Sunday, March 2, 2008

What the hell happened to hockey?

"They'd rather shoot rats at the dump."

Oh Rick Mercer, you are my hero.

That's right, hockey started right here in Halifax with a twig and a frozen pile of cow dung.


The Pens haven't been playing very well in the last week or so, but before you go and hang Elmo, just take a moment, sit back, and think. Think about what has happened in the last few months.

Think about that turnaround game against Ottawa in late November - the Thanksgiving miracle.
Before that game, the Pens were well out of a playoff spot in the East. But since then? Can you really complain?

Think about the overall record. Is it something to get upset about? If you say yes, you're a joke.

Now think about Marc-Andre Fleury. When he hurt his ankle, I certainly thought that the team was screwed. Dany Sabourin had only played what, 14 NHL games before this season?

And Ty Conklin??? Just thinking about him brought back ugly memories, flashbacks if you will, of the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals. My thoughts were something roughly similar to this:

Who would've ever thought, EVER, that he would come in and stand on his head?

Now think about Gary Roberts. He may be the 'old' guy on the team, but he is a force on the ice and in the dressing room. Where he goes, others follow. And then he broke his leg to get out of the Winter Classic.

Did the Pens roll over and die? No. Gary Roberts would never allow something like that.

Now think about Mark Eaton. When he went down with a torn ACL and we heard that he was out for the season, we got a little panicky, didn't we? After all, he is our best defensive defenseman, and he blocks shots like no other. How would we be able to survive that?

By others stepping up, that's how.

Now think about Sidney Crosby - the best player in the world. That was the toughest loss, by far. It's one thing to lose Roberts - dare I say that he's not the best player on the team (please don't hurt me Gary) - but Sid?? He may be one of the youngest guys on the team, but he's the one everyone turns to. This is his team, and without him, what would happen?

We all knew that Malkin was a great player, but he has never really stood out like Crosby. Malkin was drafted to be the franchise player, but he lost that status when the Pens won the Crosby sweepstakes in 2005. It suits him just fine, considering he's a little shy and his English language proficiency is, well, not very proficient. We really didn't have any idea that he could truly carry this team on his back and lead the way to the top of the division and a tie for the Eastern Conference lead (though Montreal currently has one game in hand).

So the Pens may be fumbling the ball a little right now, but their play in the past few months has pretty much given them permission to do so. Every team goes through a dry spell at least once a season (just look at Detroit - ouch) but it's not as though the Penguins are fighting to get into the playoffs or keep their playoff spot. No, the fight right now is for top seed in the East. I don't think that fight is terribly important, and for the team to be a little wobbly as they continue to lose players is okay.

Most teams would find a slump at this time of the year to be worrisome, but Penguins fans shouldn't be overly concerned. Pretty much half of the current team is made up of players who started the year in the AHL. Ty Conklin, Kris Letang, Tyler Kennedy, Jeff Taffe...what other team can say that they can do this? The Edmonton Oilers are having injury problems, and look where they're sitting. The Vancouver Canucks had injury problems on their blue line, and they went a stretch when they could hardly win a game with an AHL defence.

And now we're getting Crosby and Hossa back in the next few weeks. And Gary Roberts may make an appearance before the end of the season. And Marc-Andre Fleury is getting his game back.

These injuries just may turn out to be a blessing - yes, a blessing - in disguise. Other teams have crumbled, but the Pens were able to overcome adversity and win. Each player has stepped up his game. I think what we're seeing now is partly the inexperience of some players, and partly the fatigue of others who had to carry the team, and partly a lack of chemistry because of all the changes due to trades and call-ups. Once you bring back some of the more talented players, get more experienced players into the lineup, allow the guys to get to know each other, and let some guys catch a breather once in awhile, the Penguins should only get better.

Hang Elmo? Nah. Not today.

1 comment:

DaBich said...

I agree, Ashley. This team has found a way to stay in the way or another. They've stepped up, hustled, stood on their heads, and generally pulled off miracle after miracle.
I'm standing by them, cuz they darn well deserve it! Go Pens!