Season Preview: Pittsburgh Penguins

Another excruciatingly long summer is over. Actual hockey games are on the horizon. Because this is the 265th most widely read hockey blog on the internets, MYFO felt a deep obligation to our dozens of readers to prepare this series of previews telling you about every single team in the NHL. By “prepare” we mean, we found other people to write many of them for us. We were looking for people who (unlike us) might have an actual clue about these teams, but were also eager/willing/dumb/not self-respecting enough to work for free. Within those constraints, we think we did an admirable job.

Today’s preview of Dan Hopper, Contributor to MYFO and Associate Editor of Best Week Ever.

Coping With Cup Finals Grief

For the sake of perfectly applicable argument, let’s say you randomly find yourself fighting in the death tournament from the game Mortal Kombat, and after easily beating down an alcoholic one-legged Canadian man, you end up squaring off against the guy at your job who you’ve always openly hated ever since he got promoted over you even though he’s asinine and incompetent and stole your girlfriend, and you end up ripping his head off, spinal cord still attached. Then in the next round, you face the kid who bullied you from Kindergarten all the way through your senior year of college before marrying and knocking up the prom queen you’ve always had a crush on, and you beat the crap out of him too, then turn into a dragon and bite him in half. Then in the Finals, you lose to the Detroit Red Wings. Who are, I don’t know, Johnny Cage.

Honestly – would you NOT consider that tournament a success?

In case you didn’t catch the subtlety, the tournament was actually the NHL Playoffs, your arch rivals were the Rangers and the Flyers, and the one-legged alcoholic was this homeless dude the Penguins beat to death for luck before they opened the series against Ottawa.

OFFSEASON: Marian WHO?? Oh wait, Marian ‘Hossa.’ Obviously. He was good.

It’s a fine time to be a Penguins fan; long gone are the days of “maybe this Surovy / Fata / Koltsov power play will start to click,” replaced by the era of “which of our 21-year-old children do you think will get to 60 goals first?” Sure, the Pens lost Marian Hossa and Ryan Malone in the offseason, but so what? Hossa only played 12 regular season games for Pittsburgh in ’07-’08, plus that Crosby fellow missed 29, Marc-Andre Fleury only played 35, and Mark Recchi was still receiving financial compensation from the Penguins in exchange for playing the game of hockey. For comedy’s sake, the Penguins added Miroslav Satan and Ruslan Fedotenko (guess they got outbid for Brad Isbister?), thus ripping the heart out of the powerhouse Islanders and providing Pittsburgh with endless cross-promotional opportunities with Charmin Ultra-Soft.

Good People

Before I shed a tear over the Pens’ supporting cast of wingers (that other tear was laughter, from those couple Pittsburgh columnists who uninronically mentioned Satan’s “40-goal potential”), let’s take a moment to remind ourselves that Mr. Evgeni Malkin scored 47 fucking goals last year, and played without Crosby on his line, and just turned twenty-two in July, and he’s 6’3″ and looks like this with his shirt off. Can you imagine what he’s gonna be like when he puts on muscle? He’ll basically be Joe Thornton only better at finishing, younger, and more mobile without the North American hockey press dragging from his sack.

He disappeared in the Red Wings series, but 1) So did everyone but Crosby, 2) He likely got injured against Philly and couldn’t convey the English of “I am in only painfulness,” and 3) The Red Wings are the aliens from “Space Jam” who steal peoples’ talent with ray guns. That’s not a wacky cultural reference – I seriously believe this.

Atlantic Division : Eastern Conference :: Heart, Brain, and Lungs : Guy In Eastern Conference T-Shirt

A lot of disgruntled NY and Philly friends of mine claimed that the playoffs last year were biased for Crosby and the Pens, and I can’t disagree; after all, the league clearly wouldn’t want the city with 20 million motherfucking people in it to have their team in the Cup Finals, as they’d much rather promote the dude whose Reebok commercial aired at 6 am once on MTV Desi and is therefore certain to draw hordes of casual fans to Versus (Channel negative 871e on Time Warner)

Expect the Pens, Rangers, Flyers, and Devils to all make the playoffs again with ease (barring an 85 goal, 300 point year from Mark Streit), with the Eastern Finals coming down to Pittsburgh and New York.

Bottom Penguin (Couldn’t think of a pun for “Bottom Line”)

Healthy, Legal-Drinking-Age Crosby & Malkin + Staal moving to wing, 45-55 G between him and Sykora + Depth on D for the first time in team history, even with Whitney out + Anything from Satan / Fedotenko / Janne Pesonen + Matt Cooke, Max Talbot, Tyler Kennedy third lineyness + Fleury Competence = Favorites in the Eastern Conference. They’re short on grit, and ultra thin behind Fleury, but even with my usual devil’s-advocating, grizzled-fan pessimism, I can’t view this team any other way at the moment.

Or, no, maybe I can. Maybe we all can. And will forever…

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4 Comments

  1. We also can’t forget Malkin’s role in that epic fanfic story.

    Hopper, I should email it to you….

  2. Then in the Finals, you lose to the Detroit Red Wings. Honestly – would you NOT consider that tournament a success?

    The only way the tournament is a success if you win the last game.

    I guess since Sid is new at this sort of thing, and it’s been awhile for Pens fans, that this is acceptable. If that were my team, I’d be devastated. The deeper you go in the playoffs, the more the losing hurts (except in my teams’ case last season, which has already been chronicled around these parts.) But seriously, ’01 hurts a lot more than say, ’04, you know what I’m saying?

    Also, poor Islanders, can’t they get any respect?

  3. @ Pam: For some of us, just getting invited to the tournament is a success. We’re basically Special Olympians.

  4. I think that may be worse than Brian Campbell’s sweat commercial.


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