I have absolutely no idea what was going on.
I woke up on Saturday morning confused as ever, because I had a strange dream. It was so fantastic yet unbelievable, it just couldn't be real. "Wake up!" I yelled to myself. Coach Hiller kept saying I was "going in NHL" today.
(rubs eyes in confusion)
Before I had the time to think, I was headed off to the rink with a lot of things that were not mine. White pads with the word "Fleury" on them. A boring white mask with a Penguin sticker on the front. And a jersey with my name spelled wrong and a No. 40.
I know I'm dreaming now. Did I win a contest or something? I get my personalized equipment from the Penguins? Doesn't this guy know I have a game to prepare for on Tuesday? I don't have the time for this!
This man, I can't pronounce his name. It sounds French. But I think he is taking me to GM Place.
I go inside and he tells me to change into my new gear. These pads are awful big. I think they were made for a goaltender that has a few centimeters over me. I walk down the runway and take the ice, and there are already a lot of players skating around taking warm-ups. But I don't recognize very many.
"Hey!" I exclaimed to myself. Is that Evgeni Vladimirovich? Mr. French-man, can I get his autograph?
Wait, what is he doing. Why is he coming over to me?
"Oi, are you going to stand around all day or actually guard the post for me?" said Malkin. He was actually talking to me. That's No. 71! I see it on his helmet! Alright, I'll go in net for him.
Focus. You can do this. Uh oh, who is that coming in? He looks enormous! Ah! Kick save, that wasn't so hard. At least these pads are broken in, whoever had them before me. Another one! That looks like Ruslan Fedo...damn it. That's a move I've never seen before. Get this puck out of my net.
Wait, what was that? Why is there another puck in the net, nobody, how did you get there? Malkin.
"Heads up! That was a good shot, no?" yelled Malkin from the half wall. A good shot, I didn't even see it.
But it seemed like as soon as it started, the practice was over. I've never seen two hours go by so fast! Now what do I do? I think I will relax this afternoon. Then they say to come back to the arena tonight for a game. The Canucks of Vancouver? I've never seen them play but it sounds great. I wonder if the seats are any good?
Lots of singing and ceremony. I've never seen this many people attend a hockey game in my life! How do they focus with all this noise? Magnitogorsk Arena was nothing like this.
Game time. Some American is in goal for the Penguins. He is also young like I am.
Malkin going to the net again, come on, score! Daaaa! Bravo 71! Poor netminder didn't have a chance on that one, but why are they taking so long to point to center ice? Is it not true in Canada that if a puck goes in the net, that it is a goal?
Yes! There it is.
Slapshot! Nice save. He doesn't play the puck very much, I wonder why. Is that illegal? Aie, here they come again, get the puck out of there! Darn. They scored. That's an incredible ovation, and that goal wasn't even that great!
Alright, everyone is leaving. I guess that means an intermission. The coach wants to talk to us, but I haven't got a clue what he's yelling about. It can't be all that important then. We're only down 2-1, that isn't all that bad. Only one goal.
Where can I get something to drink around here?
What the heck? I barely even had time to sit down and they already scored? Samuelsson, Hansen, Mitchell! 5-1. This is not good. That American can't keep anything out, he must be having a bad day. Wait a second, why is he pointing at me? I didn't do anything wrong, I was just sitting here on the bench like you asked me to!
I'm supposed to play? The American is coming out!
(....stomach turns over multiple times)
Gulp. Well I guess it can't get any worse, can it? We're already down by four goals and there is only 30 minutes left. Let's hope this is a little better than that game with Barys Astana, that was horrible!
Alright, get ready, here comes a rush. No. 58 looks so small for a defenseman. Pressure the pu...crack!
That was the hardest slapshot I've ever felt. I didn't even see it, but here it is, referee. Breath! I've already drank half of this water bottle in two minutes. I didn't even see who shot that puck, but that was incredible velocity! I wish I could ask him how he did that.
Kick save! Glove save! Deflection! This isn't all that bad. Not all of them can shoot 140 KPH. Rush up ice, come on guys. He's going to the net, great screen, goaaaal! Time for a comeback!
Oh no. This is no time to take penalties! We have to stay out of the box to make a comeback. That's the same man who shoots on the power play too? Stay sharp. Come on, clear the puck! Shot from the point, what? Where'd it go? Cheers. They score.
That was a ridiculous deflection. That must have moved about five meters to the left! It was here one second and over my shoulder the next! I must be better.
No more pucks are getting past me tonight. I promise you, Sergei Viktorovich!
6-2 final score.
I was named the No. 3 star of the game? How is this possible? I only played in 35 minutes! They are all coming over to me now and patting my helmet. I guess "Congratulation" means good job?
I am Alexander Pechurskiy of the Tri-City Americans. I am willing to bet that you have never heard of me.
Pechurskiy was signed on a one-day amateur contract by the Pittsburgh Penguins out of sheer necessity. With both Marc-Andre Fleury and Brent Johnson out of action, the Penguins needed a goaltender to back up John Curry.
After the Vancouver Canucks scored five consecutive goals against Curry, Dan Bylsma had no other choice but to make a change and put in the 19-year-old Russian.
But instead of folding under pressure, Pechursky made 12 saves on 13 shots in the final period and a half, only allowing a fluke bounce power play goal to Olympian Ryan Kesler. In doing so, he was named the 3rd star by GM Place for his efforts.
While it was essentially mop-up duty in goal, the Canucks continued to fire pucks and drive to the net, throwing all sorts of different looks at the young goalie in his first career NHL appearance. But the Penguins responded well to his play in net, none more evident than enforcer Eric Godard jumping in to clear the crease around him.
Although he was congratulated by every member of the Penguins after the game, he knew very well that he would not be getting on the charter back to Pittsburgh after the game.
He didn't win the game by any means.
But heading back to Kennewick, he certainly won the hearts of many Penguin fans and quite possibly, the role as the No. 3 goaltender for the black and vegas gold.
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