LCS Hockey: Born Again
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January 17, 2019
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Talbot TKOs Philly




Kid Crosby
photo by Matthieu Masquelet

Frank Pietrangelo flashing the leather to rob Peter Stastny. Mario Lemieux splitting the Minnesota defense to wreck Jon Casey. Jaromir Jagr dancing around the Chicago Blackhawks to whip a backhander behind Eddie Belfour.

Now another memorable moment can be added to the list.

Max Talbot head-butting Daniel Carcillo’s right hand.

Sure, Carcillo won the fight. But Talbot won the war.

With the Pens trailing 3-0 in front of a rabid Philly crowd, Talbot did what had to be done. He challenged Daniel Carcillo, he of the 22 fighting majors this season, to drop the mitts. And Carcillo, being no smarter than the average Philly fan, was all too eager to oblige, pounding Talbot to the ice with a series of right hands.

The Philly faithful ate it up. The victorious Carcillo skated to the penalty box and urged the dim-witted, unwashed masses to their feet, and they laughed and laughed and laughed, completely ignorant to the fact they’d been had.

If Carcillo just skated away and ignored Talbot’s invitation, the Flyers would no doubt be heading to Pittsburgh for a decisive Game Seven. The Pens were buried; they had dimes on their eyes. But Talbot wouldn’t let them die.

Inspired by their valiant fourth-line center, the Penguins stormed back for a 5-3 win that ranks among the most satisfying playoff victories in franchise history. And it’s all the sweeter since it hinged on a bone-headed, mouth-breathing stooge like Carcillo, the epitome of the Philly goon, winning a fight.

Irony is awesome.

Talbot’s sacrifice certainly wasn’t lost on Geno Malkin. The NHL’s leading scorer came out like a mission man on the very next shift, wheeling behind the Flyer net and powering his way in front for two cracks on goal. Ruslan Fedotenko jammed the loose biscuit under a sprawling Marty Biron to start the comeback. The goal came just 15 seconds after Carcillo’s apparent triumph.

Less than two minutes later, Mark Eaton whacked the puck out of midair to finish an odd-man break, and it was 3-2 faster than you could say, “Mark Eaton did what?!?”

Kid Crosby pulled the Birds even at 16:39 of the second. The play started innocently enough, with Bill Guerin skating wide on left wing and pushing a harmless backhander from the boards towards the cage. Kimmo Timonen somehow managed to butcher the puck, causing it to flip up in the air. Biron then whiffed with the glove, displaying the cat-like reflexes of a true No. 2 goaltender, and allowed Crosby to swat the puck home with that beloved straight blade of his. There was much rejoicing.

The rattled Flyers never recovered. It was comical watching the Orange and Black try and move the puck over the final 20 minutes. They showed all the composure of a bunch of back-biting weasels who have never won anything in their lives. So, yeah, it was pretty much what you’d expect.

Sergei Gonchar, who had been having a completely forgettable series, bagged the game-winner at 2:19 of the final frame, uncorking a laser rocket shot from the top of the right circle that devoured Biron.

Marc-Andre Fleury preserved the win with yet another miraculous pad save, this time kicking the left leg to stone Joffrey Lupul with 5:39 left on the clock. Has a goalie ever had more highlight-reel saves in one series? While Fleury was far from perfect, he stole Games Two and Four, and he turned in at least one head-shaker each night. That kid’s got the goods.

In a fitting end to the series, Crosby provided the coup de grace with a spectacular empty-net effort. Sid knocked aside a Jeff Carter pass at center and chased down the puck, putting his first shot off the side of the cage before gathering the biscuit with his glove, looping behind the net, and lighting the lamp on his second attempt.

The play exemplified the differences between the two teams. Crosby’s motor never stops. He busted his ass to steal the puck, and he never gave up on the play, even when he botched the initial shot.

Carter commits an egregious turnover and doesn’t seem to care. He just stands there and watches Crosby take off. Had Carter turned and skated right away, he would have been able to prevent Crosby from getting a second chance at the empty net. But Carter quit. That’s why the Penguins are the Penguins, and the Flyers are the Flyers.

See you next year, chumps.


IMPRESSIVE PERFORMANCES – PITTSBURGH


Geno Malkin
photo by Matthieu Masquelet

Max Talbot: Talbot is quickly becoming a legend in the city of Pittsburgh. First it was the wacky car commercial. Then he potted the tying goal in Game Five of the Finals last year. And now he can add “The Fight” to his resume.

For a while there, it looked like Mad Max was going to be the goat. Mike Richards picked his pocket to create Philly’s first goal. Afterwards, Talbot said he had to do something to make up for the mistake. Mission accomplished.

It doesn’t matter if you win or lose a fight. All that matters is that you fight. Talbot took one for the team, and it won’t soon be forgotten.

Sidney Crosby: Crosby had another signature performance. He was real solid in all three zones, and he dominated on faceoffs, winning 20 of his 33 draws (61%). And it’s always great watching Crosby stick it to the Flyer fans. Suck it, nerds.

Evgeni Malkin: From the Talbot fight on, Malkin was an absolute beast. That’s the kind of intensity he needs to bring each and every shift. He’s at his best when he plays with an edge, and he showed his killer instinct in Game Six.

Rob Scuderi: With 10 minutes left in regulation, Hal Gill tried to make a pass up the middle and handed it right to Richards in the high slot. The Philly captain had a clear lane to the net and teed up a big slapper, but Scuderi dove to the ice with a desperation poke-check to force Richards wide into the left circle where he eventually fumbled the puck. Mike Knuble followed up with a drive that Gill scrambled to block, and the Pens averted disaster. But without Scuderi bailing out his partner, things could have turned sour in a hurry.


IMPRESSIVE PERFORMANCES – PHILADELPHIA

Mike Richards: Lord help me, I love the Mike Richards. He’s everything a hockey player should be. He gave it all he had, even taking a skate in the chin during the third period without missing a shift. But he does play for the Flyers, so I guess he still kind of sucks.


SUMMARY
It was a swell series. Truth be told, the Flyers carried the play most of the way. Pittsburgh dominated Game One, but after that, Philly took charge. If not for Fleury, the Flyers win Games Two and Four, and it’s the Pens who would have been trying to rally from the 3-1 deficit.

That’s why Pittsburgh is going to be a tough out. Even when they’re outplayed, the Pens can still win because they’ve got Crosby, Malkin, and Fleury.

Guys like Darroll Powe, Claude Giroux, and Ryan Parent really stepped up for the Flyers. That bodes well for the future. Not as well as say living in Pittsburgh, but at least it’s something.

And it’s probably for the best that the Flyers got bounced in six. Scott Hartnell had to be back at the circus on Monday.


TORTORELLA SUSPENDED
I love hypocrisy almost as much as irony, so it’s always wonderful when the two intersect. Let me get this straight: John Tortorella benches Sean Avery for a lack of discipline and then gets suspended for throwing a water bottle at a fan? That’s rich.

Tortorella has become a sideshow. But putting aside his questionable coaching demeanor for a second, doesn’t his suspension merely send a message to fans that it’s a good thing to spill beer on opposing coaches? Dump a beer, pick a fight, and get the coach booted for next game.

And far be it from me to be Mr. Conspiracy Theory – although I’ll be happy to break down the NWO, Bilderbergs, and Bohemian Grove whenever you want – but it’s kind of convenient the league is stepping in to cripple Alexander Ovechkin’s opposition on the eve of Game Six. Could you imagine if it was Crosby and the Pens benefiting from this “suspension”? We’d never hear the end of it.

I picked the Blueshirts to beat the Caps in six, and I was looking like a genius until Tortorella went all oatmeal north of the eyebrows. Then again, maybe not having Torts behind the bench will be a blessing. And I’ve got the perfect solution. Make Avery the player-coach. Done and done.


SHARKS SURVIVE
Big character win for the Sharks in Game Five. They choked away a 2-0 third-period lead but prevailed in OT on a Patrick Marleau goal. Will this finally be the game that gets them over the hump?

Listen, every Stanley Cup champion gets tested. Adversity comes with the gig. This is San Jose's chance to prove all the critics wrong. And I picked the Sharks in seven, so I'll actually be rooting for them. But if they lose, it's no big thing. I've got a shoebox full of Joe Thornton jokes ready to roll.


LCS Hockey: Born Again
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