Friday, April 16, 2010
Had A Bad Day #3
This was the year that Super Mario was diagnosed with Hodgkins Disease and he missed a ton of games (24 to be exact). If he played all year at the pace he set, he would have easily broke The Great One's scoring records for both points and goals. Not that it mattered that much, but it was also the year they traded one of my all time favorite Pens, Bob Errey to the Sabres for Mike Ramsey (third from the left in the top row of the picture. He had 6 assists in the playoffs, but contributed little else to the team beyond that). I'm not bitter about it though. He is back with the team now, as a color commentator and analyst.
The Pens easily handed the Devils a 4-1 loss in their best of 7 series to open the playoffs and things looked great for Pittsburgh's chance to 3-Peat. The Islanders were the 3 seed in the Patrick going into the playoffs and in round one they took it to Washington, winning the series 4 games to 1. The pending matchup looked to be a good one for the Pens against the Isles. The Penguins had the regular season record over NY 4-3. But as we all know, this is the playoffs and regular season records mean nothing. The stars apparently aligned in a backwards, out of sync test pattern, pigs took flight, Satan (the real one, not Miro) strapped on his skates and the Isles took this to 7 games.
The game was a hard fought, back and forth battle that saw the Pens, as usual, outshoot the Islanders 45-20. I still remember watching Kevin Stevens collide full speed with Rich Pilon, only to fall face first in a heap on the ice. I thought he was dead. So did half his Pens teammates on the ice, including Mario who quickly motioned for the trainers to get out there. There was blood everywhere. He was taken to the hospital right after that with a broken face.
Down 3-2, the Penguins pulled Tom Barrasso with about 1:00 left in the 3rd period. In a frantic press in the Islanders zone, Larry Murphy stretched out to save the puck from going out of the zone. He shot it toward the net and the mass of humanity in front. It went through Rick Tocchet and was deflected off of Ron Francis' stick and went into the net behind Glen Healey. 3-3 with almost no time left on the clock. These were the Cardiac Pens I had come to know and love.
But it all quickly came to an end. With 5 minutes ticked off the clock in OT, David Volek took a shot from the corner and became the unlikely hero, stunning arguably one of the greatest teams in hockey history to not win a cup. I think this was actually the last time the Isles won a playoff series that I can remember. Forgive me if I'm wrong. Or don't. This also ruined the "dream" matchup in the finals of Lemieux vs. Gretzky. The Pens would have knocked of the Kings for sure but we will never know. Montreal beat L.A. instead and won their 23rd Stanley Cup.
Mario Lemieux went on to win the Art Ross (Points Leader), Bill Masterson (Sportsmanship), Lester Pearson (NHLPA Outstanding Player), and the Hart (League MVP) trophies that year. He also won the Sportsman of the Year Award at the ESPY's but I don't think anyone cares about those. He would never hoist the cup again as a player which is why it made it that much sweeter when he was able to hold the cup (and have it at the bottom of his pool [rumor and innuendo, not really]) again in 2009 as an owner.