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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Pens Picks: Connor Hall by @SpinMeWrite

12:30:00 PM 0
Photo Credit: Pittsburgh Penguins
 And just like that, the Beau Bennett patience project is over. On the second day of the draft the Penguins sent Bennett back into the arms of Ray Shero with the New Jersey Devils in exchange for their third round, 77th overall pick. Don't get me wrong - I wish nothing but the best for Bennett. He's a tremendous talent who has had extraordinarily bad luck in his career. I was really rooting for him but this trade doesn't feel like such a loss for me. For Beau's sake, here's hoping the Devils have a stellar medical staff and conditioning team.

With that third round pick, the Pens selected 18-year-old defenseman Connor Hall of the Kitchener Rangers in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). Jim Rutherford made it clear before the draft that they would be looking to stock the blue liners but many were surprised that they went with a shutdown, stay-at-home defender akin to Ian Cole or Ben Lovejoy as opposed to adding to the speed game. 

“You have to have both,” he said. “It’s important that guys can skate. But you have to have guys that can play physical and defend. Both of these guys [Hall and 4th round pick Ryan Jones] can.”

Randy Sexton, Director of Amateur Scouting, added, "Their puck skills are sufficient to play the way we want to play. And they bring a certain dimension that we currently don't have, particularly if we're not able to get (unrestricted free agent) Ben Lovejoy re-signed. ... They bring a physical edge and a dimension that we don't have enough of in our depth chart right now.”

While you may not get a lot of offensive production from Hall, he has a certain toughness and work ethic that the coaches and personnel value. Former Penguin and current Kitchener Rangers coach Jay McKee had nothing but praise for the tough-nosed Hall.

“He’s one of those guys where it’s almost like you went back in time and pulled him out of the late 80s,” McKee said of the 6-foot-2, 190-pound defenseman. “He’s got a real edge to his game. He’s a guy that loves to play the body, has a real physical edge, he’s a great teammate and I think his offensive abilities are probably underrated.”

Hall did not look like a third round pick to start last season. He missed the first half of the season because of suspension for a check to the head and then a broken jaw injury. He battled back during the second half of season and was invited to play on Canada's U18 Championship team because of his improved play. 

“He came the longest way of all the defensemen on our team in my eyes last year,” McKee said. “He missed a lot of time and in training camp last year he was a little bit off and once he got back and worked his tail off, he was one of our top D-men at the end of the season."

Hall is scheduled to attend the annual prospect development camp at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex starting today through July 2.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Pens Picks: Kasper Bjorkqvist by @Medina_Marie17

1:20:00 PM 0

"Euro scouts loved his play. I was leaning more towards defensemen, but they felt so adamant about him!" - Jim Rutherford (on new Finnish draftee, Kasper Bjorkqvist)

The Penguins organization has it's heels in deep in Scandinavia. They added another Swede along with two new Finns from this draft class. One of those coming out of Finland and the Finnish Junior League is Kasper Bjorkqvist (that is 'Qvist number three on the Penquins roster if you are keeping track at home).

Although he won a gold medal with the Finnish World Junior team, Bjorkqvist was not a highly touted player like his Finnish brethren, Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi.

"He did not get much media attention. He is not 'big name' in Finnish media," according to Marcus Tissari, who runs the "Pens Finland" Twitter page (@Europenguins). Tissari feels that Bjorkqvist was underrated by the scouts (from a personal standpoint).

 Bjorkqvist was ranked only as high as 22nd in skating among Europeans in the draft class. However, the Penguins scouts were impressed with the 6'1, 198-pound right winger enough to put a bug in Jim Rutherford's ear. His name was called in the 2nd round, 61st overall.

European scout, Patrik Allvin was quoted saying that Bjorkqvist "...can adapt to North American style and is strong down low, strong on the puck." He (Allvin) also stated that he feels Bjorkqvist is a versatile and character player.

However, Director of Amateur Scouting Randy Sexton brought things into perspective stating that he feels Bjorkqvist is ..."still about 1-2 years away from turning pro. But he has great hockey sense and a strong skillset."

Sexton could not be more right as the young winger has committed to play NCAA hockey at Providence. He will be able to adapt to the smaller American rinks and a faster style of play that will be needed as part of the Penguins new identity. It will also give him some development time to work on areas that need improvement (which are his agility and "hand smoothness").

An interesting note; Kasper will be in familiar company as he and fellow Penguin draftee, Niclas Almari, were teammates for the part of the past three years while in their native Finland. Being with a teammate on the same professional team can not only add comfort when away from home, but it can also add a bit more friendly competitiveness too.

Bjorkqvist's scouting report, along with reading up on what the scouts saw in his playing/scoring ability, draws similar comparison to an older 'Qvist on the Penguin's bench (Patric Hornqvist). Although he normally compares his style of play to that of Leo Komarov (all-star center for the Toronto Maple Leafs), the fact that most of his goals come from being down low in the crease as well as his "shoot-first" mentality would lead one to think that he could be a good candidate to replace our beloved Hornqvist in a few seasons should he develop enough. Or possibly be on a line with 'Qvist number two, Oskar Sundqvist. Finns are known for having a great work ethic so the Penguins must have kept that in mind when they took him so high in the draft.

Another area worth noting is that Kasper is strong defensively and can really shine on the penalty kill. He is adept at causing turnovers and breaking up passes. A good checking winger, he knows how and when to use and play the body and will not shy away from contact. This is a good thing to have when battling along the boards for loose pucks in order to get a scoring opportunity or when looking for a rebound off the opponents goalie.

I would not expect high-scoring numbers from this young man. However, he has the makings of a tough and, yes, versatile bottom-6 forward. It will be interesting to see how he adapts in the NCAA and we will definitely be keeping an eye on him come development camp. In the meantime, you can get a feel for this new addition in the clip below.

Welcome to the Penguins, Kasper.

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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Pens Picks: Filip Gustavsson

5:21:00 PM 0
"To get drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins, it’s just awesome."

In the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, the Pittsburgh Penguins used their first pick of the draft (55th overall) to select, from Luleå Hockeyförening of the SHL, Filip Gustavsson.

Gustavsson is a goaltender from Skellefteå, Sweden and was ranked #1 among European goaltenders in the 2016 draft class by NHL Central Scouting.

This is InGoal Magazine's read on him:

"He likes to play a simple game, by taking short routes throughout his crease. His post-integration is phenomenal, but due to some blocking tendencies, he does get caught being inactive while in the reverse-VH position. Quick-developing, low-to-high plays tend to be a challenge for him. However, he does battle well for sight lines on screen attempts. He generally tracks well, but if he doesn’t, his hands automatically drift back and seal up into a blocking position."

A lot of this may change through his path of development, which will likely be more time in the SHL.  Gustavsson was the 2nd goalie taken in the draft, after the Philadelphia Flyers selected Carter Hart.

With this selection, the goaltending depth chart for the Pittsburgh Penguins now reads as such: Marc-Andre Fleury (UC), Matt Murray (UC), Tristan Jarry (UC), Sean Maguire (UC), Jeff Zatkoff (pending UFA), Filip Gustavsson (unsigned). Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury will likely share the net in Pittsburgh, while the tandem in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton will most likely consist of Tristan Jarry and Sean Maguire. Jeff Zatkoff's current tenure as a Penguin will likely be coming to an end.

Thanks for reading, and welcome Filip Gustavsson to Pittsburgh! 

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Friday, June 24, 2016

Striking Gold Book Review by @evil_Shero

6:48:00 PM 0
Striking Gold is a Triumph Books collaboration with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that tells the incredible tale of the 2015-16 +Pittsburgh Penguins .

Now I'm not going to recap the brilliant rise-from-the-ashes story of this amazing season here but I am going to say without any obligation that this book is incredible and it's something I will treasure for the rest of my life.

This book is a collection of Post-Gazette stories detailing the 2015-16 season. What sets this apart from the usual collectible is that the stories are preserved in the moment of time where the season was very much in jeopardy and the Penguins were in a dark place.

The pictures are beautiful and captivated by son for hours as he thumbed through the pages. I can just imagine in a few years him reading back on this season and learning about all the triumphs and victories that we all endured as fans this year.

It's amazing to look into the recent past and remember the uncertainty of the Sullivan hiring, the dreadful beginning of the season, and the slumping Cosby period. Then to read about the jubilant acceptance of the brilliant spring streak, the rise of Hagelin, Scuderi packing his bags for Chicago, and eventually winning the fabled Cup.

This book has it all as it was frozen in time in complete context and guttural reaction of the people who reported it.

I've read through this twice and expect to again shortly. I suggest you snag a copy of your own.

Amazon: BUY THIS BOOK (on sale for under $10)
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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Getting the Last Laugh by @BrianK_PI

12:30:00 PM 0

The 2014 offseason was a bad time for the Pittsburgh Penguins franchise. The team had just blown a 3-1 lead against the New York Rangers with a chance to go back to their second straight Eastern Conference Finals, a feat that was hoped would wash the bad taste out of the city's mouth after they managed only 2 goals in a sweep to the Boston Bruins the year before. The team fired Ray Shero and (eventually) Dan Bylsma, and the search for their replacements painted the picture of a franchise in disarray. During the search for their next GM, the Pens were reportedly turned down by agent Pat Brisson and broadcaster Pierre McGuire before settling for Jim Rutherford, who had a less than stellar track record during his time with the Hartford/Carolina franchise.

It was a move ridiculed by many, myself included, especially the talk of taking the skilled but top heavy Penguins and turning them into a tough and gritty team. Making matters worse, the search for Bylsma's replacement was another prolonged, embarrassing affair that resulted in the underwhelming hire of Mike Johnston, who had previously been coaching the Portland Winterhawks of the OHL. Though Pittsburgh would start the 2014-15 season strong, they'd begin to fade down the stretch. By the time spring came around, the Pens were limping to the finish line, clinching a postseason berth on the last day of the regular season before meekly bouncing out of the playoffs at the hands of the Rangers in 5 games. At that point, it appeared that the worst fears were being realized of what a Rutherford run team would look like.

However, something changed in a major way starting with the 2015 offseason. Whether Jason Botterill and Bill Guerin were given more control over personnel matters, Jim Rutherford was able to entirely switch gears in his old age, a combination of the two, or something else entirely, the front office began to function in a radically different manner. The Phil Kessel trade netted a supremely talented player for a bargain price, but it also saw the team dump Nick Spaling's bloated salary in the process - the same Nick Spaling the team was eager to acquire and extend in the hasty draft day trade that saw Patric Hornqvist and James Neal swap sweaters the year before. After paying lip service to analytics and nothing more, the team hired War on Ice co-creator Sam Ventura as an analytics consultant. The front office moved on from another bad contract they handed out the year before, this time possession anchor Brandon Sutter, and added Nick Bonino as part of the return.

But perhaps the most significant move of the offseason was one that would go largely unnoticed until later in the year. Mike Sullivan, a former head coach for the Boston Bruins and long time assistant to John Tortorella, was hired to take over as the head coach in Wilkes-Barre. Because as much as the front office was building a new era team, it was still employing a decidedly old-school coach who would snuff the life out of his players. Mike Johnston might have fit the 2014-15 mantra for toughness and grittiness, but he was clueless on how to adapt to the evolving roster in front of him. The skilled team built for attacking the opponent's zone was asked to put too much emphasis on their own zone. A team lacking in prototypical "defensive defenseman" types asked its blueliners to try playing those roles anyways. It resulted in a team that was above average in keeping the puck out of their net and among the worst in putting it in the other team's. They were lifeless, defeated, and looked destined for early tee times before Johnston was fired and Sullivan was promoted.

And if it seemed that the transactions over the 2015-16 season were golden for Pittsburgh, it's because Mike Sullivan had the Midas touch. He removed the shackles Johnston placed on his players, and they immediately became one of the best possession teams in the league. Rob Scuderi had quickly become an AHL caliber player after returning to Pittsburgh during the 2013 offseason. The Pens were finally able to find a willing trade partner, swapping Scuderi for Trevor Daley, who had struggled during his limited time in Chicago - Sullivan helped him look better than he had previously in his career. David Perron, acquired under Rutherford the season before, was swapped for Carl Hagelin, who had struggled during his limited time in Anaheim - Sullivan helped him become a more dangerous player and prolific scorer than he ever was during his first four seasons in the league. Justin Schultz had struggled, sometimes badly, during his time in Edmonton - Sullivan helped him find his proper role and allowed his talents to shine while limiting his liabilities. Sullivan even was able to help Ben Lovejoy become a productive player in the playoffs for Pittsburgh, finally helping the veteran blueliner display the type of game the Rutherford front office was looking for the previous season.

As poorly as things went for the current front office in year 1, they couldn't have possibly rebounded any better in year 2. The Pittsburgh Penguin roster built on skill and speed began to hit its stride under Sullivan and didn't look back. They were too much for the league to handle down the stretch, winning 15 of their final 17 regular season games, and they proved to be too much for their opponents to handle in winning the Stanley Cup. To add the cherry on top, Jim Rutherford took home the General Manager of the Year Award as voted on by his peers, becoming the 2nd Penguins' GM to win the award in its 7 year history after Ray Shero won in 2013. And as poorly as the team appeared to be trending after Shero's departure, there's no question now that Jim Rutherford is getting the last laugh when the dust has settled, and a team that was predicted to be on the decline now can see a bright future ahead of them once again.
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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Jim Rutherford Wins GM of the Year

7:45:00 PM 1
At tonight's NHL Awards in Las Vegas Jim Rutherford beat out Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill and Washington Capitals GM Brian MacLellan.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Summer of Stupid by @Nick422

6:44:00 PM 0
The season ended just over a week ago and already the ridiculous is coming in waves.  A look at Twitter (perhaps that's the problem) confirms what we already know: This summer is going to be stupid.

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Official 2016-2017 Penguins Schedule by @Medina_Marie17

2:07:00 PM 0

The Penguins have announced their official 2016-2017 Regular Season Schedule (see below). The schedule includes many interesting match-ups including a rematch of the Stanley Cup Final on Oct. 20th as well as the opportunity to see new hot-shot, Connor McDavid finally square off against the original kid, our Sidney Crosby.

The season will also feature the outdoor game at Heinz Field against the Flyers on Feb. 25th. as part of the Coors Light Stadium Series.

Other games and area's of note:

  • The Penguins will have 15 sets of back-to-back games. The first set of back-to-backs begin Oct. 17-18th at home against the Colorado Avalanche and then they travel to face the Montreal Canadians.
  • The season will start a week later than usual along with a "bye-week" (more below) which means there is a chance there could be hockey in July. Let that sink in for second.....
  • As was announced on June 20th, the Penguins will raise the Stanley Cup banner in their home opener on Oct. 13th against the Washington Capitals
  • Toronto will come to town on Nov. 12th (I expect a large and loud showing from fans as the Penguins remind Toronto that Phil Kessel is a Stanley Cup Champion). This is also where we could get our first look at Auston Matthews, who is assumed to be Toronto's draft pick (#1 overall).
  • Mon. Dec. 12th will see the Penguins host the Coyotes and also marks one year from the firing of former head coach, Mike Johnson.
  • Metropolitan Division teams that the Penguins will play five times are the New Jersey Devils  and the New York Rangers (place your bets as to how many times Hank will toss the net).
  • A "Bye-Week" (yes, like in American football) will be implemented this year and will run from Jan. 1-7, 2017.
  • The Penguins will end the season the same way they ended the last; on the road. It begins in New Jersey against the Devils and concludes with, you guessed it, back-to-back games at Toronto. The Penguins will play the New York Rangers to end the regular season.

It's a short off-season and even shorter still when you factor in the World Cup tournament for some players. Who knows what the roster will even look like come Game 1 as the draft takes place and free agency fires up beginning July 1st. It's all hands on deck and all blades on the ice as the Pittsburgh Penguins hope for a repeat Cup Championship this time in 2017.

Full 2016-2017 Pittsburgh Penguins Schedule:

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Radio: PI 6/20/16 with Rob Rossi

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With the dust settled on the Penguins Stanley Cup, Mike Asti and Pittsburgh media extraordinaire Rob Rossi join forces. You know him from Trib Total Media, WPXI, and CBS Radio's 93.7 The Fan. You may hate him. You may love him. Either way, you react to him.

Asti and Rossi talk, heel to heel, on everything post Stanley Cup: Crosby and Malkin's legacy, the Conn Smythe vote, and the asinine roller coaster ride that led the Pens to claim the 4th championship in franchise history. Also, the Pirates are now front and center in Pittsburgh. What will be the life of the Buccos the rest of the summer?

Radio gold on the PensInitiative and Pittsburgh Sports Initiative airwaves and the Radio: PI Podcast Network.

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Monday, June 20, 2016

Penguins to host Capitals in Home Opener by @Medina_Marie17

1:06:00 PM 0
Today has been a busy one in Hockey Land. Teams have now begun to announce their preseason schedules as well as who they will face in home openers. The Penguins even made a roster move, inking a one year,  2-way deal with Kevin Porter. But that move was quickly over shadowed.

One after another, team announcements were made as to who would face who in their first home game of 2016-2017. Penguin fans (myself included) began to "pace" back and forth waiting for the official word.

All eyes seemed to be on the Penguins.
The word came at 12:30 PM EST.

What a nice kick in the chops for, seemingly, the best team in the NHL for most of this past season. They didn't win the President's Trophy for nothing after all. This, however, is a team that was out-played and eliminated from the playoffs (again) and will now have to watch the Championship banner raising for one of its biggest rivals. A rival that now has 2 Stanley Cups since the Ovechkin vs. Crosby storyline began. The Washington Capitals have no Stanley Cup wins since those days began (which they were reminded of on their home turf by a venomous and verbally savage mob during the playoffs).

This could very well turn into a heavy and overly physical game. The Capitals are going to want revenge and even more so after having another Cup taken from them (fair and square mind you, but still taken by the better team) and then forced to watch the banner being raised.

The Capitals are known for being a team that has tried to out-muscle opponents in the past. But, as they learned this past post season, you can't use muscle if you can't catch the target. They were no match for the speed of the Penguins. It will be interesting to see how the Capitals playing style changes from one season to another, or if it will even change at all.

More information regarding the home opener, festivities, as well as the entire regular season will be forthcoming from the organization. I guess the only question now is...when will tickets go one sale?
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Friday, June 17, 2016

The Season is Over...Now What? by Medina_Marie17

4:00:00 PM 0

Hockey...is....over. Yes, those three dreaded words all fans fear. The Cup has been raised. The celebrations continue. The rumors of drafts and trades and who may end up where are beginning to circulate. Ahhh, mid-June. Don't you love it? Since mid-September (because you can't be a true fan if you don't watch pre-season), thousands of us dedicated fanatics have engrossed ourselves in everything hockey.

Fans: "Hockey, hockey, hockey, hockey!"
Other people: "What about football?"
Fans: "DID I STUTTER?!?!?!"

But for now, that is over. Time to return to everyday life and pass the time until the next season begins. For some, that "time passage" began early. For the fortunate fans whose teams stayed alive and made it to the Stanley Cup Final, the wait for the first drop of the puck starts now.

We are all in the same boat. Waiting....waiting.....staring at the clock and calendar....waiting. In the hopes that you good folks do not go utterly insane between now and the start of the 2016-2017 season, I have kindly compiled a list of things you could do to make this period of "back to reality" more enjoyable.

There are, of course, many more than these few suggestions, and feel free to comment underneath the article with your own ideas so that others may possibly use them as a way to pull themselves out of the doldrums this summer.

What to do now that hockey season is over
  • Hockey re-watch or movie nights- Pick a certain night of the week and watch your favorite hockey movies or re-watch the most exciting games from the past season again.
  • Physical activity - Get up off the couch and join a summer roller or deck hockey league.
  • Take a vacation - Relieve the stress of the playoffs and Stanley Cup Final by going to a nice, relaxing beach and letting the sounds of the waves melt all your cares away.
  • Take a road trip - There are so many great places to visit. You could even go to the Hockey Hall of Fame  (as long as you have a valid passport that is).
  • Visit the Penguins - And by that I mean the ones at your local zoo or at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh. Watch them splash and play and gain some knowledge during the educational demonstrations or feeding times.
  • Stop procrastinating - Maybe it's time to catch up on those projects or work you put off for the past few weeks?
  • Attend a Fan Fest - Many teams offer their fans the opportunity to get up close and personal. This year, to celebrate the Penguins 50th Anniversary, the organization is (finally) having a fan fest in August. Keep an eye out for more information on that
  • Watch the Olympics - You know, that large sporting event held every four years (in the summer or winter) in different cities? The event NBC plugged every other commercial until fans could quote every line verbatim? Yeah, that. You could watch that.
    via GIPHY
  • Tourney time - Can't wait till October? Watch your favorite NHL stars represent their countries and regions in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. Are you Team Canada? Team North America? Team Sweden? Who cares, it's hockey!
  • Literacy is important - Why not pick up a good book? Or any book? Seriously, after all the mind-numbing stress, a little word power won't hurt. I promise.
  • Hey other sports! - While the NHL is away, the NFL trains. Head over to Latrobe (or wherever your team of choice holds training camp) for open practices and meet some of the men of the gridiron. Or take in a baseball game or two.
  • Who am I? - Take the free time to maybe sort out things in your life. Who are you? What is your purpose? Why do you put yourself through torture every spring?
  • Off to Wally World! - Get a group of friends and spend a day riding coasters, playing games and eating your weight in fried deliciousness at a theme/amusement park.
  • Let me tell you about my best friend - Before you venture into the previous noted bullet point, you may want to rebuild those broken friendships that happen from time to time during a heated playoff run. Say "I'm sorry" to those you have hurt with your words when you called Jonathan Toews the "most over-rated player in the NHL." Apologize sincerely for kicking your buddy out into the snow when he suggested they trade Sidney Crosby. Then maybe you can be one, big dysfunctional friend-family again. via GIPHY
  • We are family - You have spent weeks in your Hockey Den. Come back to the land of the living. Meet your family again. They have missed you. Please come up from the basement.
  • Off the grid - Reconnect with yourself and nature. Take a camping trip. No cell phone, no computer. Completely off the grid. Remind yourself of the things that really matter.
  • 5..4..3..2...1 - If you MUST, you could always make a fun countdown app or calendar to count down the days 'til the season starts. But really, why torture yourself like that?
  • Look what I can do now - You have all summer, why not try and learn a new skill? Do something you have always wanted to try. Cooking or art class? Photography? Maybe even challenge yourself and overcome a fear (like going skydiving if you are afraid of heights). Build yourself up as a person and learn something new...besides how to cuss out a ref in the four major hockey languages.

  • Chop Chop Chop - The playoffs are over! For the love of God, SHAVE or trim up those scraggly beards! Please, I am begging! Having a beard is fine, but take care of it. Make it look nice. Otherwise, get rid of it.

    Again, these are just a few suggestions on how to pass the time this off-season. You also have training camp and all sorts of other hockey-related events to come as well. What are some of your off-season plans? Me...I have not figured that out yet either but I am hoping a beach is involved at some point.

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A Small Market With a Big Heart by @SpinMeWrite

12:42:00 PM 0
Captain Sidney Crosby

Pittsburgh sure knows how to throw a party, doesn’t she? This was my first championship parade and it was so organized, you'd think these parades happen every weekend.

More than 400,000 people attended Wednesday’s Stanley Cup parade to celebrate the Penguins’ fourth Cup. The parade didn’t start until 11:30 but some folks started claiming spots the night the before. My plan was to get down there around 7, but I underestimated how much I hate mornings and how long the line was at my favorite Dunkin Donuts.

It takes me about an hour to get to Pittsburgh from Youngstown and I didn’t get on the road until close to 8. (I really, really hate mornings.) I was a little nervous about getting into the city so late. I prepared myself to sit in traffic for awhile, but there was only a little bit of congestion on I-79. I had no problem finding cheap parking near the Alleghany station and all the only T passengers were eager, happy Pens fans.

Stepping out of the Gateway station into the city felt like walking into Candyland. That's the only way I can think to describe it. The sun was shining, and the excitement and anticipation was palpable. 

I followed the flock down Stanwix toward the right side of the stage where I knew Medina was. But by 9, there was no getting through. Everyone had the same idea - get as close to the stage as possible. I tried to cut down Market to approach the corner of Stanwix and Allies from that direction, but people were packed in even tighter on that corner. That area was feisty. Those that were already there were frustrated with the people who were trying to fight their way past them. Lines of people trying to get to the corner just had to turn around and fight their way back through. 

I gave up and headed the other direction on Allies looking for an open spot. The crowd was noticeably thinner on the other side, probably because there was no easy way to cut across. I followed a couple of other rebels through a hole in the fence and crossed the parade route. 

Finding a spot along the fence rail proved harder than I thought. The people that were already there were spread out with enough space between them to fit a person or two. I was riding solo. I'm just one person who wanted to get up front. Surely they'll let me in. 

No. Everyone was saving spots apparently. I do not condone spot saving. Especially not for an event this big. I don't have a lot of respect for a "saved" spot. I was there. Your buddies were not. You're telling me I have to honor your ridiculousness for someone who's going to show up two hours after I got there? Give me a break. I was standing behind this one guy who was sitting on the ground playing on a tablet with his belongings spread out. He was leaning against the fence and kept glancing up at me from behind his sunglasses like I was intruding on his personal, private space. At a parade. He stood up and the girl next to him whispered something to him while glancing over her shoulder at me. He opened up his body in an attempt to make himself bigger. Sigh. I'll just ask what the deal is. 

"Excuse me, are you saving this space for someone?"

He answered curtly without looking at me. "Yes-I-am-thank-you!"

Whatever dude. I am not going to spend the next three hours standing behind you. I found another spot behind some chair sitters. My plan of attack was when they stood up for the parade, I'd squeeze in next to them in front of their chairs. I stood there for two and a half hours casually boxing out anyone who may have had the same intentions. It worked out. The people to their left were reluctant to let me in, but they graciously gave me a bit of railing when I assured them I was just one person and I would write nice things about them. Thank you to guy-with-glasses-who-was-digging-Porter's-'stache and girl-with-red-hair in the Crosby jerseys. 

With the humidity and sun beating down, the temp felt like it was in the 90s. Under those circumstances, I would've never expected that people would be as amiable as they were. Everyone was polite, not really too rowdy until the parade started, and hitting beach balls in the air in the greatest game of "don't let it touch the ground!" I can proudly say I did not let it touch the ground. Don't underestimate how entertaining a $2 beach ball is to a large crowd. 

Once the parade started and we caught our first glimpse of the honor guard, the crowd turned on like a switch was flipped. All around me I heard people saying, "It's time, it's time!" The crowd was so loud and we cheered so passionately for everything that proceeded past, whether it be players or horses. We screamed for the players like they were our best friends. We were so giddy waiting to see which players or personnel were next. Kunitz and Bonino ran down the line slapping our hands. When I saw that Bones was wearing a GoPro, all I could think was, "Now Nick Bonino is going to have footage of my face for forever. 

Nick Bonino

One of my favorite moments of the day was when Fleury and Duper's truck was approaching. You knew who was in the truck before you could see them, because a wave of "Fleury! Fleury! Fleury!" chants moved with the truck down the road. That may have been Fleury's last day in a Penguins jersey. If he didn't know it before, he should know now just how much this city loves him. 

Pascal Dupuis and Marc-Andre Fleury

Once the parade was over, the crowd started pushing its way toward the stage. It was chaotic, but it felt like organized chaos. No one was pushy. Everyone was still in good spirits. I could tell there was some day drinkers, but no one was acting like a fool. Everyone was polite and allowing others to get by as we shuffled along. When I was leaving, I got trapped in front of the stages between the fences for a little bit. Packed in as tight as we were, people were still friendly. And it seemed like everyone remembered to put deodorant on that day. 

I wasn't able to get too close to the stage. I had to stand on my toes to see the screen. Someone in the area fainted but was attended to quickly. As I looked around at the people sitting on roofs, hanging out of parking decks and office windows, I noticed everyone was attentive during the speeches. No one was really having side conversations. There were thousands of people crammed into several city blocks, drenched in sweat, quickly getting dehydrated just so that we could be there for that historic day of celebration. 

There's a lot of bad stuff happening in the world. As hokey as it sounds, it was comforting to be with my fellow fans on Wednesday. There was so much good that day. I'm sure somewhere in the crowd there were fights or drunken shenanigans, but most of the reports say that everyone was well-behaved. We were all there for one reason - to celebrate our Pens and the city of Pittsburgh. My hat's off to the city and Mayor Peduto and anyone who had even a small hand in planning the day. 

The symbiotic relationship between the players and the fans and the organizations makes this one of the most special sports towns. It's unlike anything I've ever seen. This small market town has a wide reach and a big heart. I'm so proud to be from this region and a part of this fan base. Let's do this again soon!

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

So ... What's Next? A Brief Look At The Cap @evil_shero

3:29:00 PM 0

We did it. We really did it! The 2015-16 Penguins triumphed and secured the hardest trophy in professional sports after a Disney-like fall and rise. I can't stop watching the final seconds melt away, over and over again. I can't stop watching the player's whom I have cheered for, and the team I've loved a majority of my life earn the ultimate prize. In a few short weeks the confetti on 5th ave will only live on in dark crusty corners of parking garages as hockey's off season begins.

The salary cap for next season has been rumored to be anywhere from 71m-74 depending on the NHLPA's choice to vote to invoke a "growth factor clause" (which they have traditionally have done every year). The Penguin's are in great shape with the core group being signed long term and the ingenious move to sign the young blood Kuhnhackl, Rust, and Wilson to pocket-friendly deals before the Flyers sign them all to 7 million dollar deals. The Penguins, for the most part, will have the same championship squad on the ice next season.

However, there are some players with a summer of paperwork and agent phone calls ahead of them.

Matt Cullen (UFA)

It;s widely believed that Cullen is considering retiring and as of this writing he hasn't. After being being jobless until August, there haven't been enough pretty superlatives to describe Cullen's contribution to the team. Being called Dad and another coach on the ice there is no denying that Cullen's value to the Pens was immeasurable. If Cullen does not decide to retire I can maybe see him testing free agency and then peacefully sliding into a coaching role. Much like Guerin, Recchi, Roberts, and Gonchar people who play in Pittsburgh tend to fall in love with the city and stay in some capacity.

Gone (800,000)

Beau Bennett (RFA)

Sigh ... I feel that this was the last year for Bennett in a Penguins sweater. Being an RFA again this summer mean that the Pens do control their destiny with the fragile winger. Last year he was signed to a one-year deal in what I thought was a last chance for Beau that he could glue together a meaningful stretch of games. Only playing an equivalent of 1.5 seasons in 4 years, it's time to cut ties with "Glass Beau".  

Gone (800,000)

Kevin Porter (UFA)

Kevin Porter was a depth guy signed last year who floated along with the 4th unassumingly. His season was ended with an ankle injury during a bout with the Rangers. Kevin Porter was simply a place holder for injuries and he did his job competently. As an NHL journeyman, I would expect him to look for a team that he has a chance at earning some minutes on. 

Gone (575,000)

Tom Sestito (UFA)

Sestito is one of the last gladiators of an old NHL divination that there's always room for an eye-for-an eye. Sestito wasn't incompetent with the puck during the 3-5 minutes he was allowed to have it but there just isn't an opportunity for him within the Pens organization when he will be competing with Sundqvist, Simon, and Sprong for ice time,

Gone (575,000)

Kael Mouillierat (UFA)

Another depth guy who was called up for a cup of coffee for the Penguins. He had a descent season with the farm squad putting in 45 points on the season but really nothing to be excited about. As with Kevin Porter he may sign for another year for close to league minimum or test free agency so he can play NHL minutes.

Gone (575,000)

Justin Schultz (RFA)

Justin Schultz undoubtedly found his game within the Penguins organization. Playing exemplary hockey in the post-season Schultz has gone from "spare-part" to "valuable commodity" quickly. Luckily, the Penguins control their destiny to some degree with Schultz with him being an RFA. I feel that we we get a fair offer with a slight pay raise. He would undoubtedly get 5-6 million from some foolish team on the UFA market with his Stanley Cup pedigree and his new-found skill. I feel the Penguins will get a short term deal (maybe even a 1 year) with a UFA option once expired. Schultz is young, skilled, and thrives in the up-tempo system that now all 29 NHL teams will try an emulate. I would think low-risk deal with a slight pay raise is fair for both parties.

Stay ~ (2,500,000 -3,000,000) cap hit

Ben Lovejoy (UFA)

In a trade even lauded as one that Rutherford  "wouldn't make again"  Ben Lovejoy was a steady presence in front of Murray helping the team claim the Cup. Sadly, I see Lovejoy testing the market this summer. With a Stanley Cup on your resume teams seem to overlook faults and pay for the pedigree instead. The Pens are set up for next season really well with alot of talent looking to return and a young Derrick Pouliot groomed for prime minutes. Some one will offer the Rev more money and term that he can reasonably refuse and we just have to thank him for his contribution. 

Gone (1,100,000)

Jeff Zatkoff (UFA)

One of the best stories in the Penguins Stanley Cup run was Zatkoff stealing Game 1 from the Rangers as he played the game of his life. The writing has never been more clear on the wall for Zatkoff's future as Murray took the #1 position on the team even possibly pushing MAF down to #2. Backup goalies aren't hard to find and even would have to compete with Jarry for the WBS job, I would have to imagine Zats moves on to greener pastures. 

Gone (600,000)

With these moves and anticipating little to no cap growth the Penguins will be close to the ceiling as the usually are. It can be argued that the free agency period won't decimate the Penguins ranks and all the impact players are signed to reasonable contracts for at least another year. 

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What Was Supposed To Happen (But Didn't) by @_MAF29

1:00:00 PM 0

They did it! The 2015-16 Stanley Cup Champions are your Pittsburgh Penguins.

Ever since 2009, the Penguins failed to make the finals. Along the way, they established many tropes that became synonymous with the Penguins, and those tropes became established narratives. This year, however, none of them came to fruition. What were they? Let's take a look:

Get Eliminated By The New York Rangers 

Over the past two years, this has been all too familiar. The New York Rangers would usually not only best the Penguins in the regular season, but get them in the playoffs as well. They eliminated the Penguins in 7 games in the 2013-14 season, and subsequently eliminated them in 5 games in the 2014-15 season. As we ended the 2015-16 regular season, both the New York Islanders and the New York Rangers were intentionally making an attempt to lose games so they could face the Florida Panthers in round one, and not the red hot Penguins. Eventually, it came down to a third straight year of playoff contention between the Penguins and the Rangers. If recent history meant anything, the Rangers would somehow come out on top. Well, Barry Melrose ended up being wrong (which wasn't the first time he was this year, and it certainly wouldn't have been the last) as the Penguins stormed past the Rangers in 5 games, finally exacting revenge on their Metropolitan rivals after two years of playoff disappointment.

No Secondary Scoring

If you had to define secondary scoring, it would likely be something along the lines of production from your 3rd and 4th lines, and maybe some help from the defense. In the past years, the Penguins had nobody who could chip in from those lines, and would usually have to rely on the Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin lines for scoring. Not this time! This year, the third line (Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel (The "HBK Line")) combined for 20 goals and 52 points through these playoffs! The fourth line (Tom Kuhnhackl, Matt Cullen and Eric Fehr) combined for 9 goals and 15 points. Usually the fourth line was littered with 'goons' and 'enforcers' like Tanner Glass, Maxim Lapierre, Zach Sill (et cetera) but this year, it was drenched with skill and oozed with speed. Sure the Penguins were usually outhit, but that usually means the Penguins had the puck more.

Sidney Crosby Disappears

To follow the previous narrative, something that was usually said in past playoff years was the great Sidney Crosby would disappear come playoff time, and would not contribute (on the scoresheet) to any hope of the Penguins hoping to dance with Lord Stanley. Well, that was anything but the case this year. This playoff year, Sidney Crosby scored 6 goals and 13 assists for 19 points. But that's not even the best part. Through the playoffs, Sid had a CF60 of 67.4 in 5v5 situations! That is an insane average to sustain, especially through playoff teams. It goes to show how much of a monster Sid was on the puck, and how he can control a play if he wants to. There was no doubt he was deserving of the Conn Smythe trophy, and people who argued he was not deserving are likely stuck on the +/- stat.

Sidney Crosby Loses His Temper

Defense Falters

The defense was spectacular all playoff long. Not only did they do their jobs of simply helping their goalie and getting the puck to their forwards, they did that and more! From the collective of Kris Letang, Ian Cole, Brian Dumoulin, Ben Lovejoy, Justin Schultz, Olli Maatta, Trevor Daley and Derrick Pouliot, 9 goals were scored and 40 points were recorded through the playoffs. Incredible! Kris Letang was an absolute workhorse, but when isn't he? Brian Dumoulin showed promise last year and came through this year (including the first goal in game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final), and is an extremely underrated piece of this team. Trevor Daley ate up minutes during a Kris Letang suspension and helped the Penguins win in that very game. Olli Maatta faltered at first (we can all suspect he's hurt in some way), but after he came back from being benched he passed with flying colors, coming back in ways you'd not expect. Justin Schultz, Ian Cole and Derrick Pouliot all played on the third line of defense (Pouliot for just 2 games), but they were reliable when needed. The biggest surprise is no doubt, one Ben "The Reverend" Lovejoy. During these playoffs, Lovejoy had a CF% of 48.55. That isn't good, but for the reputation Lovejoy's play has gathered through this year, it certainly isn't bad! Through and through, the defense of the Penguins showed close to no weaknesses, and was littered with speed and skill. No goonery or 'enforcer' types this year. 

Other narratives written about these Penguins in past years were debunked, but these were the biggest. And what did that get the city of Pittsburgh? Lord Stanley's Cup. Enjoy it, Pens fans. 

Thanks for reading!

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Memories to Last a Lifetime - A Look Back at the Stanley Cup Final

10:00:00 AM 0
This was a magical season. That's not hyperbole. Everything about this season, this Stanley Cup Championship felt different than the others. If you're a fan or follower of the team, once the team started to turn the corner in December you could feel the energy shift. You could feel it in Consol, you could feel it in the city, you could feel it in your living room. 

A lot of fans will tell you that they knew months ago that the Pens were going to win the Cup this season. And that's not arrogance. Watching this team play and watching them transform from cast-offs to contenders under Mike Sullivan's guidance, it was clear that you were watching history being made. 

Now the Final is over, the Cup has come home again, and the parade has concluded. The Pens Initiative staff took some time to reflect back on the Stanley Cup Final and what this season has meant to us as fans. For some of us, this season was life changing. Especially our own Nick Case who proposed to his girlfriend in Pittsburgh before Game 2. (She said yes!) 

We're sincerely grateful to every one of our readers. It's been a pleasure to have you along for the ride this season and we have no plans to slow down during the summer. We always aim higher.

Paul Clemente (@evil_shero) - I’m going to turn in my “cool blogger” card and say that I was confident that this would be the result back in April. The Penguins just did too many things right, they were just too good, they were the team they needed to be to win. 

I let my son, Vinny (8), stay up to see the game. Every morning after a game, the first sentence he would mutter - with his eyes still closed - was “Dad? Did the Penguins win last night?” That was his very first thought starting the day for almost two months now. I can only hope he recounts this night as one of his fondest childhood memories.

He passed out during the 2nd period under the coffee table in a Penguins themed micro-fiber burrito. My fiancee and her son were sitting on the couch next to me and it was strangely silent in the living room. I was so focused on the clock accounting for every second spent. Her son proclaimed at the beginning of the series that he’s always been a lifetime Sharks fan and tried his best to cheer them on. Nothing bothered me, I was watching the pixelated white numbers dissolve to zero.

I can tell you, today, I can’t get enough pictures, videos, coverage, blogs, podcasts, interviews and anything else I can absorb about Sunday night’s win. It can be the last Cup in my lifetime, it could be the beginning of a new dynasty; I don’t really care. I am loving this moment in time in which I can celebrate my favorite thing on the planet.

I woke Vinny up with 30 seconds to go in the game. He wobbled around and forced his eyes open and watched the blurry colors dash across the screen. As the final moments burned new moments into NHL history, he watched silently. The Penguins celebrated as his young mind took it all in. He didn’t scream, or cheer, or dance. He just hugged me without a word. I held his tiny frame close to me knowing that this photograph in time will forever be a memento of his childhood. Hockey did this for us. The Penguins did this for us.

Will Hirsch (@williamahirsch) - I was watching Game 6 in my apartment. My roommate wasn’t home at the time so I was alone eating my cup of Sweetfrog frozen yogurt (cookies and cream frozen yogurt with chocolate chips, rainbow sprinkles and M&M’s mixed in). Honestly, my kind of night.

When the Pens won the Stanley Cup I immediately thought about all the highs and lows the fan base experienced this season. From everything going wrong to everything going right and the team barrelling towards winning the Stanley Cup. It just seemed like it was meant to be. It made for one heck of a story.

Being able to be a part of history and writing about the transformation of the Pens over the season has been really neat. It’s something I can’t ever recall seeing. It’s certainly something I’ll hold dear for the rest of my life. I’ve learned so much about life and the game of hockey from this season.

Stacey Miller (@SpinMeWrite) - This Final was a peculiar one for me. My boyfriend of three years is a die-hard Sharks fan. There's been a constant chirping in my ear about the Sharks. For the time being, he's in Boston and I'm in Ohio which was probably for the best. Before the series started we trash talked (not cutesy trash talk but some filthy, unprintable words) and ordered a bunch of Stanley Cup swag. As the series went on, we talked less and less about hockey and after the Final, I didn't hear from him until 15 hours later. He's still coming to terms with the loss. 

I was living in Georgia and working at a bookstore for the 2009 Cup. The only games I was able to watch on my little 17" TV were the Finals. I moved back to Ohio last year after spending two years in Flyers territory (blerg) and I'm so happy to be back in my hometown area where I was able to watch nearly every game this season. Because this season will be hard to top. 

I watched the game at home by myself, which is usually how I prefer it. I like to watch the game and don't want to be bothered by other people. I want to soak it all in. For that reason I detest Super Bowl parties. 

When it was all over, I sat in awe on a milk crate right in front of my TV like I was a little kid again. I didn't want to miss any part of the celebration. When Sid unexpectedly handed the Cup to Trevor Daley first, tears were streaming down my cheeks as I realized just how much he means to the Pens. (And then I cried some more when I found out why he picked Daley.) I was livid with the way NBC handled the channel switch to NBCSN because all I wanted to see was Phil Kessel hoist the Cup. I've since watched it on social media, but that's not the same as watching it live. 

This was a tough year personally and hockey was my escape. I connected and fell in love with this particular team. I'm thrilled I get to write about them. I just graduated with a writing degree, so writing about something I'm passionate about has meant the world to me. Non-fans poke fun at fans for taking it too seriously when it's "just a game." It's so much more than that. I've formed strong bonds and critical skills through sportsing. It's not just a game. It's life, man.
Jeff Furmanchin (@jfoo1654) - Almost three years ago, my fiancee Amanda and I had our first date. I had decided I would take her to a WBS game with me, because if she couldn't handle my love for all things hockey and especially the Pens, we might as well find out quickly. She was totally hooked from the drop of the puck, maybe even before. The next day she had a season ticket directly beside me.

Sunday night felt like the culmination of a three-year hockey lovefest. We are due to be married in October, and what an early present Lord Stanley delivered us. As we sat biting our nails and full of anxiety, I couldn't help but look at her nervously watching and clapping at Chris Kunitz’s goal-saving diving play and think just how unbelievably lucky I am to have her by my side. Her favorite player is Conor Sheary and she jokes often about how beautiful he is. Only I know she isn't joking, she really loves him and melts every damn time she sees him. But hey, that is just fine with me. Why? He’s a Pittsburgh Penguin! Let’s be honest, I love him too, just not for his looks.

We hugged it out and damn near cried (maybe a tear was shed) as Trevor Daley handed the cup to Duper. We sat quietly as the cup got passed around and luckily for NBC they cut back to the ice just as #43 lifted the cup, otherwise she would've given them hell. Anyway, when the Penguins were done celebrating on the ice and I laid down to go to sleep I simply felt blessed. Blessed to have a beautiful fiancee who shares my passion for the greatest sport on earth. Blessed for my new friends and hockey family at Pens Initiative, who have honestly made my dreams come true. And blessed to be a fan of such an outstanding franchise, one that gives us so much to be proud of, and one that gives us so much to be thankful for.

Medina Menozzi (@Medina_Marie17) - It is hard for me to put into words what this season has meant to me. Like the team, so many changes have gone on in my life. All I hoped for was a positive outcome at the end. Seeing how the Penguins were able to battle through the hardest of times this past season gave me hope that if I just keep checking, just keep digging and not give up, eventually I will get free for a better opportunity.

Who knew those opportunities would come at one of the hardest points of my life. Being brought on as a writer for Pens Initiative has been amazing. I am so thankful and blessed to be a part of something that is greater than myself. I am honored to be a small part of this Penguins season. My fellow writers, and now friends, have been a gift that I will continue to cherish. Being a part of PI is allowing me to build myself and my skills as a sports writer so that I can maybe one day have a shot at the big time. It takes one shot...and the entire game can change. That game being life.

Anyhow enough of the sappy stuff. Where was I when the final horn blew? I was with 15,000 Penguin faithful packed into Consol Energy Center, including some Twitter followers of mine who have become very good friends. It was like an actual game only there were no players on the ice. By the time the third period rolled in I was a mess of nerves. I could not sit still. I legit almost passed out when Letang and Hornqvist scored. All energy left my body and I felt my knees buckling under me. I had to grab onto my friend, Justin, for support or it would have been “Woman Down”. I am not ashamed to admit I cried. I cried like a fan girl in front of a boy band in the 90s. All the emotion from the past few months came pouring out.
I remember how I felt in 2009 and it is nothing compared to how I feel now. It is a little over 12 hours later and I am still riding a high...or maybe that is the lack of sleep. I also have no voice which doesn’t bother me one bit. I cannot wait to scream myself hoarse again at the parade.

Brian Keenan (@BrianK_PI) - I still don’t think reality has set in for me. Earlier in the series, when it began to become apparent that this team would win the Stanley Cup, I questioned how I would respond to that moment when the buzzer sounded and officially proclaimed Pittsburgh the champions. Would it be a jolt of adrenaline and exhilaration rushing through my veins, or would tears of happiness find their way from the corner of my eyes? It turns out that I’d be overcome by laughter, that the team that looked at one point to be easily the worst since the Cup win in 2009 turned out to be quite clearly the best.

But not only would the Penguins win their fourth Stanley Cup, but they’d be thoroughly dominant against a strong team many predicted would be enjoying this moment instead. And after living and dying through the first 40 minutes with every shot towards the Penguin net, and every pass that found a San Jose stick in a danger area, the dominance that limited the Sharks to just 2 shots on goal in the final period with their season on the line almost seemed foreboding of impending doom, as if it were the calm before the storm. But not this team, not this time, and not a chance they’d fail to finish the job. Maybe it didn’t follow the script for those who prognosticated a dynasty in the making, and maybe it didn’t go as planned for a city desperate to lift the Cup on home ice, but certainly it doesn’t get any better than this. The window shut on this team and they burst through the front door instead. Now and forever, they won’t just be known as resilient - they’ll be known as Stanley Cup Champions.

Nick Case (@Nick422) - At the start of the season I was burned out on hockey. I’d just finished working for a team that lost the ECHL championship and I was spent. Uninspired play by the Penguins and a lack of interest made me just… well… not care. I continued to watch and cover the team but was merely going through the motions.

Then it slowly began to change. Trades, firings, promotions. The team was fun again. They were fast, they were scoring. Crosby and Letang broke out in a big way and the team was firing on all cylinders. For the first time in a while I was looking forward to the playoffs.

Round by round went by, the train continued to grow steam. As I worked in different cities I’d find a place to watch each game. Wilmington, NC, Rome, GA, Greenville, SC -- I had to watch. In the past I’d just catch the highlights.

Game 7. Eastern Conference Finals. The stress and the anxiety were there but deep inside I knew they’d win. When they did I was dying to be a part of this magical ride somehow, some way.

On a whim I bought Game 2 tickets from a friend. My girlfriend found someone to cover her shift on the day of the game. We drove 13 hours on a Monday from Charleston, SC, to Pittsburgh for a Wednesday game. On Tuesday we were engaged at the top of the Duquesne Incline. On Wednesday we went and saw the Penguins win a Cup Final game in overtime. A week later we watched together as the Penguins lifted the Cup.

A season that started out with a severe lack of interest, one that made me question why I cared or why I was buying tickets to see them four hours away, ended with me driving 13 hours for the trip and experience of a lifetime. To say I was a part of it as I watched, with my new fiancee, as the Penguins won a Cup Final game in overtime… it’s something that will be hard to top and I will never forget. To know it ended with them lifting the Cup was the perfect exclamation point on the end of a strange, wonderful fairy tale of a season. One that I still can’t believe happened.
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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Crowns and Clowns: Stanley Cup Final by @Medina_Marie17

2:00:00 PM 0

They stared down impossible odds like David Vs. Goliath. Marching through the final legs of the regular season, the Penguins came into the Playoffs as the hottest team in the NHL and facing the toughest Playoff bracket.

The Boys in Black rallied against the Rangers, clobbered the Capitals (the heavy favourite for the Cup) and battled the Bolts in 7 games to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals. This series was basically all business. Not much tom- foolery to be had but there are a few tidbits worth mentioning.

So here it is cats and kittens, the Crowns and Clowns of the Stanley Cup Final.


High King- The Pittsburgh Penguins:
Kind of self-explanatory isn't it?

Prince- Brian Dumoulin:
Talk about making it count. The boy who couldn't buy a goal with solid gold bars all season long is the one who makes the biggest splash. After finally earning his well deserved 2nd goal (1st playoff goal), Brian Dumoulin scores first in Game 6 to open the flood gates for a game that would end with a Cup raised on high. He took a beating every game and it paid off greatly. Way to go, Dumo, you Sherman Tank. Nothing and no one was going to keep you down.

Take a look at his Power Play goal from Game 6 again right here:

Duke- Phil Kessel
We should be calling him Mr. Conn Smythe, but things don't always go the way we, the fans and media, hope. But, in the overall sense, things went exactly like Phil Kessel hoped. From being run out of town in Toronto to now being a Stanley Cup Champion, the one they call Red Panda is smiling from ear to ear. 10 goals, countless assists along with an interview with Pierre McGuire that will live on as long as the memory of this Cup run. From Zero to Hero....he is Phil the Thrill.

Honorable Knight- Patric Hornqvist:
An honourable mention goes to this tough-as-nails Swede. When you take a puck to the noggin to block a scoring chance, it gets you a seat at the table.


The Bozo- Haters:

I get it. We all have our favourite players. Our favourite teams. But give credit where it is due. Saying the Penguins don't deserve to win this Cup is absolute lunacy. Think about everything that the team has gone through from Game 1 in October to Game 6 of the Final in June...and you want to say that this group doesn't deserve this championship? Greatness will rise to the top while the lesser fall. It doesn't mean the other teams weren't worthy....it means the winning team was willing to fight for it more. But hate on, get #MadOnline and spew your drivel on Twitter. It makes the Penguins even more famous.

The Simpleton- Logan Coutoure:

Every center in the league cheats on a faceoff at one point or another, Logan. It's a common and accepted practice. Get over it. Better luck next year. Find full story here:
The Jester- Well......it's a tie:

I could not decide which one fit the mold better, so I am listing them both. First of all, Mr. Brent Burns. A man of your...character...should be sucking it up and playing like a man instead of whining about calls. Les jawing and more time concentrating on the game at hand may have changed the entire outlook for your team. Man up, beard boy. Now go shave.

The second goes to the Sharks Public Relations Department or whoever books their National Anthem Singers. I am pretty sure the Sharks wont be using celebrity singers anymore considering both times they did (Metallica and Train), they lost. The Penguins use the same person 95% of the time. The Penguins are champions. Be like the Penguins. #JeffJimersonForever

And that's the end, my subjects. But don't be so sad. There is plenty more coverage to come this off season. Many more things to discuss and talk about. There is even discussion of making Crowns and Clowns a recorded video recap (think of something along the lines of the Pens Trends kind of thing only much more opinionated).

Her Royal Highness, the Puck Princess Medina, hopes you have enjoyed these segments and beseeches you to please continue to follow all of her articles this summer. Be on the look out in October for the 1st instalment of Crowns and Clowns 2016-2017.

The Penguins are the Stanley Cup Champions...see you all at the parade!

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