After tonight, T-minus ten,...
It's a little strange to look at the schedule and see just ten games remaining after tonight's tilt with Winnipeg. Another season that's absolutely flown by, it feels like just yesterday we were sitting in the stands at those opening camp practices, giving Crosby a standing ovation upon his return just to practice, watching Malkin tearing up practices as some sort of sick precursor to what we'd see from his this year, or getting our first glimpse of the skating brilliance of Joe Morrow.
Fast-forward some 71 games, and we get this past Sunday's Flyers tilt. If a game like that didn't catapult you directly into playoff mode, maybe we'll let CBC work their magic with this clip from last year.
(And as someone who still cheers for the Canucks as well as the Pens, not even the clean-ringing backdrop of The Edge's guitar melodies can keep parts of that clip from sucking out loud to watch again, but that's just me.)
(And feel free to leave that clip on continuous loop as you read the rest of this.)
So many good things in these clips. So much great imagery, and then you start remembering all of the things that come with hockey this time of year.
Games on every single night. Doubleheaders, most of the time.
Games so intense, not even Pierre in between the benches or Edzo in the booth can ruin it.
Cheering for anyone playing the Flyers, Rangers or Caps. If two of those teams are playing each other, cheering for the meteor.
Weighing the pros of staying up to watch a Western Conference series versus the cons of going to work or class on four hours of sleep the next morning.
On game days, you're a wreck. You get through the work day as quickly as possible knowing the game is on that night.
Talking yourself into that first game of the first series, knowing that everything that just transpired over the previous 82 games doesn't really mean so much anymore now, does it?
Every win feels like your team has wrestled absolute control of the series from the opposing team.
Every loss feels twice as damning to the hopes for a Cup, and equally awful is that sinking feeling knowing that you now have to wait another two days for your team to get back another shot. And by the way, your team can only afford to do this again maybe three more times. Maybe two. Maybe just one. At least for this series.
You jump to edge of your seat with every scoring chance your team gets and retreat to the fetal position with every chance they allow. Every celebration of a goal scored for is offset by the crushing fear that the bottom doesn't somehow fall out.
If your team scores the first goal, you start bargaining aloud with the hockey gods to somehow make the game end now. If your team allows the first goal, you wonder if your team can get two pucks past the opposing net-minder without your goalie allowing another.
If your team is ahead by just a goal in the third period, you count down minutes until the 1:30 mark, knowing an empty net awaits.
Each win is followed some strange blend of euphoria, something borne of a seven-game series and a sense of relief that only comes with 150 minutes of holding your breath.
There are those moments - those singular moments, and with them the names that only need to be mentioned to bring a smile and an appreciative nod from your fellow fans.
Neal in overtime from the wall (the last great moment of the 2010-11 season).
Crosby behind the net against Ottawa.
Malkin against all of Carolina.
Tic-tac-toe to TK.
Staal winding it up shorthanded against Detroit.
Fleury stoning Ovechkin.
Roberts challenging the Senators.
Sykora in however many overtimes.
Kasparaitis against Hasek.
Jagr against the Blackhawks. Jagr against the Devils.
Lemieux so many times, from the Immaculate Deflection, to the puck in Bourque's skates, to splitting the defense against Minnesota and that unbelievable goal against Chicago.
And of course, Talbot and then those last six seconds culminated by Fleury diving across the crease.
In three weeks, we get to do it all over.
Welcome to your next three months, Pens fans.