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Neal’s wild rides to Worlds and season thoughts from readers.


Just finished watching as the Lightning goes up, 2-0, on the top-seeded Capitals in Round 2, and I’m wondering how that start of that series is making Penguins fans feel?

Speaking of Penguins fans, an update on LW James Neal, with a stick tap to the Canadian Press:

Neal scored and was a plus-3 for Canada in a 9-1 win over France Sunday at the IIHF World Championships.

“I went through Pittsburgh to Minnesota to Amsterdam; Amsterdam to Prague, Prague to here,” he said. “Some solid layovers. Tough road to get here.”

Probably not as tough as needing to beat Tampa Bay four of the next five, as the Capitals must do, but…

Now, as promised, some thoughts from the dear readers on the end of this Penguins season:

= Tim Rode (New York City)…

“This is a team that, despite all of the injuries this season, has a chance to be really special over the next couple of years with its core players all entering the prime of their careers.  If Neal or (Eric) Tangradi keep developing I see the Pens contending for the Eastern Conference title next year.  I’m psyched!

“Anyway, thanks again for the hard work — your articles always provide me with a convenient escape from my responsibilities as a law student.”

= Flynt Garzel (Allentown)…

“Having suffered through the pre-lockout fire sale and abysmal hockey years of the early millennium, I can say I truly appreciate how special of a team the Pens have now. It’s an absolute joy to watch the likes of Sid, Geno and company, provide highlight reel plays every night they step onto the ice.
“Realizing that enormity of talent it’s concerning that another year of this team’s prime went by without a Cup. That’s the reality of where Penguins hockey is today. We as fans expect that the team will be in the (Final) on an annual basis. Each year that goes by without achieving the ultimate prize feels like a lost opportunity for the core of this team. “

= Chris Cleroux (Ottawa, Ontario)…

“Given what we were missing, it seemed highly unlikely we’d have home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, let alone make the playoffs. Let’s be proud of our boys, look at the good things we did, and get ready for a strong Cup run next year. The hockey gods couldn’t possibly plague us with injuries like this again. So over the next few days, forget about what happened; things were out of the team’s control.  So when the Detroit and Washington fans start the harassment, just remember: we’ll always have ‘The Excuse.’”

= Jeff Nobers (McMurray)…

“The Penguins exceeded any expectation I had for them after watching Geno go out with the torn ACL and knowing Sid was a long shot at best to get back.  They finished higher than I believe anyone thought they could and garnered I believe the third best record in the league point wise.  But there’s a difference between playing “shutdown” hockey against say Florida in mid March and having to do it night in and night out in the playoffs against opponents whose offense is intact.

“We need that (Mike) Knuble type player who night and night out is causing issues for the goalie on the PP.

 “As for the people saying Bylsma was out coached….PLEASE.  What would you have done to compensate for the loss of the best player in hockey and the other who’s in the top 10?  How would the Lightning have fared without (Martin) St. Louis and (Vincent) Lecavalier? Series would have been over in 4 games.”

= Blayne Beeler (Chantilly, Va.)…

“(Ray) Shero has a lot of work to do in the off-season if this team hopes to win another cup: #1 – FIX THE PP!!  #2 – serious lack of secondary scoring, too many muckers and not enough skill on the lower lines. No team can hope to win a cup w/ only 2 players being counted on to consistently score. This was exposed big-time in the playoffs. And will the real James Neal show in 2012? Or did we already see him (GULP!!)”

And, finally…

= Mike Kuhn (Pittsburgh)…

“I have to give credit, where credit is due. I was surprised the Pens were able to sew up the 4th seed given their 2 leading scorers missed a large chunk of games. They showed guts. Ray Shero tried to wave his magic wand at the trading deadline. Unfortunately those trades didn’t lead to many goals. Ultimately, losing Crosby, who was running away with the scoring title at the time, proved to be a blow that the team couldn’t recover from.”


Author: Rob Rossi

Rob Rossi is the lead sports columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has been called many names, but “Rossi” is the one to which he most often responds. He joined the Trib in November 2002 and was promoted to the columnist role in July 2014. Previously, he had covered the NHL’s Penguins (2006-14) and MLB’s Pirates (2006), while also working on beats associated with the NFL’s Steelers (2005-06) and the NCAA’s Pitt (2004-06). He has won national and local awards for his coverage of youth concussions and athletes’ charities. Also, he is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association executive committee and the Pittsburgh chapter chair. Raised in Crafton and Green Tree and a graduate of West Virginia University, he has covered a Super Bowl, All-Star Games in baseball and hockey, the NCAA basketball tournament and over 100 Stanley Cup playoff games, including the Cup Final twice. Oh, and his sports reporting has led him to brief chats with Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen; so that’s pretty cool. He is a regular contributor on TV with WPXI, Root Sports Pittsburgh and TSN. Also, he is the authorized biographer of Penguins star Evgeni Malkin.


  1. Jman says:

    I am rooting for the Lightning to beat the Craps. Actually I’m rooting for the Lightning to win the Eastern Conference. That last thing I want to see is the Craps, or flyers in the Stanley Cup Finals. While I dont think either team could beat the Sharks (my pick to come out of the West), I dont want their fans to have anything to feel good about past the 2nd round. Hell I dont want their fans OR players feeling good about anything for the next 10 years. Unless they are playing the Pens because there is nothing better than having the Craps or flyers go up a couple games in a series then watch Crosby & the boys crush their hopes & dreams like he did in 2009 when the Craps went up 2-0 in the series.

    While it might be tough on my nerves & stress level, lulling their fans into a false sense of security by going up a few games only to turn it around & snatch the series away from them feels better than a Pens series winning 4-0 playoff sweep anytime.

    I dont want the Boston Bruins going to or winning the Cup either. I don’t know about you guys, but I am sick of hearing about the Original 6. The mainstream hockey media & all media in Canada just dont seem to get it. The way they idolize & aggrandize the Original 6 holds other hockey markets down & marginalizes there contributions & achievements in the league.

    They make it seem that if a non- Original 6 markets or any non-Canadian team wins the Cup or even makes it to the finals it is somehow not as momentous or grand of a moment. Some of you may not understand this or believe its true being that here in Pittsburgh we have had the best player in hockey on our team since 1984. Having the WORLDS GREATEST PLAYER always brings a team added prestige & notoriety, as it should, but talk to or even study other situation where non-O6 non-Canadian or non-large market teams have one the Cup in the past 40 years. I guarantee you will find that team was more scrutinized, deemed not as worthy, or just plain written off as being lucky because they dont come from a “traditional” hockey market. Even with the best player in the world since 1984 the Penguins have receive criticism & less notoriety than they deserve.

    Just look at the series against Tampa Bay. The coverage of that series was considerably less than the Boston/Montreal series or even the Detroit/Phoenix series & Phoenix has to outright give tickets away to fill up their building.

    Anyways, I kinda went on a little tangent there. I lost track of what I originally wanted to say. 1 last thing about those jerk O6 purist & what they refuse to admit or even believe. The O6 years where filled with greed, corruption, racism, & gambling conspiracies. Teams where monopolized, there was even a sense that outcomes of the playoffs/Cup Finals where decided before the seasons started by 1 particular owners manipulation of his stable of teams. Every team made the playoffs regardless of regular season records. Other cities & teams where often lied to & had carrots dangled on sticks by NHL owners. The owners never wanted the NHL expanded until TV execs put pressure on them in a situation that could have killed the league. There are many more documented cases of player abuse & manipulation. Along with fraudulent claims & business practices.

    These years weren’t the “Golden Years” of the NHL. They were the dark days. Not only for players, but the unlucky fans that lived outside of these so called “traditional” hockey markets. If it was up to the owners and they weren’t painted into a corner by TV execs the NHL would still be a corrupt monopoly with 6 teams.

  2. Joseph Brindley says:

    Pens need a Marty McSorley type to protect Sid, just like Gretsky was protected. He never got whacked in the head.

  3. Shawn says:

    Sidney Crosby and Jaromir Jagr’s games would mesh like PB&J.

    Just sayin…

  4. tomas says:

    No Jagr!!!!!!!! He had his chance to help the club when they lost to Detroit in the 2008 Finals but he went for the big money in the KHL. He’s unwanted by any team willing to spend big money on him, so if he still wants to play he can join his hometown team in Kladno. I’m sure that Mario already has plans to retire his number and that’s fine but his playing days here are long over.

  5. EJ says:

    The hockey gods did not plague the team with injuries. The hockey gods challenged the team to succeed despite severe obstacles created by injuries, which are, unfortunately, common in professional sports.

    Rather than focus on the negative impact that season ending injuries to Sid and Geno caused, the team proved to us (and more importantly, to themselves) they are all exceptional components to a champtionship team.

    I can’t say enough superlatives about the defense corps and how those guys were the backbone for success and most notably, Fleury’s incredible performance in goal. I also credit all those players stepping up to first line challenges, finding a way to win. Scoring goals is 99% perspiration and one percent inspiration — the PP is no exception to the recipe.

    Winning the Stanley Cup is a process, and this year’s adversity will pay dividends.

    Let’s Go Pens!

  6. Jman says:

    Jagr played for the Rangers in 2008. I know this #1 because im not a moron #2 The Pens actually beat Jagr and the Rangers in the 2nd round of the playoffs on their way to the Cup in 2008.

    If you are going to badmouth one of the greatest hockey players to ever live and a man that helped the Pens win 2 Stanley Cups, has 5 scoring titles(4 in a row), 1 MVP, and 3 NHL player voted MVP’s you might want to get your facts straight. Otherwise you might end up looking like a complete joke that speaks without ever truly witnessing the magic & greatness of a man they call Jaromir Jagr. That or your eyes just weren’t worthy of really seeing his utter brilliance.

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