wanna go buy some gloves, throw them on the ice, and take a swing at the guy myself!
But, come on, man. As Bruce Willis would say, "Time to cowboy-up, motherfucker!" Hal Gill owns that ass so bad, I'm half-expecting you to skate out there with nothing but black, leather chaps and a red rubber ball taped inside your mouth. And this time, aforementioned Bruce ain't gonna "Yippee kai yay!" down onto the ice with a katana to save you.
The thing I like most about the Pens is how they play as a team. What was that stat last night? Eleven goals by 11 different players in the series? Most teams can't compete when their stars aren't shining. Look at the Caps. But there comes a time when the supposed leaders of any team need to step up.
Sid, you've got that "C" on your chest. Most in the media confuse it for an "S". Whichever letter you decide is there, you need to commit to it and start acting accordingly.
As in any field sport, he who controls the middle of the field, controls the game. And right now, yall are letting Hal Gill run the show. (Should've re-signed him, shouldn't ya have?) Bylsma needs to stop letting you hike up your skirt and run away from the big man. You either need to start running circles around him or, better yet, take it to him!
Sid needs to become the gnat who drives the elephant to suicide. Crash into him, hack him, I don't care. Though pure suicide, drop the gloves and sock him right in the chin. With Halak guarding the net like it's his daughter's virginity, I can't imagine the Pens ultimately winning the series without getting and staying in front of that net. They can't just keep slapping shots from the perimeter and hoping for the best like they did last night. It didn't work for the Caps. It probably won't work for them. And since Crosby plays the longest amount with Gill hectoring with every tick of the clock, it is up to El Sid to beat this man. This ain't last year. We can't expect Talbot to come up with a few surprise goals to win the day.
When it comes down to it, this series is Sid's to win or lose. That's what it means to be the team's captain, that's what it means to be a superstar. Let's just hope he realizes this and decides to shine ... or at least give Gill a nice shiner. That'd be cool, too.
Friday, May 7, 2010
(I've got to make this bad boy a quick one. Time's a-wastin'!)