Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Montreal Is the New Pittsburgh

The game: Montreal vs. Pittsburgh.

Why I shouldn't have chosen it: Montreal 5, Pittsburgh 2. The last game in Mellon Arena. Marc-Andre Fleury got pulled after letting in 4 goals on 13 shots.

Now it's someone else's turn to wear the magic slipper: Every season has a Cinderella story. Last year, it was the Penguins and the miracle turnaround after getting a new coach, winning the Eastern Conference final, Malkin winning the Conn Smythe and beating Detroit in a rematch. This year it's Montreal's turn. Let's face it, last year for the Penguins was so fairy tale in the end, there wasn't any way they could truly repeat it. And it's been 17 years since the Canadiens made it to the Conference finals. Bonne chance, garcons.

So, they went out with a bang, with a small b: Jordan Staal is a Selke Trophy finalist, Makin finally broke his scoring slump, Crosby will share the Richard Trophy and is in the running for two others, and several players returned from the Olympics with something shiny. And they made it to the semifinals in the playoffs. Not too shabby for a team that everyone accused of having a Stanley Cup hangover six months ago.

And the good news, as I see it: Now that my favorite teams are done, I don't have to stress about who's going to win. I can just enjoy the playoffs and cheer for whomever I feel like. But I think I'll feel like cheering for Montreal and Chicago.

And what's up the Bruins?: Refresh me...did they or did they not have a 3-game lead and not too long ago score three short handed goals in one penalty kill? I give up. I'm in for a new Stanley Cup final prediction: Chicago vs. Montreal, with Chicago taking it by a narrow margin. I definitely vote for a Game 7 with a few overtimes.

On the other side of the pond: Switzerland beat Canada in the World Championships. Nino's not on the scoreboard, but I did read somewhere that he's the youngest player on the Swiss roster. Besides, who goes to the World Juniors and the Worlds in one year? And in four months, he'll be right back here, driving on our streets, playing in our arenas and going to college. Or, the NHL will be super smart and snatch him up and we will be grateful for the short time he called Portland home.

And here are the things:

1) Cinderella seasons are magical because they only happen once. Pittsburgh deserved to win again, but they also deserve a break to heal from injuries and illness and the pressure to win again.

2) You can't win every game, but you can learn from every game. Especially the ones you lose. The most dangerous opponent in any game is the one with nothing to lose....especially if they speak French and haven't seen the finals since the nineties.

3) In the meantime, whilst I am lying under large furniture and crying and feeding out of a box of Girl Scout tagalong cookies, I will try to come out every once in a while for water and air and to appreciate my favorite Pens moments of 2009 - 2010:

-- Meeting the President and Malkin's infamous photo of said leader's behind. Priceless. Only a Stanley Cup champion who's still learning English could pull off such feats. It was almost as good as the no-look backhander into the Carolina net in last year's playoffs. Which, by the way, I still watch to de-stress on nights such as this one.

-- Sidney Crosby taking a little winter vacation to go carry the Olympic torch and score the game winning goal for Canada on their home ice.

-- Bill Guerin proving pretty much everyday that 30-something is not old.

-- Names like Rupp, Goligoski and McKee becoming a regular part of Penguins' fans vocabulary.

-- Sidney Crosby proving that yes, he really is that good by turning his stick to shooting as well as playmaking.

-- Pascal Dupuis, Jordan Staal and Jordan Leopold proving that hockey is not for pussies by returning to the game from painful and serious injuries. And scoring some serious game saving goals, thank you very much.

-- Max Talbot's return to the playoffs. A sight for sore eyes, even if it was only for a while. Who knows what he might have done if they'd kept going.

Next up: Back to the rules. And Boston better get their act together or I might have to stop watching hockey altogether. Which I really don't want to do, because I'll be a danger to myself and others. But I'll do it if I have to.

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