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On most days, say, if the Penguins were down by a goal in the 7th game of a playoff series and were afforded a power play opportunity with 1:33 left in regulation time, I would stand up. There would be a surge of adrenaline, and I would get up off the couch. I'd get sucked in - literally pulled toward the ice - by the moment. I think I watched the entire 2009 Stanley Cup Finals with my face like 8 inches from the television. But not last night. Last night I stayed in my seat. I knew it was over. We're going to save a lot of our thoughts on the game for the podcast later tonight, but here are some initial musings in the final GTOPG of 2011.
- Jordan Staal made a comment after the game, something to the effect of, "We can't let these years slip by." He was talking about the period of time when the Penguins' core players - Staal, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury, Kris Letang, and Brooks Orpik - are all still in their prime, and you wouldn't trade them for six players on any other team. It's a window that's closing, little by little, with each passing season. He's right that no one should take these years for granted, not the fans, and not the players themselves. That reminder was entirely appropriate last year when an underachieving team lost Game 7 to Montreal, but it's not needed now. The Penguins didn't take anything for granted these last few months. They battled their asses off.
- We've probably overdone the car metaphors in describing Alexei Kovalev's play, but hang in there for one more. When he's clicking on all cylinders as he was in the first period, the ride is still amazing. But the guy gets terrible gas mileage these days. He had nothing in the second, and as Dejan Kovacevic writes, Dan Bylsma apparently decided Kovy's no-show in the second justified leaving the Penguins most skilled player on the bench with one minute to go, a 6-on-4 power play, and the season on the line. Letestu is probably the Pens best faceoff guy, so Bylsma might have been able to justify having him out there in the last minute. But Letestu didn't take the draws at the end of the game. Jordan Staal did. You won't find any bigger fans of Dan Bylsma. We essentially named the blog after him. But that was unjustifiable. And what a sad ending to Kovalev's career as a Penguin.
|When it's time, it's time.|
|The solution, not the problem.|
- Kevin Constantine believed that power plays are simply about creating 2-on-1 chances. How many of those did we see in the Penguins' 35 man advantage opportunities this series? This team focused on things like "net front presence" and "just getting pucks on net," but that only led to them scoring "one goal." The "entire series." This is something we'll elaborate on "during the podcast."
"That's 2 minutes on us? Ok, I'm fine with that."
- Kudos to Chris Conner. All year long, that tiny little guy has been the first name on our tongue when we're looking to make room in the lineup for somebody else. And all year long, he kept battling back and showing more heart than guys twice his size. That last part may be somewhat redundant because everybody is twice his size. After his humiliating gaffe on the Game 6 penalty shot, there he was again last night, battling, creating, and drawing penalties resulting in power plays that no one would ever score on. Come to think of it, maybe we should have put Chris Conner on the power play. Our guess is Conner won't see time in a healthy Penguin lineup next season, so let's just take a minute to tell him, Chris, we see you.
- Sometimes the greatest art is inspired by pain. Never was this more evident than when Finesse sent me his unedited notes on Game 7, typed into his phone at like 2:00 am. Here they are, verbatim:
No boarding on ohlund
Steiggy calls out fans for booing the PP
We had first three power plays
Problem - no shooters. No gonchar no goligoski no Sid no geno
The pps were ok, but shots into chest.
Their first goal was the same goal as last game. Wake up.
Difference between fan base and crowds. Great fan base, Terrible crowds
Offense generated from behind the net
Moore and bergenheim like Stockton and Malone
What's scarier than kovalev skating the wrong direction. He must retire. Nothing left
Why letestu on PP? Why?
Worst ever crowd at least as it translates on tv
Kennedy desperately wanted to be out there.
Get letestu off the ice.
Get off the ice.
End the white out.
Now tell me that isn't poetry.
The Penguins may have played their final game, but GTOG doesn't have an offseason. As discussed, we should have the podcast up by tonight. We've got a major Penguins Year in Review post on tap. We'll have coverage of the Steelers' draft, which will be a welcome distraction. And then we'll find other stuff to keep you engaged. Thanks to all for reading. GTOG.