The 2008 Stanley Cup playoffs revealed many things about the Pittsburgh Penguins. That Sidney Crosby would look like a 17-year-old mechanic at Jiffy Lube after four rounds of hockey. That Coach Michel Therrien can put on a "vintage" performance when he's trying to work the refs. That Marian Hossa can never again be called a playoff underperformer. And that somewhere in that blur of awful rebounds and misplays, Marc-Andre Fleury may just have a Stanley Cup championship in him.
But the happiest discovery for us during these playoffs is how cool Penguins fans, by and large, really are. Not just the ones at Mellon last night who knew when to stop booing Bettman and start cheering the champion Detroit Red Wings. Not just the ones who went on their secret ninja missions to deface the Rocky statue in Philly. Pretty much all of them; even the ones with the "Maklin" jerseys. And especially the ones in the hockey blogosphere.
Like Tecmo from Pittsburgh Sports and Mini-Ponies, who made up for a lack of Game 6 coverage by finding a rather hilarious goof by ESPN after Game 5. Like Frank D from PensBurgh, who offers a tombstone for the Penguins' 2007-08 season. Or Snoopyjode of The Sidney Crosby Show, who puts together a rather stunning recap of Game 6 in photos and words that should shame most of the MSM coverage of the same event. Hell, even Carbolic Smoke Ball made us chuckle with its short post on Lord Stanley's Cup.
But we wanted to read some real bittersweet assessment and undying passion from Pens fans today. And they didn't disappoint.
Tony Ferrante of Confluence of the Three Rivers hits on one of the more uncomfortable truths in the defeat: That the same guy responsible for there even being a Game 6 most likely cost his team the game.
Marc-Andre Fleury, who single-handedly prolonged the Penguins season with a heroic Game Five overtime performance of 55 saves, gave up two terribly soft goals, giving the Detroit Red Wings the room they needed to hold on for dear life against a valiant Pittsburgh Penguins comeback attempt and won Game Six 3-2 to win the Stanley Cup tonight at the Igloo.
Fleury didn't lose this game by himself, though. The Penguins, even though being on the losing end for the majority of the game, only had 22 shots on net, including only six shots in what was supposed to be desparation time. It was a very disappointing performance for the Penguins in Game Six as compared to Game Five in Detroit. In all honesty, it really didn't appear that the Pens had the desparation and intensity on home ice that they obviously did in Detroit.
Our own Sean Leahy over on Going Five Hole examines what happened to his Penguins:
Frustrated is the word of the series for Pittsburgh players and fans. A team that posted 247 goals during the regular-season was not used to working that hard for goals and scoring chances. They hadn't seen a Henrik Zetterberg, the deserved Conn Smythe winner. Fans were frustrated too.
How many times did Penguin fans yell, "SHOOT THE PUCK" during the series? Pittsburgh didn't shoot the puck enough. They looked for the extra pass or pretty play far too often.
The fourth ranked power-play team during the season looked out of synch, frustrated, and timid. The Red Wings did not let them bring the puck into the zone easily. There was a lot of dump and chase done by the Pens this series, but to Detroit's credit, they're defensively responsible and sound, and always had their players supported along the ice for outlet passes.
Leahy believes this team is going to look radically different next year, wondering if Hossa and Ryan Malone will return. If this is the end for Marian, PittGirl of The Burgh Blog wants to honor his efforts, and offers other thoughts:
1. I wish they would throw a parade anyway, because I would love to get right up in Marian Hossa's face and shout at him about how much of the space in my heart that is dedicated to hockey is currently being filled up with the awesomeness of him.
2. I'm so glad that Evgeni Malkin got that ugly, hairy, bug-eating, howler monkey off of his back and scored in decisive fashion last night. Osgood was all What? What? Was that the puck? What was that thing that just flew by me?
3. I just wish that I could have seen Gary Roberts hold the cup.
Finally, there are obviously no other places to end this trip around the Penguins' blogosphere than with Seth at Empty Netters and Derek and Adam at The Pensblog. Seth gets nostalgic and grateful today, and we reciprocate -- awesome season, sir. Meanwhile, The Pensblog offers its first of what we're sure will be many epic takes on the 2007-08 Penguins in the coming days:
Having to see shots of the Wings holding the Cup on Mellon ice during Versus' broadcasts next season as the Pens steam towards the Finals again is not something we're looking forward to.
It will haunt us.
It will taunt us.
But so be it.
It will serve as a reminder of what was and what could have been.
We'll wait all our lives for that Game 7 on Saturday night in Detroit, Michigan, that will never come.