Wednesday, June 4, 2008

"Ether define the moment or the moment will define you"

We borrow the title of this blog from American poet Walt Whitman. Mr. Whitman predates hockey, but his maxim remains fitting. Max Talbot and the Pens defined a moment and defied all the doubters in Game 5. Now, it's about doing it again.

This, ladies and gentleman, is it. The last home game of the season. Possibly the last game of the season if Detroit can put the Penguins away.

It hasn’t really set in to us, and we are confident to say to the players either that this is the end of the line. There is no next series, no more home games, nothing more on the schedule after this. That’s an obvious statement from the perspective of anyone with a bit of distance and common sense. But for fans and players caught up in the moment alike, it doesn’t feel like that. It’s one more game, much like so many before. Just one more game to look forward to, one more chance to lay it all on the line, one more opportunity to man up and do something special.

The Penguins again get that chance tonight in what will be the last home game in the third to last season that Mellon Arena will host professional hockey, whether we all realize it or not.

Here’s the keys to look for on both sides:

Pittsburgh—Injuries. Evgeni Malkin doesn’t look like himself, we all know something is wrong, but the Big Guy had an assist on Petr Sykora’s ice-breaking game-winner for the ages Sykora is another player who’s pushing through something, will that score they combined on fire them up and fuel more production or was it the last gasp from these two? The Pens #1 defenseman Sergei Gonchar went off with apparently a back injury. He was able to come back for a powerplay but didn’t feel he could battle in front of the net on in Game 5. Is he improved for tonight? Also, a guy like Brooks Orpik played 40+ minutes, blocked 10 shots and was taking IV’s between over-time intermission. Ryan Malone took a slap-shot (possibly breaking a bone) and hardly missed a shift. Game 5 hero Max Talbot isn’t far removed from breaking his foot. No excuses, just keep going. The boys are up against a lot and still pushing through. So close to the grandest prize to be concerned by anything else.

Detroit—Bucking the trend. Lately the team that loses a heartbreaking lengthy game tips the scales of the series. The team that loses a long OT game usually keeps losing. Is it physical? But the psychological toll of not getting the win (especially when having the chance to clinch the Cup at home) has to be huge. But the Red Wings are a very professional team and perhaps the Pens equals in being focused. So if anyone can bounce back it seems like it would be them.

At the end of the day it's going to come down to what it always does: execution in the offensive zone, keeping Detroit's numerous shots to the outside, getting a good performance out of your goalie and capitalizing on power play opportunities.

This might be the last home game, but it doesn't have to be the last game. Strangely we had a good feeling on Monday that the Penguins wouldn't go out with a whimper like many observers thought. Today, the over-riding feeling is that this won't be the end of the line either.

No comments: