There is a lot of back-patting going on among Pittsburgh fans and I understand that. Thursday night's win was, almost certainly, the greatest Penguins win since Mario's gravy days.
Still, the challenge ahead reminds me of "Mortal Kombat." You feel really good about yourself as you climb the ranks, upper-cutting your opponents onto spikes and ripping their hearts out. The wise digi-warriors know, though, that the worst is yet to come. Consider winning a third game beating Goro and winning the Cup taking down Shao Khan. Any MK veteran will tell you that beating Goro (or Motaro or whatever weird beast that serves as the second-to-last battle) is way, WAY more difficult than beating Johnny Cage and the game's other cupcakes.
So put on your crazy Raiden hats, it's time to harpoon some random thoughts going into Game 5.
- Hopefully I'm not alone in this, but the probable return of Pavel Datsyuk makes me extremely nervous. Even at 70 percent (or whatever arbitrary percentage you attach to his relative health), he's horrifying. Let's hope he doesn't create a Willis Reed moment.
- My friend and I were watching what should have been the last game of Michael Jordan's career (you may remember it as the Chicago Bulls' Game 6 NBA Finals winner against the Utah Jazz, a game in which Jordan got away with a push-off and subsequently broke thousands, if not millions, of Mormon hearts in the process) on ESPN Classic the other day. Bob Costas was talking about how Jordan was coming back to the pack. Costas didn't mean that Jordan wasn't the best - just that he was no longer stupidly better than everyone else.
Watching Nicklas Lidstrom makes me think of this description. Lidstrom is still - clearly - the best defenseman in the NHL. He's still very scary. That being said, his dominance is now even more subtle than before.
(Then again, he could just be saving his best for last.)
- One of the stories the MSM flogged to death after Game 4 was Henrik Zetterberg's fatigue in trying to shadow Sidney Crosby.
It got me thinking: should the Red Wings consider giving Geno Malkin the suffocation treatment instead of Crosby? Malkin already has seven points in four games and just seems to get stronger and stronger. Granted, Malkin's size might make matchups pointless for opponents, but it is odd that we hear all that about stopping Crosby but receive very little information about who's lining up against the Pens' Hart trophy candidate.
- One thing's for sure: it's pretty much impossible for Penguins fans to detach themselves at this point. Pittsburgh proved they belong in the first four games and so now we reach a point of no return. If they lose, it will hurt. Bad.