Friday, June 19, 2009

What It Takes to Win

What It Takes To Win

By Jen (Jan Snyder's daughter!)

Last year, the Pens and the Red Wings met in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time. And while the Pens had an amazing run through the post season and seemed like they were almost invincible, the Red Wings were too much for our young and inexperienced team (at least in the finals anyway) and we lost a heartbreaking Game 6 on Mellon Arena ice. As our team left the ice in defeat, the Red Wings hoisted the Cup in triumph. It was almost too much to take.

A few weeks later, my favorite band, Journey, released a new album. One of the songs on that album, “What It Takes To Win” really struck a chord with me. After the exhilarating playoff run and gut-wrenching loss, it was the perfect song - although I didn’t realize how perfect until this year’s playoffs.

Through the opening line to the end of the song, I could visualize the entire Pens’ 2007-2008 season. In my mind I could put an entire montage of moments together that would fit right along with the lyrics - especially moments from the Playoffs.

The first verse goes something like this:

Day has come,
you’re prepared,
electricity in the air.
Feel the calm,
feel the rush,
you want to leave victorious.
When you look in their eyes,
they want you gone,
they want to take the prize.

I could just imagine flashes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal or Max Talbot getting ready to take the opening face off in the elimination game of the series - flashing from them to the various Red Wing centers who would take the draw against them.

The second verse is a run of the clich├ęs that we all hear during these great sporting events...

Seal the deal,
get it done.
Earn the right to say you’ve won.
Work it out,
someone’s gonna have to pay the price.
Face to face,
stand your ground,
stay in the zone,
now don’t back down.
More than pride,
you defend,
fighting hard until the very end.

During this verse I think of Ryan Malone taking a puck in the face, the “Sacrifice” t-shirts the Pens wore proudly last year and “the shift” by Brooks Orpik - you know, the one where he checked the Wings players five times in about 20 seconds.

But the most prophetic verse is the chorus and I did not understand its full meaning until this playoff year...

When you learn to lose.

You know what it takes to win.
Wanna go the distance with a hunger that never ends.
When you want to prove, you’re the best there’s ever been.
They can knock you down, you’re on your feet again,
‘cause you know what it takes to win.

Last season, losing to Detroit in Game 6 for the Cup was devastating. But it taught the Pens and the fans what it takes to win. We were knocked down in Game 5 against the Flyers, down 3-0 in the second period. If the Pens lost, their season was over. But they got back up and rallied to beat the Flyers and moved on to the Capitals.
We were down in that series too. Coming back home for Game 3, the Caps were up 2-0 in the series but because we knew what it took to win, we were able to overcome that too and moved on to Carolina.

We kept the hunger going against the Canes and swept that series to face our foes in Detroit once again for the Cup. That series didn’t start too well either. Down 2-0 in the series, the Pens won Games 3 and 4, had a terrible and forgettable Game 5, then rallied in Game 6 to force Game 7. That’s when last year’s loss, turned into knowing how to win and the Pens were able to hang on to win the Cup and prove they are the best.

So for the conclusion of my montage, I see the last second effort of the puck fluttering along the goal line last year, but staying out. I see the Wings celebrating the win and the Pens hanging their heads. I see a shot of one of the Pens wearing this year’s playoff t-shirt that said, “Ya Hungry?” I see the last-second save on Lidstrom by a diving Fleury in Game 7, and the Pens celebrating with the Cup.

I see the 375,000 Pittsburgh fans lining the streets for the victory parade. Then as the song ends, I see a fade-out of Sid the Kid raising the Cup proudly above his head, proving the Pens are the best and that they learned what it takes to win.

cup and bobbleheads photo by Jen

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Stanley Cup Final: Game Seven, Pens vs. Wings


by Jan Snyder

We are the champions - my friends
And we'll keep on fighting - till the end -
We are the champions -
We are the champions
No time for losers
'Cause we are the champions - of the world –

Oh, what a journey and what a great ending! Although the first game seems like it was only a few weeks ago, now the season is over – after 87 games. We as fans couldn’t have asked for any more from our team. They did everything they had to do and their persistence brought Stanley back home to Pittsburgh where he belongs. He’s been gone a long time and welcoming him back to town will be so much fun.
Max Talbot 2, Detroit Redwings, 1. What a game Max had and to hear him talking after the game about his relationships with Fleury and Sid was amazing. I remember the last two times the Pens won the Cup how perfect it seemed to see Mario raise it above his head. I have to say I had the same feeling when I saw Sid do it last night.

How lucky are we to be fans who have seen Mario and Jagr and now Sid and Geno? Speaking of Geno, winning the MVP Award for the playoffs was the perfect ending for him. He meant so much to the team the whole year and his stellar play every night was something we shouldn’t take for granted.

Fleury? What an amazing guy. To be pulled out of a game and then come back and play two of the best games of his life – amazing. We have to mention the Coach too. Dan Bylsma’s youth, his enthusiasm and his steady hand guiding the players was such a big part of this victory.

All the defensemen have to be commended for the job they did all throughout the playoffs. They scored, they checked, they hit, -- they did it all and so well.
As I’ve said many times before, this is the ultimate team game and to win the Cup takes the ultimate team. These guys clearly played for each other.

Now only five short months after the Super Bowl Parade, we have another parade to look forward to – in much nicer weather.

Just a word about Marian Hossa – he made the wrong choice, but if he hadn’t left, we wouldn’t have had Guerin, Fedotenko, Kunitz or Satan. Poetic justice, right? The Pens fans at the Joe tonight were loud. I can’t believe the Detroit fans didn’t try to drown out the “Let’s Go, Pens” chant. Of course, I can’t believe the people in Detroit booed Sid getting hurt either – did they all live in Philadelphia in a prior life?

I enjoyed seeing Mario have that Cup over his head again and seeing Eddie Johnson do it again was special too.

Thanks to all of you who’ve read these playoff columns and thanks to Lisa Ovens for giving me a forum to write about our fantastic Pens.

I’m exhausted and running out of words to say! But we ARE the Champions – that says it all.

We are the champions - my friends
And we'll keep on fighting - till the end -
We are the champions -
We are the champions
No time for losers
'Cause we are the champions - of the world –

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Are You Ready???


by Jan Snyder

So here we are – Game Seven! I’m not a big fan of numbers, but this one really struck me when I heard it today.

Throughout the playoff season, so far there have been 86 games played. Meaning Game Seven Friday night in Detroit will be Game 87! What an omen that could be for Sid. If I lived in Pittsburgh, I think I would play that number on Friday.

Watching Sidney Crosby being interviewed after practice today, I could see the gleam in his eye. The excitement leading up to the game is palpable and evident on the player’s faces on both sides. Coach Bylsma is covering his emotions well but you know the butterflies in his stomach tomorrow will feel like birds. They are saying all the right things, but you know that they are thrilled beyond words to be in the situation they are in right now.

The entire 2008-09 NHL season comes down to this game. Remember when the Pens were so far down in the standings that we weren’t sure they would make the playoffs? Remember Coach Thierren, after he was dismissed, saying this team was too good not to make the playoffs? Remember the fun as they won and won and won and climbed their way back up the ladder? Remember the great series against the Flyers? The Caps? The Hurricanes? And now we are at the pinnacle.

Hopefully our two-headed monster will be roaring, Flower will be in full bloom, and Staal and Kennedy (Kennedy!) will continue to be the best third line ever. I love Mike Lange’s latest goal sayings for Crosby and Malkin and I sure hope he gets to use them in Game Seven. “Slap me silly, Sidney!” and “Make me a milkshake, Malkin! But I’ll settle for “He shoots and scores!” or “Scratch my back with a hacksaw.” Just so he gets to use a few and we get a few more goals than the Wings.

Tomorrow at lunch time, I’m heading to a local Pittsburgh establishment called Steel City Pizzaria here in Texas. It’s a full-fledged Pittsburgh sports bar and restaurant with Penguin, Steeler, Pirate, Pitt, Penn State, etc. decorations. The place is of course run by a family from Meadville, PA. Three other Pittsburghers who I work with are going too. We will have a root beer toast to the team and a mini pep rally. We’re taking our rally towels! Hope all of you will be doing something similar because tomorrow is going to be a long, long day – right up until the drop of the puck!

When I tore off my desk calendar page today, the little blurb read: In 1980, the Pittsburgh Penguins proudly pulled on black and gold uniforms after the Steelers won the Super Bowl and the Pirates won the World Series.
Another omen? The Steelers did win the Super Bowl this season after all.

What a terrific season it’s been. But after Game Seven, hockey is over until September. What will we do with ourselves throughout the summer? Hopefully, we can remember dancing with Lord Stanley.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Stanley Cup Final: Game Six, Wings vs. Pens

Stayin’ Alive – Bee Gees

by Jan Snyder

And were stayin alive, stayin alive.
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin alive, stayin alive.
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin alive

Coach “Disco Dan” can dance to this tune tonight after watching his fantastic team fight to stay alive and play for the Cup on Friday night!

Spurred on again by a rabid crowd, the Pens played their game and outplayed the Wings. Despite two power plays in the first period, the boys from the ‘burg couldn’t score and the period ended with no scoring on either side.

In the second, the fun began! Jordan Staal came down the ice with one goal in mind – scoring a goal! And score he did. After Osgood gave up a juicy rebound on Staal’s first shot, Jordan pounced on it and drove it home, with assists from Kennedy and Scuderi. The crowd roared its approval and the hometown team was up 1-0.

Soon after, Zetterberg came in on Fleury but the puck hit the post. Meanwhile at the other end, the Pens had two pop ups that missed the net but could have gone in with a little luck.

The third period was the most exciting – and most nerve wracking. Tyler Kennedy (Kennedy!) imitated Staal and scored his goal on his second try too sending the Mellon Arena faithful into a state of pandemonium! Talbot and Fedotenko produced the assists.

But the next goal came from the stick of Kris Draper and with a good bit of the third period left to play, it was now 2-1. Quickly the Pens took two penalties, one on Geno and one on Guerin, but Fleury was magnificent – with a little help from Scuderi who blocked a shot that would have surely gone into the yawning net. And again near the end of the game, Scuderi imitated a goaltender as he helped stop several pucks that could have gone in, but happily, didn’t!

What is there to say about Brooks Orpik? He played so well and seeing him get beaten for a breakaway near the end of the game was scary, but Fleury again worked his magic and made an acrobatic stop to keep the Pens ahead and avoid overtime.

The three stars of the game were Staal, Kennedy (Kennedy!) and Fleury, but there could have been others - Scuderi for sure or Orpik, maybe Talbot for his inspired play. This game was just another example of a team playing as one unit and getting the job done.

Stanley was in the house and he saw a great game before he travels back to Detroit for Game Seven. We all saw a great game and I only wish the team from Pittsburgh could take their faithful fans with them to the Motor City.

No big screen outside for the fans tonight – thanks, NBC, for just being plain mean to hockey fans. We’ll remember that.

What more could we ask for than Seventh Heaven to decide the winner of the 2009 Stanley Cup? We needed to stay alive and stay alive we did! I have no idea how I will make it until Friday night, but we’ll have to be patient since we don’t have a choice. Thanks again, NBC!

And thanks, Pens, for an exciting game and the opportunity to see Game Seven!

Stanley Cup Swag OFF: The Finals Edition

Pittsburgh Penguins vs The Detroit Red Wings

Red Wings lead the series 3-2

by Lisa Ovens

Battle of the Tiny Swag

I'm looking at this Red Wings Easter Egg Pin and I'm thinking how come Easter Hockey Swag isn't as big as St. Patrick Day's Hockey Swag? This is one of those tiny, little items that caught my eye while browsing hockey stuff. I found it at the Hockeytown Cafe a few year's ago and couldn't resist its power.

Just as the pin has the power, so do the Detroit Red Wings. After a 5-0 Game Five win, the Winged Wheel Warriors are preparing to end the season tonight in Pittsburgh. Having Pavel Datsyuk back in the line up is a shot in the arm for the Wings, and they are going to hope that the "Reunited and it feels so good" feeling carries over to Game Six. However, there are just a couple of little things to consider...

...the Pittsburgh Penguins are 8-2 on home ice this post season, and that, coupled with strong bounce back skills and an extra 8000 to 10,000 supporters oozing positive energy outside the Igloo, the boys have every chance to push this thrilling series to a seventh game. Game Five saw high scorin' Russian, Evgeni Malkin not scoring, and me thinks that anomaly is just that, an anomaly. Enter the pin..the Evgeni Malkin Drives the Zamboni pin is a fan favorite. (Rumor has it Mario Lemieux wears one, but he takes it off before Sidney gets home for dinner.)

And speaking of Sidney...

If ever there was a game for Captain Sidney Crosby to really, really step it up against last year's Conn Smythe winner, Henrik Zetterberg, today's game is it. It's time to score, Sidney. I think your landlord/ boss man would agree...

And speaking of Mario Lemieux...

How many times have we seen this shot during the Pens Playoff run? Is it just me, or do they look like short order cooks taking a break to watch a bit of a game on TV? Sorry, I just had to get one that out of my system...

Speaking of getting things out of my system...

I had to get some Crazy Bread last week, so I made the trek to Little Caesar's! I hadn't had the stuff in a couple of years. The doughy sticks haven't changed a bit.

Speaking of a couple of years....

It's been a couple of years since this guy on the right played. (I couldn't post a pic of Mario, and not Stevie Y) Steve Yzerman's sitting in Don Cherry's usual spot. Quick...imagine Steve wearing this suit jacket...

Yeah, Yzerman dressed in a Don Cherry suit is about as likely to happen as ooh, I don't know, Mario Lemieux being a short order cook.

And speaking of Don Cherry....he picked the Wings to Repeat as Stanley Cup Champions. Evgeni Malkin's parents beg to differ. I know I'm not ready for it to all end today...

Happy Game Six...everybody!!!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Stanley Cup Final: Game Five, Wings vs. Pens

Turn the Page – Metallica

by Jan Snyder

Now here I am, on the road again. There I am, up on the stage.
Here I go, playing star again.
There I go, turn the page.
Here I am, on the road again. There I am, up on the stage.
Ah here I go, playing star again.
There I go, there I go.

After a game like this, we need some heavy metal to pound in our ears so we can forget this night ever happened. We can dance to this song and do just what it says – turn the page. Get this whoopin’ out of our system and concentrate on Game Six back home.

Kunitz, Gonchar, Malkin, Crosby, Talbot, Dupuis, Adams – on another night this might be the list of goal scorers. But tonight these guys wore a path to the penalty box. Just as in Game Four when the Pens played a most outstanding second period, tonight it was the Wings turn. Before the second ended, it was 5-0 and frustration on the part of the Pens was at an all-time high.

What can we say that was positive about this game? Well, Garon didn’t give up any goals, no one on our team seemed to get hurt, and the guys started out just like the last game. After that, there isn’t much to say except - turn the page! The road has not been a kind place to the Pens during this series. But, home sweet home, that’s where everything is good.

The crowds inside Mellon Arena have been spectacular but those outside have been every bit as good and as loud. But now because of NBC, our terrific fans are shut out of watching the game on the big screen outside. Does that make you angry? Are you, like me, tired of network TV running our sports leagues and demanding when games are played? If so, click here and find out how you can make your voice heard and get our fans their fun back!

Not only do they have a blast outside the Arena, they collect money for the Mario Lemieux Foundation during each game. The fans have fun, are well-behaved, and add so much to the post-game experience as people head for the parking lots. If Versus can let us have the screen, why can’t NBC? Mr. Bettman, speak up for the hockey fans of Pittsburgh!

Okay, now we have two days to regroup and get ready for a raucous, rowdy rumble at the Arena on Tuesday. After that, we can turn the page again and get ready for Game Seven! Stanley will be in the house, but just to watch!

Let’s Go, Pens!!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Stanley Cup Final: Game Four Wings vs. Pens

Eye of the Tiger - Survivor

by Jan Snyder

It's the eye of the tiger, it's the cream of the fight
Risin' up to the challenge of our rival
And the last known survivor stalks his prey in the night
And he's watchin' us all in the eye of the tiger

The boys sure were dancin' to this tune tonight! There has been a lot of talk about eyes in this series already. Kris Letang said he can see how much Sid and Geno want to win just by the look in their eyes. Yes, that IS the eye of the tiger. Tonight they again rose up to the challenge of their rival and showed them who was boss.

The Arena was rockin' again as the crowd cheered lustily for the team and spurred them on to another exciting win. Big Ben put in an appearance as did Paul Coffey. I personally think Mario and Paul should have dropped the puck -- that would have reminded us all of the past glory days when those two were hoisting the Cup this time of year.

Geno got all the fun started tonight with a little tap in that got by Osgood and made it 1-0. As has been the way this series has gone, Detroit tied it before the end of the first period when Helm scored.

Then onto a fantastic second period! Things didn't start out so well when Stuart scored in the first minute, but after that, the eye of the tiger got stronger and stronger. Jordan Staal did the same -- he got stronger and stronger, pushed Rafalski out of his way, and slammed home a short-handed goal that was a thing of beauty.

Finally what we've all been waiting for happened when Geno dished a nice pass over to Sid who effectively planted it behind Osgood. In his rush to share the happiness with Sid, Letang bowled him over, but Sid didn't seem to mine. Now it was 3-2 Pens and the place was on fire. Towels waved, grown men screamed, and people generally went nuts.

Staal's line had a big night and to cap it off, there was a nice goal by Tyler Kennedy (Kennedy!) T.K., also known as the Little Tiger, had his own eye of the tiger going tonight. He's played well in this series and it was nice to see him rewarded.

When all was said and done, Sid, Geno and Staal each had a goal and an assist and Hossa was nowhere to be found -- at least on the scoreboard. I loved one of the signs at the Arena that read: Nossa, Hossa! And no sir it was. None of the high octane players for the Wings were able to get loose and score tonight as the Pens were defensive as well as offensive and conintued the big hits. Geno himself had five hits and at times seemed to be all over the ice. He really made a difference in this game.

So my work here is done. I have to head back to Texas and won't get to any more games this year. I'm leaving the rest of the wins in the hands of all of you Pittsburgh fans! Keep rockin' and bring home two more!

Thanks to a great Pens fan, Ashli, who is now living in Hawaii, for suggesting Eye of the Tiger. She is awarded the primary assist for this column.

I'll have my eye on the TV on Saturday night, just like the rest of you. I'll be hoping to see another win, a road win, in Game 5.

Let's Go, Pens!!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Stanley Cup Final: Game Three Wings vs. Pens

Let's Get Physical - Olivia Newton John

by Jan Snyder

A little dancing, a little exercise to work off that pent up energy from this great game! And physical was certainly what the Pens were tonight, dishing out hit after hit against the Wings.

What a treat to take in the game from Mellon Arena and soak up all the fun along the way. I think we've started a new tradition with Mario Lemieux dropping the ceremonial first puck. From the ovation he got, you would have thought he scored a goal! Let' s keep getting the Big Guy involved.

Evgeni Malkin's parents were seated just below us. We got to see first-hard the "rock star" treatment they get from fans after the games. Security finally came and helped them escape, but everyone was so nice, just taking photos and letting them know how much their son is loved.

We passed the great Jeff Jimerson, our anthem singer, after the game as he was also getting as much congratulations as the team.

A new wrinkle was a video made by another team -- the Pittsburgh Steelers! Several of the Steelers, including Hines Ward and James Harrison, are shown at their workout facility. They say that they can't hear the crowd. They start leading the crowd in a rowdy "Let's Go, Pens" chant. In another video, Coach Tomlin fires up the masses too, urging them to get behind the team. Coach Tomlin had a ringside seat right at the glass. Hines, Harrison and one or two other Steelers were in the house too.

Max Talbot scored two goals, bookending the game. His first put the Pens ahead in the first period and his second, an empty-netter, sealed the Wings fate on this night. In between, Letang and Gonchar were able to produce power play goals and the game was ours!

Apparently the Pens played for about 20 seconds with six men, a fact that wasn't noticed or called by the refs. And although we hit a couple of posts, so did the Wings, telling me that the hockey gods are evening things up a little.

But the overriding story of Game Three was the physical play of players like Cooke, Dupuis, and Orpik, among others. They gave out plenty of hits and the crowd loved it when Hossa especially was a recipient of one of the booming checks.

Being at the game and bringing home a win was great! The crowd screamed, chanted, waved their towels and did everything they could possibly do, especially in the last few minutes of the game, to help the team.

If they can keep up the hitting, play the same way they did tonight, and get ahead, Game Four should be just as much fun - so, boys, let's get physical all over again!

Let's Go, Pens!!