Game 7. Friday. You haven’t been this excited since you got that Nintendo 64 for Christmas.
There’s no way to cope with the anxiety of the next 24 hours. Short of taking enough purple pills to put down Paula Abdul, the wait for Game 7 is going to be excruciating. The fact that this game falls on a Friday is flat-out sadistic. If you are unfortunate enough to work in front of a computer all day, you will be time-checking the clock on the Windows taskbar every thirty seconds.
Productivity in the Pittsburgh area will reach pre-Civil War levels. And if you’re unemployed and don’t have to work on Friday, don’t worry, neither does anyone in the city of Detroit.
Like the great band The Talking Heads, you might be reflecting on this entire eight-month rollercoaster ride and asking yourself, How did I get here? How many Comcast remotes have I smashed? How are we one win away from a Stanley Cup? Who is this imposter and what has he done with the real Hal Gill?
Over the course of the NHL playoffs, appropriately called the “second-season,” we’ve seen goats like Miroslav Satan, Jordan Staal, Phillipe Boucher and Max Talbot turn into heroes. After Talbot’s stirring display of hustle and grit this post-season, most Pens fans probably have forgotten that he struggled for most of the regular season, posting the worst plus-minus rating on the team aside from the departed Ryan Whitney.
In the regular season, Talbot was a minus 9. That’s not good for a defensive center. In the playoffs? Plus 7.
The 5”11, 190 pound, self-proclaimed, tongue-in-cheek “superstar” has been one of the most important pieces of the Penguins’ Stanley Cup run, and he made less than one million dollars this season.
In fact, Talbot made precisely 700k over the course of a grueling 99-game season.
NBA benchwarmers make half-a-million every time they chest bump a teammate.
Detroit auto executives have Persian window curtains that cost more than Talbot’s salary.
At least they did, before they were repossessed by the U.S. government.
Then there’s Jordan Staal, a 20-year old kid who many Pittsburghers wanted dealt at the trade deadline. “He doesn’t score enough!” cried drive-time sports radio critics.
Staal finished the season with 22 goals and was third on the team in assists, despite playing on a line with Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy. The gangly, unorthodox center was the team’s bets penalty killing forward, and had a hand in four short-handed goals.
“But he don’t score goals,” protested the grammatically-challenged bandwagon hoppers.
Fact: Staal’s shooting percentage (his total goals, divided by total shots on goal) was better than Evgeni Malkin’s. Staal isn’t flashy, and he isn’t a goal machine, but he’s efficient. More often than not, he makes the smart play – getting the puck in deep in opposing territory and keeping it there, buying time for Crosby and Malkin’s lines to suck some air.
To many fans, the stats won’t matter. They’ll take a gander at Staal’s long, laborious strides and protracted stick handling and simply call him lazy or slow.
But if there is one solitary reason why you’re nervously reading this Game 7 blog and not trolling for Meghan Fox pictures on TMZ, it is because of Staal’s short-handed goal in Game 3. His incredible solo effort deflated Detroit’s confident swagger and turned that crucial game, and in turn the series, on its head.
Still don’t like Staal? Fine. But he still has to drink sparkling grape juice when the Penguins go out to dinner, and he scored one of the most important goals in Pittsburgh hockey history. You, on the other hand, get nervous in the Mellon Arena urinal trough.
Maybe we should trade you to Edmonton.
Going into this series, all the hype surrounded the poster boys. To the chagrin of NBC, this series has been defined by B-listers Max Talbot, Rob Scuderi, Darren Helm (nearly missed Game 6 with a case of Little Man’s Disease), Justin Abdelkader (language of origin, please?) and Brad Stuart (sounds like he’s on tour with Travis Tritt).
“Hi, I’m Rob Scuderi, reminding you to stay tuned for The Tonight Show With Jay Leno after the game. He’s boring yet strangely effective, like me.”
The Red Wings are going to throw everything they have at the Penguins’ superstars in Game 7. They’re going to match up Lindstrom, Datsyuk and Zetterberg on Crosby, and clutch-and-grab Malkin until their fingers are sore. The Wings are going to run more obstruction than PennDOT, because the referees have established a no blood, no foul philosophy for the Finals.
So, the question is – on Friday night – will the South Side be the sight of a happy riot or sad riot?
Anyone who tries to tell you they know what’s going to happen in Game 7 probably has an atrocious haircut.
“Hey, listen to our opinions!” No thanks, you already spent your two cents on that haircut.
Both teams have proven that they can handle the pressure of a Game 7 and come out on top.
Both teams are feeling the pressure associated with being 60 minutes away from having their names forever engraved on the Stanley Cup.
My advice is to make a trip to Costco and stock up on a 30-pack of Gatorade, because on Friday night, when the lose pucks are bouncing in front of the net, and the Red Wings are winding up for slap shots, and scrums break out after whistles, every warm blooded Pittsburgher is going to feel like they are on the ice.
No matter what happens on Friday, this resilient, loyal, and likeable Penguins team has won a place in our hearts forever.
But if they can out hustle and out muscle the Red Wings one more time, all of their blood, sweat and blocked shots will be remembered forever…because their names will live on eternally, etched onto The Holy Grail.
You just have to believe…Go Pens.