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.”