…But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
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.