Archive for June, 2009

What’s In A Number
June 12, 2009

IMG_0143Not a great photo, but it is with my IPhone (forgot my camera), and I had to at least capture the “Fleury” (is that lame!) of excitement as the Penguins would not be denied in the final minute of Game 6 at Mellon Arena. Thanks to Rob Scuderi, literally laying himself on the line, or crease, to be exact. And the “role” players. Everyone has been talking about how “deep” the Red Wings are.  As the  Pens go into Game 7, I think you can say they  have found their own depth. IMG_0151(I know, the photo is of Crosby and Fleury, I didn’t get Staal) That third line, with Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy, stepped up, and opened the door to a fitting end of an epic series.  I hesitated to call Game 6 “epic.” But several of the sports writers and radio hosts I respect had already labeled it as such. Both these teams deserve a Game 7 and you have to believe it is an indication of how evenly matched they are. This is only the 15th time a Stanley Cup Final has gone to a Game 7.

Unfortunately, some of the other stats surrounding the number 7 don’t favor the Pens. Each of the last six Game 7’s in a Cup final have been won by the home team. And the record for the entire 14 is 12-2. But a number I like. In all of American pro sports, the last team to win a Game 7 away from home was——The Pirates! Baltimore, 1979. 30 years ago. If you are superstitious— and Bryan Trottier, a winner of 7 Stanley Cups (one as an assistant coach with the Colorado Avalanche) told me  that hockey players are the most superstitious of pro athletes–you have to regard the Pittsburgh connection as a good omen. 

Of course, the home team has advantages, as former Penguin and FSN analyst, Jay Caufield reminded me.  On both line changes and face-offs. But he also says a Game 7 will, ultimately come down to the goalies. IMG_0153And I am putting my money on Marc-Andre Fleury. This handsome young man is a radio broadcaster from Fleury’s hometown near Montreal. His seat was next to mine in the press box for all of the home games. The day before Game 6, Renaud Barriere interviewed Fleury in Fleury’s home for almost an hour. Renaud told me before the game, that the drubbing he took in Game 5 would have no effect on him. That he has an ability to move ahead and forget about a bitter defeat, or a “soft” goal. Some analysts speculated after Game 5, that the shutout and the bouncing boards of Joe Louis Arena, would get in Fleury’s head. Renaud doesn’t think so. Not that I am prejudiced, but I really believe Pittsburgh will change the trend. If each of the last SIX series that had a 7th game was won by the home team–then , in this, the 7th in that string of Game 7’s, will be won by the away team.  Don’t you just love sports stats!

Best Of Three
June 5, 2009

 

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It has been four months since my last post. The Super Bowl. I could say that trips, sweeps, sick dogs, family and friends, and charities have all conspired to keep me from blogging—but my lingering aversion to the technology is probably a more likely  deterrent. 

But what better time to jump back in ,then two games away from The Stanley Cup?  Lombardi to Stanley. I have been at both home games, and I continue to marvel at this team, Mario Lemieux’s devotion to this town, and this coach, who is self-effacing, confident, and a superb teacher. Last night, at the podium he admitted to us reporters that when Detroit scored just seconds into the 2nd period,  he looked up and thought,”Oh goodness.” Dan Bylsma said he wondered, for a moment, if the Pens were headed for a replay of their poor play in the 2nd period Tuesday night. “Oh Goodness”?!  Who says that in our increasingly less-than-civil society?  It was refreshing, and I am sure, made some of us feel a little sheepish. 

But the momentary worry was unwarranted.  Jordan Staal’s short-handed goal set off a flurry (or should I say Fleury?) of scoring that changed the game, and perhaps the series.  

IMG_1509Detroit coach Mike Babcock said later, at the podium, ” I didn’t think we were very composed.” Ya think? He admitted that the Penguins had more energy, and the Staal goal was huge. The Pens went on to score two more goals–making it three in just over 5 minutes . And Mellon Arena was shaking, the fans were so loud. Loudest I have ever heard them. Sidney finally got his goal in this series, although Bylsma pointed out that he had been playing well all along. Someone asked Sidney if he sensed Henrik Zetterberg, who has been hanging all over him since Saturday, was getting tired. In characteristic understatement, Sidney replied, “It didn’t feel like that.” He is a sterling representative of his sport. And Marc- Andre Fleury.  He sooooo deserved being the first star in the game. 18 saves in the first period. Both nights, I was sitting next to a young radio journalist from Fleury’s hometown, and he talked to me about the beginning of Fleury’s career, how young he is, and the maturation process of a goalie. In one breakaway, I watched how he moves his feet in the crease, and I tried to imagine what it must be like to see someone moving like lightning, down the ice, ready to fire away at you. It is kinda masochistic to want to be a goalie, from my limited perspective. But admirable. I wonder if being a goalie has a lot of the elelments of just living life. You stand there, and keep taking shots. You let some in, but you get back up , shake them off, and try again. 

I think I heard Babcock say, after the first game, that goalie was the most important position on the ice. When you watch Saturday night, imagine yourself in Fleury’s postion for a moment. I don’t know if I have the courage to do even that. 

And before I close, Evgeni Malkin. I saw his parents and friends being surrounded by people in between periods. They were being swamped for photos and autographs. And has he been stellar in the playoffs, or what ? FSN’s Paul Alexander told me (I think I am remembering this correctly) that Malkin has had 12 multi-point games in these playoffs, and no one has done that since Mario, in the 1992 series that lead to Pittsburgh’s last Stanley Cup.  Here’s hoping Pittsburgh brings it back on home ice, Tuesday night. Guy Junker reminded me that a championship title has not been won IN the city, since the Pirates beat the Yankees in 1960.