we are on the journey

The journey to the center of the earth.
The journey to heaven.
They’re kind of one in the same, you know. Pushing into the unknown through a haze of dirt or light or clouds.
The only difference is connotative. Are we finding buried treasure, or are we joining our brothers in heaven?

And so it was perfect.

Chapter One: Reprieve
There is no way that this game could have been, for anyone in the NHL family, just another day at the office.
Photographers from all the major news outlets descended on the city like hungry sharks. The Media Circus Begins.

The last minute change to Versus for the nationwide broadcast brought Pierre McGuire, stuffed like a sausage into his awkwardly round suits. The world must suffer.

Never before have Sidney Crosby jerseys outside CEC felt so special.

ROOT Sports has its first hiccup as it tries to broadcast Bylsma’s entire pregame talk before the puck drops. When you aren’t owned by NBC, the referees don’t hold the puck until you’re ready. So we miss opening faceoff. But we know Sid is starting, based on the OHHHHs and AAAHHHHHs. With the first shift out of the way, ROOT pulls this shit out of their hip pocket:
Unnecessary, but we’ll let it slide.
The Reprieve for Bullshit begins, because there surely isn’t any bullshit going on down on the ice.
Like five minutes in, by the way, the world changed.
As always some dude on Tumblr has the .gifs before we can even take a breath:

1-0 Pens.
As excited as we were for this game, there was that Beast in the back of our minds that something bad might happen.  While there was still a lot of hockey left. . .the tears pouring down our faces seem to bring a cleansing.
The things that are going to happen?  We get the feeling they’re going to be Good.  We haven’t cried this hard since the Stanley Cup.  Guys, he’s really here.

Chapter Two: Shit Just Got Ridiculous

Kunitz pinching Crosby on the cheek.
What is this team.
Oh wait he also set up Orpik, who sent a laser beam behind Anders Nilsson, Swede of the Night.

Rarely do you see two happier people in the middle of November.
We were pretty much sold on the perfection of this moment.
Isles take some penalty afterwards, but ROOT isn’t even announcing it, we’re all joy and rainbows.
Orpik even shows complacency rather than intensity in his intermission interview with Potash.  Not so dainty as dew on a gardenia in the morning–perhaps like iron filings on the floor of the torture chamber–
The magic is in the eyes.

btw, Versus monopolized all the Sid interviews.
Because it’s America that wants to see Sid, not his hometown fans.
Lucrative television deals leaking out of the soil right here.

Chapter Three: We’ve Crossed the River and Reached the Tundra
Pens and Isles go back and forth exchanging some PPs.  Eventually the Pens end up on the power play.  Crosby and Letang get the puck to the net and Malkin is there to destroy, and possibly make Anders Nilsson cry.  Crosby’s awareness on the PP stellar.  And Letang knew exactly where to put it for Gene.  It is apparently (we’ve double-checked this) real life.
Here are Sid and Gene, possibly having a mutual hallucination of this goal, wondering if it’s the future.

The things you hallucinate in practice.


Lost in Sid’s return is the fact that the line with Neal, Malkin, and Sullivan is easily the best second line you could possibly ask for in today’s NHL.  They waltz into the attacking zone and just poke the puck to each other like it ain’t no thang.  Then Malkin winds up and finds Sullivan’s stick, which bewilders poor Nilsson yet again.  He probably should have come out at some point.  But Jack Capuano was playing Punishment tonight.  We have to wonder if he played the same Punishment when he was head coach of the Pee Dee Pride.
 Steve Sullivan: the little winger that could.

Rick DiPietro looks across the frozen tundra and sticks some Copenhagen into his jowls.

Anders Nilsson releases his Swedish hair, in the hopes that eventually it will tell him which way is north.
Pens fan on the left looks on earnestly, hoping to see the aurora borealis.

Unfortunately, his only sensory input is sweat and something like Axe in a middle school locker room.
There is no North.  Only darkness.
Fleury, at the other end, is having no trouble navigating.  He needs no compass to find every single puck ever.
The dread you might normally try to supress heading into the wilds of the third period with a 4-0 lead is strangely absent.  Unbelievable penalty kills.  And a sweet winter wind.

Chapter Four: You Are Actually Fucking Kidding Us, Right?
Potash calls Malkin “smooth as a Mercedes” which prompts this wounded, confused expression.
Then Granato busts out his ‘stache:
If any more inspiration was required to enter the third period with a strong heart and a hoarse voice, you are literally the Worst Person and shouldn’t have even been watching this game.
You were the empty seats on the glass.  The beer spilled in your haste to leave after the 4th goal.  You are a dick.
We got this.

Or, more specifically, Sid’s got this.  He owned that shift, and he did what he showed up to do, Lord bless him.
That is pretty much the end of that.

The rest of the game is a penalty explosion for the Pens, but somehow the shutout is preserved.

Well, not like “somehow.” More like “through the sheer virtue of Fleury’s balls.” But we’ll take that. We will. God, it is a beautiful night.
So if you’re keeping track, that’s 5-0 Pens. Welcome to the universe we now live in. Crosby had 8 shots and played about 15 and a half minutes. Otherworldly. Either deeply and filthily beneath or dizzyingly and sickeningly above. We did see a little bit of history. Playing the Islanders wasn’t exactly the hugest challenge in the universe either way–but we’ve seen it go south before. It’s always up to each of us, individually, to meet the challenges that are presented to us in life. This doesn’t always have anything whatsoever to do with hockey. But for Sidney Crosby, it’s always about hockey. He made it look easy, but it was probably as fucking crazy a ride for him as it was for us.

EPILOGUE: Faces of the Night

We set the whole hemisphere on fire.

Oh btw Pascal Dupuis had three points:
He was interviewed by Potash after the game since Pierre had to rub his dick on Crosby again.
You see this expression on everyone’s face like they know something beautiful is happening around them.
We have the best team.

The rest of the games of 2011 are not going to be so easy.  Nor, really, will our Real Lives and Careers away from hockey and the Internet.
But we believe in the Penguins and we believe in ourselves.
Tonight was a good reminder of how much.
Thanks, everyone.
Go Pens. 


About Zoë

from Fayette County, living in Boston, chronically fussy. Writing about the Penguins, the CWHL/women's hockey, and hockey/sports media criticism.