Penguins-Flyers 2012 Rd. 1 Game 4

…But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

-Robert Frost

This is the one thing the Penguins MUST, above all other things, remember: It was only one game. It was only one step. Only one more step in the other direction knocks them out of the playoffs for good. There are still miles and miles to go before they sleep.

There is a danger in forgetting that. Ted Leonsis certainly did when he posted it in his blog two seasons ago:

For just today we have arrived.

We don’t have miles to go before we sleep.

We have arrived. Savor it. Enjoy it.

A few months later, his Capitals won the President’s Trophy – convincingly.

A few weeks after that, they lost to the Canadiens in the first round.

The Penguins and their fans would do well to remember that cautionary tale of getting ahead of oneself before the job is finished. They’ve already shown us that they are capable of letting the media machine get to them, that they are capable of falling into the all-too-human trap of believing their own hype. Despite all of them saying the right things in post-game interviews about just having to “stick to their game” and “not getting ahead of themselves”, But Pascal Dupuis threw them all under the bus – and rightfully, understandably s0 – when he flat-out admitted they’d let the praise go to their heads. (I will always and forever love Dupes not simply for how hard he plays, but also his candor. You can always count on him to just be, as the hip-hop world says, “real”.) You can’t blame them – they might be superhuman on the ice, but they’re still just mostly young men with a lot of pride and passion. And let’s be honest. If you were them, and the entire WORLD picking you to win your sport’s most coveted crown, it would sway even he most level of heads.

And that has cost them, a price so high that I fear they may not be able to pay it. Overcoming a three-game deficit in the Stanley Cup playoffs is about as rare as seeing the green flash before the sun sets, and twice as hard. The Penguins have miles to go before they can sleep, and those miles can be measured by the thousands.

Still…the Pens gained a measure of redemption on Wednesday. They went, probably not a LONG way, but certainly at least part of the way toward restoring the reputation of their team, so tattered and mangled beyond recognition in the past week. When their backs were against the wall, they hung tough, stuck together, and got the job done. And it was glorious.

I’d quote the line from The Mighty Ducks when they were facing the obligatory adversity and then Gordon Bombay reminded them, “Ducks fly together,” except Penguins don’t fly.

EXCEPT except…when they are on the ice. For that reason, and that reason alone, I truly believe they can come back from a three-game deficit, as appalling, disastrous, heartbreaking as the first half of this series has been. Because when they play the way we all know they can play, the way they’ve played the majority of the year, they are truly a thing of beauty to behold. It sounds funny to say that – to call such a brutal, testosterone-driven sport “beautiful”, but it is and they are. Penguins hockey, however you define it, is, at its core, sheer beauty to watch when it’s working the way it’s supposed to. A well-oiled machine where every cog knows its role and the mechanism keeps humming along with pinpoint precision.

Alex Ovechkin’s Russian machine might never break, but the Penguins certainly did this past week. Even so, I saw enough in the last game to remind me of the team they were and ought to be, the team they can be when they remember who they are. It was enough to remind me. They may lose tomorrow night for all I know, but for now, I have hope.

And sometimes, hope is enough.

Comments

  1. jimidragon says:

    I had a really nice comment, and I don’t think it posted.

  2. jimidragon says:

    It did not.

    I was out and about, not intending to watch it, but it was on, and I saw the score at 7 to 3. I thought “Wow, that’s different,” knowing that generally scores are 2 to 1, 3 to 0, nothing really huge. It took me a while to realize who was playing, and when I did, I started to watch a little more intently, thinking “Wow, this is way different.”

    A bit after, I see one of the Penguins–my apologies for not knowing ANY of the players’ names; blasphemy, yes, I know–shoot out from behind his net and streak through at least three Flyers and score immediately.

    That is when I said out loud, “Wow, I wonder what Lish thinks of this.” I drew stares from the people around me, and I replied sheepishly, “Oh, I said that out loud. Um, she’s my friend who REALLY enjoys hockey and KNOWS it as well, and the Penguins are her team.”

    One of my buddies said, “Well, that’s a high score, and also I don’t ever see them score that fast.”

    I replied, “Well, my best guess was that there is a lot of momentum in two ways: One, the Penguins are playing well enough to score a lot, and also, that one single player was able to just cut through defenders and not his own teammates, so he could fight through them without having to watch out for his own.”

  3. This series has been insane in terms of momentum. I don’t think there’s any other sport that relies on momentum and energy in the way that hockey does. Everyone – players, coaches, media – are saying this series has been one of the weirdest ones they’ve ever seen, one for the ages. The goal you’re talking about was, I believe, Steve Sullivan’s goal when he took it end-to-end and split the Flyers’ D. Most of the time, when a defense is on the same page and confident, they’ll back up to a certain point but then try to step up on the player carrying the puck into their zone. But that goal showed how out of sorts the Flyers were at that point – both defenders were backing up, backing up, giving Sullivan way too much room (or “gap”, as they call it in hockey), when it would have been easy for them to step up on him and strip the puck. They had a few other breakdowns later, with Flyers not picking up their assignments (i.e. Flyers guys not sticking with shadowing the guys they were supposed to) and getting generally confused.

  4. jimidragon says:

    Considering there were two goals after that–and it is incredible that I actually saw so many goals by one team–the Flyers were definitely confused. They still weren’t stable since they couldn’t overcome and win their fourth game after that.

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