Woke up today like most Pens fans, grabbing for water and tylenol to help rid the intense hangover I earned myself last night. I was at Game 7, the last professional hockey game ever in a building that has become a second home to me. The crowd was incredible, probably the best Mellon has seen aside from Mario's return from cancer.
Too bad the team didn't show up.
I was like most last week, tormenting Caps fans for their choke jobs. Ordering Ovechkins (whie Russian without a cup), and laughing at a team who allowed an 8 seed to walk onto their ice and win a Game 7. But it could never happen to my team. Not with a Conn Smythe winner and what many people regard as the best hockey player in the world. Not with a team that won two Game 7's of their own last season, including one for the Stanley Cup.
But choked they did. And last night just summed up the season quite well. Stupid penalties, the flower coughing up early, Gonchar looking old and tired, the defense turning over the puck, Sid trying too hard, and Malkin sleepwalking throughout the game. And let's be honest, you could have taken 87 and 71 off the ice and replaced them with Green and Semin by the way they played.
Choke job, the perfect definition.
While I want to give credit to the Lollypop Guild of Gionta and Cammerleri, and the amazing Roy-like postseason Halak is having, last night was about the Pens. I have never watched a more disappointing performance in Penguins hockey than what I saw last night. The moment overwhelmed this team, something I never thought I would say. And everyone needs to be called out for what happened.
Crosby. How did you limit yourself to only three points this series? Canada's golden child, the best all-around player in hockey, the guy with all the answers when the toughest questions are asked. Did Hal Gill really just shut you down?
And Geno. Even worse on your part. With no Markov on the ice and playing against a second pairing of a suspect blue line, the vanishing act you pulled off can only be compared to Neil O'Donnell as far as Pittsburgh goats are concerend. Watching you this series and the entire season has been a struggle. It's like you won the Conn Smythe and retired.
Fleury? While you had two very good games, you continue to befuddle me with early goals. MAF will be one of the best goalies of all time if he ever learns to make the routine save. His lateral movement is incredible, he comes up huge in the biggest of moments, but whether its a lack of focus or something else, it seems a soft goal will always occur.
Finally, the blueline. Scuds, we really missed you last night bud. There wasn't a true shut down pairing this season of any kind. I clearly underestimated what Hal Gill and Rob Scuderi did for this team last year, and its evident in this year's results. Gonchar, I probably watched someone roll around you for the last time as a Pittsburgh Penguin last night, and while I have always had your back against many haters, I feel like you put a dagger in mine last night. Same with Letang, down 2 early in the third he gets a WIDE open net within 10 feet of the goal and drives it wide. Oh, and Alex Goligoski... you are rapidly becoming Ryan Whitney. With that said, I'll give props to Orpik, Eaton, and Leopold, two of which are FA's this offseason.
So forgive me if this seems more like a complete rant. But this is the reality of the situation. This team settled for mediocre rather then the excellence we saw last year. As if the Cup was going to walk back into them. And with all the effort the fans gave last night, it was appalling to see none from the Penguins. It was an utter disaster from the opening puck drop, and Pittsburgh deserves much better than that.