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Sunday, May 4, 2014

When Good Enough Isn't by @ToonsBrian

This is the Stanley Cup Playoffs and any reasonable observer knows - just knows - that four-game sweeps are not a likely occurrence. According to The Puck Report, only 18 of 104 2nd Round matchups have ended in sweeps over the past 24 seasons. Many fans fell in line with that way of thinking, choosing the Pens to win in 6 or 7 games or, conversely, for them to lose in that same time frame.

Smart money would bet with history and against the 17% chance of either the Pens sweeping the Rangers or vice versa.  To see the reactions of some fans following Game 1, however, you'd never know that.

Pens fans can be an emotional lot.
This article is by no means an indictment on the fan, as easy as it would be to "go there."

Because I, too, get the urges to lash out at the Pens during their seemingly too frequent lapses in dominance, which has been the majority of the post-Olympic season. The team has made even wins difficult to take. The losses are typically maddening. This is especially true since many of the losses have come as a result of a relatively short lapse of time in each game. A missed assignment here. A turnover there. The clang of a post with a yawning cage.

Case in point: Friday night's Game 1 loss to the Rangers. Take away the first period in which a well-rested Pens team came out completely flat against the Rangers, yielding an early 2-0 deficit. I, myself described the period as being akin to chasing a shot of Bacardi 151 with a shot of Tobasco. In that it hurts. A lot.

But that was how it felt to us, the Penguins fans. As Dejan Kovacevic of the Trib told us, the Penguins felt much differently than we did.

According to Kovacevic, the Pens felt whatever feeling a cliche describes is.

Rob Scuderi described the team's play throughout the game as "pretty solid." Super.

The icing on the cake, however, was Dan Bylsma's claim that the first period was an even affair.
“It was more of a 50/50 period. We ended up on the short end of the scoreboard with the two goals they got."
I would gladly split this "50/50" with HCDB.
Now, I'm not often critical of Dan Bylsma, but I'll say this: If you ask me who I'd like to split a doughnut with, I'm telling you that guy.

The first period was about as ugly a period as you'll see in the Playoffs. They were lucky to escape only 2 goals behind. Even the Penguins' own recap of the game noted that the Rangers owned the first. It wasn't a question of if, rather a matter of how badly.

But this article isn't about Dan Bylsma's assessment of that first period.

This article is about that guy. "That guy" is involved at every level in every sport. "That guy" stands out. "That guy" dominates. And, slowly but surely, "that guy" fades away.

Once "that guy" reaches the top, the hunger, the drive and the will to win, all lost. All that has been replaced with the feeling that the abilities and successes of the past will manifest themselves naturally. The feeling of invincibility - unrealistic and unfulfilled - presents itself as ego. And results, inevitably, in failure.

The Pens - although probably not all of the Pens - have become "that guy" if I'm interpreting the quotes that I'm seeing and hearing in interviews both in print and on television correctly.

"Good enough" is a concept that seems to have entered the picture. The problem is that "good enough," in this case, will not be enough. The league has caught up to the Pens. Only the strong will survive. And only the strong-willed will succeed.

If the Pens displayed even 1/4 the urgency that Pens' fans displayed after the Game 1 loss, Pens fans may not be so quick to react so negatively to a single loss. A loss that, through simple logic, they already knew was coming at some point.

For fans, it's less about whether their favorite player is succeeding and more about how much they care if they're not. To read and hear the quotes, if the Pens and the Pens' coaching staff really is bothered by losing, it's getting lost in translation.

Let's Go Pens.

Seriously, Let's Go.

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