An irritating-to-painful sickness has dulled some of the nerves of the last week of this series, but tonight could be quite different.
That actually is the question, though: will tonight be different?
As Mirtle (and others) point out, this series has been a "homer" series if there's ever been one. Beyond undeniably relevant intangibles like "home cooking" and the rush of playing in front of your own crowd there are big pros to being at the Joe: faceoff advantages for an expert team in the circle, the last change for a series defined by matchups and those crazy pinball boards that have given MAF fits.
If Game 5 repeats itself, the NHL will face the disappointment of a marquee matchup with a flat ending. No doubt about it; the league must hope that tonight's game will be very different even if the winner is the same.
There are a lot of reasons to be negative. Sidney Crosby has been largely nullified, even at times at home. Chris Osgood is making a strong case for a Conn Smythe trophy and although his HoF credentials are a debate for another day, his sub-$2 million contract is probably a HoF bargain. Fleury is schizophrenic in net ... going from bad to spectacular to atrocious to adequate seemingly every other game. Worst yet, Evgeni Malkin has been relatively quiet the last couple games.
But the positive thing is: they only need to be different for one game.
In the event that Crosby and Malkin find a way to transcend their seemingly hopeless matchups - or their linemates decide to finally bury the occasional golden opportunities set up by the dynamic duo - then whatever struggles (perceived or legitimate) will wash away in the boozy suds of the Stanley Cup. There's that fear that maybe the two will assume that, after getting here two years in a row at such a young age, that they'll make it to this stage again someday. All they need to do is ask Jaromir Jagr if that's a safe assumption.
It might not matter if the Penguins play "with desperation." The Red Wings are an incredible collection of talent and are nearly unbeatable at home. Few could doubt Crosby's hustle, Malkin's two-way genius and creativity. Those factors still haven't added up to much for the Penguins in Hockeytown.
But one night can change everything. Or nothing.
What's it going to be, eh?