Sidney Crosby is gone for the summer. School’s out. His final exam performance wasn’t good enough to win the Stanley Cup. And all his young Pittsburgh Penguins schoolmates – those early-20-somethings who did their best to make the Red Wings’ lives spooky during this year’s Cup Finals – are gone with him, perhaps to gather together and raise a cold...soda (Sid’s only 20, don’t forget) and figure out a way to return to the championship round next spring.
The Penguins have the goods to do it, you know.
The Red Wings have sent four teams from the inferior Eastern Conference home for the summer since 1997.
There were the heavily-favored Philadelphia Flyers of ’97 – a big, supposedly fearsome team with a line called the Legion of Doom: wingers John LeClair and Mikael Renberg, and center Eric Lindros. How would the less physical (again, supposedly) Red Wings handle such beasts coming at them in droves throughout the Finals?
Easy. Coach Scotty Bowman just made sure defenseman Nick Lidstrom was on the ice, along with Larry Murphy, whenever the frightening Legion of Doom climbed over the boards. Bowman chose the finesse of Lidstrom and Murphy over the brawn of Vladimir Konstantinov, surprising those experts who had the Flyers winning the series rather handily. And finesse totally shut down the Legion. In fact, that line was so ineffective, the Flyers could have been considered to have Legionnaire’s Disease. The Red Wings swept. The Flyers haven’t been back to the Finals since.
The next year, the surprising Washington Capitals, who seemed to need a couple of games to simply explain their presence in the Finals, were flicked away in four straight games, though it took a classic comeback in Game 2 to assure that. But those Caps were a collection of has-beens and not-quites and fluked their way into the Finals. That team was never heard from again.
In 2002, the Carolina Hurricanes showed up in the final round, and while everyone was still asking, “Who ARE these guys?” the ‘Canes had stolen Game 1 in
But these Penguins, these young, high-scoring, physical Penguins, are sure to break the string of vanquished Red Wings opponents in the Finals who are never heard from again. In fact, don’t be surprised if by next Memorial Day we’re around our grills talking about a Red Wings-Penguins rematch. And continue to not be surprised if the other team wins it in 2009.
Crosby is the face of the NHL -- the closest thing to Gretzky since, well, Gretzky
There’s goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who didn’t have the best game of his career in Game 6 but who was the reason there was a sixth game to begin with, thanks to his 55-save performance in Game 5’s epic battle. He’s young, as all the Penguins seem to be, and there’s no reason why he can’t keep it up. There’s Evgeni Malkin, who was terribly disappointing in the Finals but who was terrific leading up to it, and actually showed some signs late in the series against Detroit that he was just a player in a slump at the worst possible time, and was about to break out of it. It gives me the creeps to think of what he may have done in a Game 7.
No need for me to rattle off other names from the roster. The ages are the first thing you should look at if you happen upon a listing on the Internet. Lots of 20s under the age column.
These Penguins more closely remind me of the Edmonton Oilers of 1983 than any other Cup-losing team since then, if you want to know. The ’83 Oilers lost in the Finals to the New York Islanders, who by beating
If I was Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien – who must dump some of the whining and crying if he’s to raise his game to another level, by the way – I’d be sure to remind my players of how they turned what was looking to be a snoozer of a Finals series into one that won’t be forgotten for a long time, if ever. I’d affix it into their skulls that after being shutout in Games 1 and 2 in
Yes, I’d say these Pittsburgh Penguins did more than just scare the bejeebers out of the Red Wings and their fans during the past couple of weeks. They arrived. And they’re not just passing through, like so many of the pretenders who’ve fluked their way to the Finals and lost, never to be heard from again. Uh-uh.