Penguins in the Playoffs - but how far will they go?

We all love the Penguins and what they have accomplished over the last three years is incredible. This young team will be known as the team that built the Consol Energy Center. Next year, every seat will be filled not only because the team itself is so exciting to watch, but because it is a brand spanking new facility, unfortunately - when they take the ice in October of 2010, I don't think they will be the Stanley Cup Champions and this is why....

Last year at the end of the season, the team was in an amazing run. Everyone knew that the team didn't want to play under Therrien and Bylsma stepped in and had a glorious ride. It helped also that New Jersey got knocked out by the Carolina Hurricanes, because I am not sure we could've gotten past both the Capitals and the Devils.

It looks like that that path may be playing out for this year. The Capitals are a strong team as are the Devils. I know anything can happen in the playoffs, but the Penguins right now just don't seem to be showing the cohesiveness that they were at this time in 2009.

You have Malkin hurt and Gonchar isn't healthy - there is only about a week and a half left of the regular season. You need those guys up and running to add a solid dimension of defense and offense.

Another thing is that Fleury hasn't looked that sharp since he has come back from the Olympics. He is still a stellar goaltender, but he is having a lot of ups and downs. You can't let a fluke goal by when you have a 2 goal lead in the playoffs - it will end up costing you.

Crosby is playing great - and I really hope he can beat Ovechkin out for the most goals in a season, but he will need some help from his fellow linemates and the team themselves.

I am not sure who we are going to get in the first round - it could be Montreal, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Boston, etc. the choices are all over the board. The Penguins can adjust to take on any of these teams and I think they will get out of the first round, but after that I am not so sure.

I am not sure why we have such a monkey on our back with New Jersey this year. To go 0-5 for the season series isn't going to help you mentally at all. If they do play them and can come out flying to at least get one game away - it would be great.

To ask this team to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals - three years in a row is a lot. It is of course what all of us Penguins fans want and believe they can get there, but in reality I don't think it will happen. There are a lot more odds against them this year than there were for the past two years - I just don't think it's their time.

But don't worry and don't fret because they will be back -- maybe not in 2011, but maybe 2012. I know Geno said he would do it as many times as he could and I believe that promise - Mellon Arena holds a lot of great memories from the past, the present, but not the future, those will belong to the Consol Energy Center.

Crosby = in or out on Thursday?

Given the recent incident by one Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals - Thursday's Pittsburgh Penguins game in Boston could have an ugly outcome. Not only will Matt Cooke of Pittsburgh have a target on his back, but I believe Sidney Crosby will as well. Only because it was a little over a week ago that Cooke took out the Bruins top scorer Marc Savard with an elbow to the head and received no punishment.

Granted - it was the league's decision not the teams - so has that made everyone in the NHL fair game? By the look of the hit that Ovechkin put on Brian Campbell of the Chicago Blackhawks it looks like that is the case.

Again - this is one of the reasons the NHL will never be considered an elite sport. It has become a sport that is dominated by violence instead of talent and that is a sad situation.

Cooke should have been punished for his hit on Savard - rather it was accidental or not. Savard was out cold and will be out for the rest of the season. Like Ovechkin, Cooke was a repeat offender - he had done the same thing earlier in the season (not as viciously mind you) and was suspended two games. There is no consistency or reasoning in the NHL, so now when the Penguins roll into the TD Garden they are going to have to have a shield around Crosby. Or should Bylsma let Sid sit this one out? He probably should, but he won't - number one, because Sid loves the game and number two, because he is and always will be a team player.

I am not saying that Sid can't take care of himself, but he had better grow a set of eyes in the back of his head. Zdano Chara of the Bruins - who towers over every player on the ice, could easily line him up along the boards and strike a blow for his fallen teammate.

I don't think the Bruins play like that - Philly yes, Washington yes, Boston - hopefully not.

After witnessing the hit that Ovechkin put on Campbell - I feel that he should have been suspended for the rest of the season because it was uncalled for - and a scoring champion and MVP shouldn't have to do that to win a game. The Capitals are already the number one seed - does Ovechkin think they can only win the Cup if he eliminates the competition one-by-one?

I know I am writing part of that as a Penguins fan, but I am also writing it as a hockey fan. So I would like to conclude with an open letter to the NHL - and hope that Mr. Bettman takes it to heart because until he does, we as fans - will always have to say a little extra prayer that the likes of Crosby and Malkin don't have to worry about getting their head taken off every time they take the ice.

Dear Commissioner Bettman and the NHL nation:

Please start cracking down harder on the hits that have been happening lately because until you do the players that end up being left to play may be the ones that can't entertain an audience at all.

I know the NHL has always been one sport where the fans feed off of fighting, extra hard checks into the boards and in the old days bench clearing brawls, but enough is enough.

Players need to know that they can't get away with certain hits (boarding, checks to the head, spearing, etc.). Maybe the NHL should start making the rinks bigger and follow the rules of the Olympics - mainly NO FIGHTING!

I love hockey and all it has to offer and I want to share the excitement and fun of the game with my children, but if it becomes Ultimate Fighting on ice I may have to stop spending my money on tickets.

If these hits continue maybe we should just go back to the old days of bench clearing brawls - because the players could just pick and choose who they want to go after.

Please become consistent and start punishing players that act like bad children because until you do - this sport will never be accepted in the mainstream.

Sincerelye,

A Concerned, Avid and Loyal NHL Fan

Kim R.

Cookie - why - why the elbow?

As all hockey fans know = fighting is and unfortunately always has been a part of the game. Dating back to the Patrick Division when the Devils and Penguins would muck and grind along the boards for the puck until the whistle blew or someone threw the first punch was a thing of glory, but now if the NHL wants hockey to be accepted and grow they need to start to take care of situations like the one that happened yesterday.

I really don't know why it happened or why Matt Cooke (Cookie as he is known around the Penguins locker room) sunk himself to this level. He made one of the worst comments that you can after the game in regards to this situation - claiming that a Bruins defensemen did it to him earlier in their zone. Sorry Cookie, that doesn't make it right.

I was at the game and when it happened nobody knew what exactly took place. The action had moved off to the left of Marc Savard as he lay motionless on the ice. Was he hit by a puck? Did he get hit with a stick? No penalites were called - so it couldn't have been one of our beloved Penguins, but alas it was - our own Matt Cooke.

To see Savard laying there, not moving, was one of the scariest things to witness. You could hear a pin drop in the usually loud, rockin' Mellon Arena. As the medics gathered around him - he moved his legs and then his arms and after they placed him on a gurney he gave a thumbs up to the crowd acknowledging their applause.

I don't blame the NHL, but it seems to be a sport where revenge can be dished out and served on a whim and that is not a good thing. Players talk about it in the NFL and MLB, but do they act on it? Sometimes, but when they do, they usually restrain themselves and let their talent do the talking.

Matt Cooke is a talented player and for him to do this for the second time this year is very upsetting. I would really hate to lose him for the playoffs, but in order for the NHL to be taken seriously - they need to start cracking down on hits like this. I think he may only end up being suspended 5-10 games, but in all rights it should be for the rest of the season.

I love hockey and all it has to offer - the excitement, the fact that a game can change on a dime, that fans range from 2 to 92 and that the trophy that is earned by the team is shared with the city. To me it is one of the greatest games ever, but when something like this happens - it just put a big strike against it.

Let's hope the NHL and the Penguins can rise above this and move on to the playoffs. Let's hope that the NHL handles the Stanley Cup Playoffs better than they did last year. The NHL needs to show the USA what this sport represents, for example, show the 10,000 fans sitting OUTSIDE of the Mellon Arena watching the game on national TV instead of letting NBC keep it all to themselves.

I know they are trying to get national recognition and that hockey is kind of considered the dirty little secret sport, but let's hope that the NHL realizes what kind of presence this sport could have - let's hope!

And as for Matt Cooke = unfortunately he has made his bed and now he will have to lie in it. Let's hope not for to long or at least only until the playoffs start.

Kim R.
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