Archive for the ‘Gonchar’ Category

The Next Level!

April 26, 2009
The last two Penguin games have been heart stoppers. It seemed that we forgot how to play our style of hockey. I was actually worried about the series simply because we let them take control. Then, out out nowhere, our hero emerged. Was he on the first line? Nope. Second line? Nope again. Third? Wrong again. It was our hometown favorite Max Talbot to the rescue. It is amazing what a simple fight can do for a team. And they want to take fighting out of hockey? This is the definition of why it needs to stay in!

In game five at home, we played great in the first period, out shooting the Flyers 15-5 and getting all kinds of chances. Unfortunately none went behind Biron. The spirits were down and the Flyers scored one more in the second and two in the third to clinch it. We were outplayed and outmaneuvered in the second two periods. We somehow forced ourselves out of that game. We let them win that battle. It was at home as well. It shouldn’t have happened. The battle we can lose, but not the War!

Game six started almost the same way, although we looked much better. The Flyers got two quick goals in the first though and one early in the second and it looked like game five all over again. I was scared to come back to Pittsburgh for game seven. I know how I felt last year when other teams were not able to close it out and forced into it. I felt that they weren’t Stanley Cup quality. That is just how my mind works. I feel if a team can’t close it out soon after going up three games to one or none, they won’t make it to the finals. I am glad the Pens didn’t give me that thought.

At 4:21 in the second period, we were down 3-0. Every minute before that mark in the second, we looked like we were done. We looked like we were going to lose and deservedly so. Then Max Talbot got on the ice and started talking to Daniel Carcillo, an ex-Penguin for Wilkes-Barre. He used to play with Max down there. Now, as far as fighting goes, you don’t typically fight when you are up 3-0, simply because you could possibly, win or lose, give the other team some momentum. When Max asked for the fight, Carcillo was hesitant even though he wanted to, but with some encouragement from the bench, he agreed. This was the best example of a player being a bonehead. Max may have been beaten in that fight, but what happened afterward with the team was nothing short of amazing.

In a matter of 14 seconds after the fight, Evgeni Malkin crashed the net and Ruslan Fedotenko push the puck in past Biron’s right pad. He finally broke the ice after a game and a half of not scoring. It also looked as if it broke Biron’s will to play on the level he had been previously. Before the period was up, we had Mark Eaton and Sidney Crosby scoring in a similar fashion, batting the puck out of mid-air into the net after a juicy rebound. If you do the math right, we tied it. If the Flyers truly deserved to win this one, they wouldn’t have let that tying goal in.

Just past two minutes into the third period the clincher happened. Malkin skated into the zone and it looked like he pushed their defense back, without actually touching anyone. He then had a nice little dish to Sergei Gonchar who wound up and fired his signature slap shot into the top left corner of the net. Biron didn’t have a prayer. They let the Penguins control the ice. That was all she wrote aside from the hard fought empty netter by Crosby in the end. We won the game and clinched the series, now we wait for our next opponent.

Now, back to fighting. I am a big proponent of fighting in hockey, but only a certain kind. This was it. It was the type that comes with passion and emotion. Now I have said that I didn’t like the ones right after the faceoff, but in this case, it was right. I guess it is circumstantial. What I mean is that when you send your heavyweight guy out that is know to be a fighter and the other team does as well, it isn’t an emotional fight. It is just their jobs and doesn’t have the same effect. Now, if the great hockey minds can figure out how to control the difference, that would make it great!
Just to let you know, Boston won its series as the first seed, so if the Rangers knock off Washington today, no matter what, Boston would face them and we would get whomever wins between New Jersey and Carolina. If the Rangers eventually lose the series against the Caps, then we would play Boston. I don’t care who we play, but think of this…the last two times we played Boston in the Conference Finals, we won and went on to win the Stanley Cup!

Let’s Go Pens!

History Lesson…Penguins Style!

April 10, 2009
Since the Penguins began their franchise in 1967, they have entered the postseason 24 times out of a possible 41 seasons (including this year). That is 58% of the time. Taking into consideration that every team rebuilds, restructures, and renews, this is quite an impressive number. We have been to the Stanley Cup Finals three times, winning two of them, as you probably already know. That makes a nice 66%. Here is a funny number, out of all the times we have been to the playoffs, we win the cup 9% of the time. I have some insight to who we should want to play in the playoffs this season and who we shouldn’t, simply according to history.

On a side note only Pittsburgh fans would appreciate: We beat the California Golden Seals 3-0 in the 1969-70 season. What makes this so great is that the Seals moved in 1976 to become the Cleveland Barons. This makes us the team that beat the only Cleveland team ever to play in the NHL. Also, our goaltending coach, Gilles Meloche, played on that team (not the actual playoff team) before finishing his career in Pittsburgh in 1988.

Now, I said that we have made the playoffs 23 other times in our history. I know we complained when we went into our 4 year hiatus before Crosby was drafted, but remember there was a lockout in that time frame as well. In the dark years before we drafted Lemieux, we went a total of 6 years without a playoff appearance. I am just saying we need to stop whining about us not succeeding. We are very blessed to have such great teams through the years.

Out of the seven other playoff teams in the East this year, we have faced everyone except the Carolina Hurricanes. This includes when they were the Hartford Whalers. Now, if you do not look at how teams are playing this year and simply look at history, we want the Rangers. I know we can’t have them, but we are an undefeated 4-0 in the Stanley Cup playoffs. I like the Capitals as well, due to the fact that we are 7-1 against them in Stanley Cup playoffs. The Bruins wouldn’t be bad even though we are 2-2 against them. We haven’t lost a series to Boston since 1980. We also defeated them the last two times in a row in the Conference Finals to win the Stanley Cups. Now we have a losing record against the Flyers, but we had the last laugh last year when we eliminated them 4-1. We only faced the Canadians once in 1998 only to lose in seven games. The most likely team for us to play this off season is the Devils. We are up in total 3 series to 2. We are 1-1 against New Jersey in the Brodeur era. I know they have been playing badly as of late, but who knows anything once the playoffs start.

Since it is more likely we will play the Devils than the Flyers, I will start with New Jersey. We have faced them five times in history, the first time en route to our first Stanley Cup, in 1990-91, where we beat them in seven games. In that series, we went down three games to two before winning game six on the road 4-3. We went on to win the series 4-0 at home in the Civic Arena. The second time we played the Devils was the two years later in the 1992-93 season, where we won four games to two. That year we won the Presidents Trophy for best overall record in the NHL and were expected to get our third in a row. The other remarkable thing about this particular year was the fact that we set a record for the most consecutive wins at 17. Ok, back to the Devils. In 1994-95, we lost four games to one, the one being the first game of that series, then four straight losses. This year was Sergei Gonchar’s first year in the league with the Washington Capitals. Anywho…we beat New Jersey in seven games with some amazing heroics by Jaromir Jagr. The final time, before this season…maybe, we played the Devils was in 2000-01, where we were defeated four games to one. We lost in the Conference Finals. This was the final time we were in the playoffs before the Crosby era.

The Philadelphia Flyers, our most heated rivalry other than the Washington Capitals. I don’t know who we love to hate more sometimes. We have faced Philadelphia four time in the playoffs, losing the first three. Last year, we won our revenge. We lost in 1988-89 in the second round in seven games. We were destroyed in the last two games of that series with a combined record of 10-3. We wouldn’t have to face them again until the 1996-97 season where we lost four games to one. In that series, we went down three games to none right away, only to win a 4-1 decision at home. We then lost the series in game five 6-3. We would then face the Flyers three years later in 1999-00, where we lost again four games to two. This was a key series that fueled the fire between us and them. We went up two games to none before coming back home only to lose in overtime. The very next game turned out to be historic, lasting five overtimes only to end badly for the Pens when Keith Primeau scored to win it. We never recovered from that and lost the series. We finally solved this playoff debacle last year with an easy four games to one. This was the most recent run at the Stanley Cup.

Our other “favorite” team, the Washington Capitals, has had their problems with the Penguins. As I said, they have lost seven out of eight to us. It is a wonderful feeling to have their number, especially the present time. I won’t go into every series like I did with the Devils and the Flyers because I am not as sure about us meeting them anytime soon. I mean, at least in the first round. The only loss came in the 1994 playoffs, where the Rangers went on to win the Stanley Cup.

The Boston Bruins lost the last two times they faced us in the playoffs, both happened in the same way, as I mentioned before. They are playing tough now, but like the Capitals, we won’t see them till a later round and that is if they make it that far. A first round upset isn’t unheard of.

The Rangers and Canadians will not be playing us in the first and probably the second round either, if they make it that far, so I will save their history for then.

We currently have no playoff history with the Hurricanes, but since we have a probability of playing them in the first round, I will give you some number. We have two cups to their one. We have three finals appearances to their two. We both lost to the Red Wings in the finals. We are both on a hot streak and will probably win the first round, unless we play each other, where the Pens will come out on top. I can easily see a Pens-Canes Conference final, that is if we end up 5-6 in the standings like it looks like we will.

I am very excited for all tho possibilities for this postseason run. We are showing the same signs we did back in the cup years. We will see. Despite what everyone thinks or sees on paper, we are a better “team” than last year. We may have had more scorers, but this year we have more scoring lines.

Let’s Go Pens!