With the Stanley Cup playoffs set to begin on April 9th (My birthday for anyone that cares) The Pittsburgh Penguins are preparing for perhaps one of their most anticipated post seasons since the 2001 playoffs. The penguins have had some memorable playoff runs as well as some that were over before they began. Here are some of my most memorable playoff seasons since I began following the team:
-Let's say it was over before it began. in 1998 the Pens opened the playoffs against the Montreal Canadiens. The first game was the high point and that ended with an overtime loss. The toughest part of this game was that early in overtime, young star Aleksey Morozov had a penalty shot chance and failed. The Habs went on to win the series four games to two.
-My first really memorable playoff experience came in 1999 when the 8th seeded Penguins upset the one seed Devils. Just when it looked like the Pens would be eliminated in game 6 on Civic Arena ice, none other than Martin Straka came through with the OT winner and then the Pens easily scored a win in game seven. The Pens lost to Toronto in six the next series though. I remember awaking just after the game had ended, since I had school the next day, and being crushed the Pens had been eliminated.
-What I thought would be another series win, ended bitter. Penguins vs Flyers in 2000 was a tough pill to swallow, after the Pens came back to Pittsburgh with a 2-0 series lead. A 5 OT game that the Flyers won was too much for the Pens and they fell in six games. This was probably the most dissapointed I had ever been.
-Lastly the magical ride in 2001 was by far one of my best memories. The emergence of Johan "Moose" Hedberg. Defeating the Capitals in the first round, slipping past Buffalo in the second round thanks to Darius Kasparaitis' OT goal in game 7 and then faltering against the Devils. I really thought the Pens would make it to the Stanley Cup finals that season, but after we fell behind the Devils, I knew it was only a matter of time.
For those that have never experienced the playoffs; just wait. You will soon have all kinds of memories, hopefully they will be of victory and not defeat. But remember it's all about the chase for one of the greatest prizes in all of sports.