Penguins Perspectives: This is the greatest show
Welcome to Penguins Perspectives, a weekly column by KDKA-TV Digital Producer Patrick Damp. Each Monday, Patrick will talk about the week that was, the week to come, what to watch for, and more.
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – We all know what's going on with the Penguins right now.
They're fighting for a playoff spot, the roster doesn't look that deep, they can't seem to find consistent goaltending, and a record playoff streak looks to be in real jeopardy.
So, this week, rather than once again point out everything that's going wrong, I want to do a little waxing poetic about the game I love so, so much.
As I have said in this column plenty of times, I may consider myself a bit of a hockey analyst but one thing I'm not going to do because of that, is renounce my fandom of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Someone I've tried to model myself after, ever-so-slightly because no one likes a thief, is Steve Dangle (Glynn) in Canada. To me, Dangle defines what it means to be an analyst that doesn't forget where they came from. I know he's a bit of a polarizing figure in hockey circles, but the guy can be critical of his favorite team while making sure you're fully aware he is a fan of that team.
Even pre-Dangle's rise in the hockey world, I always found it kind of trivial that sports analysts had to pretend they were completely unbiased. Sure, there are people who loved the idea of being a sports journalist, and simply writing about sports was the end goal and to them, I tip my cap.
That doesn't mean I want to swing too far in the other direction and be an outright cheerleader. I think those who read this column know while I am a fan of the Penguins, I have no problem calling them out when things are going well or voicing my displeasure with players or management.
However, to me, sports are the original and the greatest reality television show to ever exist. The stakes, the drama, the stories, and the moments all cannot be replicated. The best part of it all? It doesn't usually materially impact the real world, but in the couple of hours that it's happening? Nothing else matters whatsoever.
Which brings me to Saturday night against the Capitals.
My best friend's birthday was the day prior, my sister was in town, and so was my girlfriend's sister. We decided on a night out at a Penguins game at PPG Paints Arena, and wouldn't you know it, it was a rivalry game.
Penguins vs. Capitals, Crosby and Malkin vs. Ovechkin and Backstrom. Both teams fighting to get into the postseason and the Penguins having a chance to put another nail in their rivals' coffin, all on home ice.
My girlfriend isn't the biggest hockey fan, god bless her though she puts up with my ranting and raving about it, and neither is her sister. In fact, Saturday was her sister's first NHL game.
What a time to experience it, huh?
Those who know, know that hockey is significantly better in person than on TV. It's somehow a sport that is tailor-made for television yet still better when it happens right in front of you.
The speed, the skill, the brutality, the sounds and smells, all of it is an artful chaos of motion.
As I donned a home Jeff Carter jersey and walked to Section 234 of PPG Paints Arena with my friends and family in tow, I saw plenty of Penguins jerseys but there were certainly a lot of red and white jerseys sprinkled throughout the arena.
I looked over at my best friend and said, "This is going to be a damn fun game tonight."
Sure enough, as the Penguins and Capitals traded chances, the fans traded barbs throughout the upper bowl – dueling between "Let's go Pens" and "Let's go Caps" and while it felt like a bit of a powder keg, it was two fanbases that had seen it all since the 2004 lockout and have come to appreciate one another with begrudging respect.
The Penguins congratulated Crosby on another 30-goal season and the places cheered loudly.
Then Ryan Mill congratulated Alex Ovechkin for passing Gordie Howe on the all-time goal-scorers list and we cheered loudly again.
In the second period, we got to experience everything that's great about a live hockey game. The Penguins scored two goals, Josh Archibald and Ramus Sandin got into a fight, and Casey DeSmith made multiple, gigantic saves, leading to unprompted chants of "Case-y! Case-y! Case-y!"
As the game progressed, myself, my best friend, and my sister all continued to be the diehards that we are – talking to the game as if the players could hear our suggestions, jumping out of our seats for goals, booing the players we love to boo, and of course, putting our hands to our faces as the Penguins surrendered yet another multi-goal lead.
However, as I looked over, I saw two people who hadn't come from much of a hockey family gradually get into it and by the time Evgeni Malkin stole the puck from Anthony Mantha at center ice, charged in on Darcy Kuemper, beating him just under the blocker and give the Penguins a 4-3 lead with less than two minutes to go, going just as crazy as us old diehards were.
Even as I was smiling, screaming, and high-fiving those around me, my smile wasn't so much from Evgeni Malkin beating the modern-day Penguins' biggest rivals, it was knowing that the game gives you moments.
I also couldn't help but think of Moneyball – "How could you not be romantic about [hockey?]"
The game of hockey gives you moments, and it's what you do with those moments that make them last.
Evgeni Malkin made a Saturday night in March a moment that only sports can provide.
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