June 03, 2008
The fact that Ryan Malone was a bloody mess, Sergei Gonchar looked like he belonged in a full body cast, and yet they both came back to play for the Pittsburgh Penguins will undoubtedly tie into some larger themes of destiny and fate for some fans.
Strip away their returns, which some consider the Penguins' "Rocky" moment, and you're left with two absolutely determined hockey players battling through the pain to keep their teammates from toppling over the cliff. Malone in particular was throwing his body around at the end of the third period when the score was tied and the action become absolutely chaotic. (What else would you expect from a guy who looks like this?)
There's going to be an urge to automatically transform these efforts into something mythic before the Penguins' legend has been written. If they end up pulling off this miracle, then yeah, we can talk about Malone and Gonchar and Brooks Orpik's "The Shift" and Max Talbot's last-seconds heroics within a grander framework. Until then, let's revel in the fact that two professionals achieved that ideal level of grit and determination we demand from our players in a Stanley Cup final.
"We all realize what's at stake," said Sidney Crosby. "At this time of year, it's not surprising to see that."