Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Back in the 1800s, a railroad in Texas did a promotional stunt to promote ridership on their trains. Dubbed "The Crash at the Crush", two locomotives were intentionally planned to crash headlong into each other at full speed in the town of "Crush", Texas... sort of like what the Penguins and Red Wings are planning to do shortly in the Stanley Cup Finals. As you can imagine, this train wreck was eagerly anticipated and witnessed by thousands of Texans. More on that story later.

With the Penguins currently up three games to none in their series against the Carolina Hurricanes, they give every impression to me of a team that is on a mission. True, it's a "Race to four wins," as Dan Bylsma likes to say, but this team that right now more closely resembles a finely-tuned engine of an Indy car than a hockey club, would need a complete collapse in order for Carolina to move past them. I just don't see that happening.

Likewise for the Detroit Red Wings. While they've had a little more trouble dealing with the Chicago Black Hawks (they're up no 3-1 in that series) it's just as hard to imagine them bowing in their series as it would be for the Pens to lose theirs.

So let's do something that (horror of horrors) you never do in sports. Let's look ahead.

The Pens are a year older, wiser, better seasoned, more experienced and most importantly, they've been to the finals. I don't think you'll see Marc-Andre Fleury tripping as he comes out of the runway this time. That team was totally intimidated by the stage they were performing on last year and once they got their fears behind them, they played virtually even with Detroit after being totally dominated the first two games. But it was too late. They had already dug themselves too deep of a hole to extricate themselves against a veteran team like the Red Wings. That won't happen this year.

ABOVE: The Pens crashed and burned in the finals last year, but they'll use that loss, plus the defection of the loathsome Marian Hossa, to their benefit this time around.

The confidence this team is displaying right now is at an amazing level. They don't get rattled and crowd noise means virtually nothing to them. Detroit, of course, has no shortage of confidence either, so therein lies the reason why this year's Stanley Cup Finals could end up being one of the most anticipated series in the history of the game.

For the NHL, it has to be a dream-come-true: The same two teams that captivated the hockey world last year making it back for another go around. Only this time, both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are scoring at a pace and are so red-hot that it boggles the imagination.

In addition, two hockey-crazy cities will once again be facing off against each other. On one side there will be the current reigning champions, on the other, the up-and-comers who could represent a dynasty-in-the-making the likes of which hasn't been seen since Wayne Gretzky was pulling on an Edmonton Oilers jersey. It will be "Hockeytown" versus "Hockeytahn". Octopi in Detroit versus legions of fans camped outside in Pittsburgh watching "Mario's T.V".

It is going to be exciting hockey, for sure, no matter what, but it may also turn into something of a surprise. The Penguins offense never clicked last year like it is now. Sidney was coming off a high ankle strain and wasn't up to his best. Meanwhile, Gino was fighting off a virus that left him almost invisible at times. The Red Wings may not realize it now, but they are hurtling full speed into the path of a juggernaut. They could end up as roadkill in a series that may surprise many outside of Pittsburgh. But for Penguin fans, their third overall Stanley Cup Championship and the first of this era will be viewed as one down and many more to go for Sid, Gino, M.A.F. and company.

Oh and that train wreck? Never happened. Incredibly, one locomotive, as it approached the other at full speed suddenly had its' boiler explode and it rained train debris all over the horrified crowd actually killing two spectators. What a complete disaster this stunt turned into for the railroad.

You can read into this analogy what you will.

ABOVE: The Detroit Red Wings may find themselves run-over in the finals...or even exploded for that matter. One thing we know, it ain't gonna be pretty.