It is an interesting and thrilling intra-Pennsylvania series we've got going between "Steel (Steal?) City" and "The brotherly 'love' of Broad Street Bullies" right now.
I have no doubt The Super Mario Pens are going to come out on top in a couple of weeks, and let me tell you why.
The Pens don't have superior firepower, but they play smart. Having followed hockey for a few (24?) years now and being a Rangers fan for a lot fewer years, I have been studying closely what they — the Pens — are doing, for a while now.
They play smart.
Not hard, not dominant, not physical, just downright...yeah...smart.
Of course, it helps to have the youngest roster in the league, with players like Malkin, Crosby, Malone and Roberts on your payroll, but there's something else here.
Let me back up a few years and go across the pond. European teams and players have always 'accused' the Canadians and the "trans-Atlantics" of being so damn friggin' lucky!
"Yeah, all they do is they dump the puck, throw it in front of the crease and all of a sudden it ends up in the back of the net! Damn lucky bounces!!"
No, they aren't just 'lucky' bounces. Can you readers tell that I am sucking up big time to Don Cherry here, to get a summer gig? Darn whiny foreigners. Glass cheeks too, aside from chickens, with Forsberg being the prime example.
This is hockey at its best. Throw it in there and hope something good is going to happen! And when you have the talent, speed and ingenuity (please note I am avoiding the word 'firepower') of the Pittsburgh Penguins, something good IS bound to happen.
We Rangers fans cringed and squirmed like worms on a hook when Pens alienated not only the Pride of Broadway with this exact play, but also the best goalie in between the pipes today. Hats off.
But face it — it was the Pittsburgh Mighty Penguins against King Henrik Lundqvist for most of that series, and that's no way to build a team. Shame on you, Glen Sather. Good luck finding a new job, Tom Renney. Good luck in the ignorant "nobody-cares-B-tournament" of IIHF World Championship, Mr. Lundqvist.
Meanwhile, life goes on here. Hockey is fun. I really, really enjoy hockey and if it's played well, it's like music and it doesn't really matter who conducts. It's a work of art.
Showing my age here...but who can forget the "Big Red Machine" of the former Soviet Union? Oh, well...snap out of it.
I am going to get every Pens fan in the world on my case now, but however much I admire the "get-go" and "get-'er-done" hockey of the Pens, you would not be able to do it without the dire and frequent support of the officials.
("Whoa — here come the Sid-Kid conspiracies again!")
Let's face it — a good team, a really good team like the Penguins will draw more and "better" penalties than the opposing team. That's just natural. If you can't keep up, you are diminished to hooking and slashing to stop your opponent.
Ottawa has a lot of firepower in Iginla and Alfredson. Granted "Alffie" was injured for most of that series (darn glass cheek Europeans) and Sens were in a slump, but it was an easy sweep for the Penguins.
A few weird penalties, of course, helped the cause, too, but don't forget the Pens are a skilled team with a killer instinct ("throw it in!") like no other.
Moving on to the Rangers, the Pens showed remarkable resilience coming back from a 0-3 deficit, to win the first game. The Rangers were stunned, and so was the rest of the civilized (hockey) world. Nothing to say about that.
Fast forward to the refs calling for an extended break to scrape the quickly frozen blood of Chris Drury off the ice at the end of the second period of Game Four.
It took quite some time to get that globulin off the frozen surface. The blood was there because Ryan Malone had accidentally put the tip of his stick up in the face of Chris "formerly known as the clutch" Drury.
There was no penalty — not even a minor — because allegedly no official 'saw' it or was near the incident.
You Penguins fans know what happened next. Toward the end of the third period, the score was tied 3-3 because we, the Rangers, had the incredible luck of two former Hartford Wolfpack players scoring a goal each.
One can ask where the big guns of Rangers where at that point, or at any other point of the series.
However, Drury paid Malone back (intentionally?) with less than a minute to go of the third and after Malone squeezed really hard, he managed to get a drop of blood out of the wound. Real good job, but there should be friggin' diving penalties called for that kind of behavior too.
Needless to say, it was a four-minute major called on Drury, immediately.
As expected, the Pens outskated and outsmarted the Rangers for Hossa to score the OT winner over an exhausted Ranger defense and a World Class goalie who had stopped everything, but can stop no more. Enough's enough.
But aren't the Penguins power plays becoming a little too convenient lately? I mean...there was no doubt in the Ranger series...the Pens was the better team. They were hungrier, younger and more energized. Consequently they drew more penalties.
Go back look at the Pens-Sens series and you will see some pretty odd penalties. They continue in the Rangers-Penguins series and now last in the Flyers-Pens series.
If the mighty Mario Pittsburgh Penguins can make it all the way to The Cup by having this "luck," well, more power to them!
But look at the game on Friday. Again, we have a team with the pressure on offensively trying to get it done. How hopeless it might seem (4-2), and voila! Out of the blue comes a Flyers penalty, with less than two minutes to go.
A good team has a lot of luck - and the Penguins are a good team. Heck, they could go all the way.
It is also going to be interesting to see when Pens have eliminated Brier/Biron (as I am sure they will) and they run into some real opposition.
It will be a Wings-Pens final. It's going to be "speed-and-git-'er-done" mentality against "disgusting-puck-possession" European style hockey.
It's going to be an interesting final, just as long as the Wings don't make "stupid" penalties.
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