Monday, June 28, 2010

Wowzers LOL

I found this picture on twitter. I have no idea who took it so if someone has a problem then I can take it down.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Older Article about the Penguins and the Stanley Cup

Kris Letang's quest for the Stanley Cup started the day he drew his first breath.

"My mom put a picture of it in my crib when I was born," the Penguins' defenseman said, only half-jokingly. "She told me that anytime you start something, you should do it the best you can and finish at the top."

Now that's a hockey mom.

Originally crafted as a punch bowl, the silver trophy is awarded to the last team standing in the NHL playoffs. It is concrete validation that a team has passed the final test to become a champion.

But this chalice also means something very personal, whether you're a Canadian kid with the Cup in your DNA or you're an American, Russian, Czech or Swede competing against the world's best players.

"It's the toughest trophy to get," Letang said. "Obviously, you want to be the best in whatever you do in your life. It's amazing. It's going to take a little while to realize what we just did. It's just a dream come true."

On one hand, hockey's grail is 35 pounds of silver and nickel alloy. But it's also an obsession requiring iron will. The bowl was donated by then-Governor General of Canada Lord Stanley of Preston to honor Canada's top-ranking amateur ice hockey club and was first awarded in 1893. By 1915, the trophy honored the best professional hockey team.

Originally known as the Dominion Challenge Cup, the Stanley Cup has gone global. Kids born in faraway lands may not have pictures of it in their cradles, but they soon understand how priceless it is.

Just ask Sergei Gonchar, who played in the final with a damaged knee protected by a brace and who had shoulder surgery that cost him most of the regular season.

"Growing up in Russia, it was a different story for me. We didn't dream about a Game 7 when we played street hockey. The big thing for us was the world championships," said the man who began his playing career with Traktor Chelyabinsk in the Russian Super League.

"Then you play in the NHL and you realize what you are competing for and how tough it is to get it. That's when you begin dreaming about it," he added.

The inner quest is essentially the same, however, whether it begins on a frozen pond in Russia or Rhode Island. It's that drive to be the best, to claim a prize no one can take away.

"As a hockey player, and in your life, you want to accomplish something. Winning the Stanley Cup is a big accomplishment," Gonchar said.

"If you come so close and don't win it, you know the chances aren't going to come around that often as you get older," he added. "When you finally have it, you're the happiest man in the world. It's a dream come true."

It takes getting up at ungodly hours to get rink time. It demands sweat and tears and pain and steely resolve. Part of what makes it so precious is the price that must be paid, the trials and tribulations of the climb up the mountain.

"All the things you go through, from being a healthy scratch to being injured, that's what makes it worthwhile," said Hal Gill, a former high school quarterback who played hockey at Providence College in Rhode Island. "Last year, we were right there and couldn't quite get it. Winning it this time is a nice way to close everything off. It's the ultimate."

Some players prefer not to think about the Cup until it is won, lest they jinx themselves. Max Talbot, however, lifted the Cup in his mind as a personal motivation. When he lifted it for real, it took some time to sink in.

"On the ice, it was pretty weird. It goes by so fast," said Talbot, the No. 1 star from Game 7. "I got the Cup from Flower [Marc-Andre Fleury] and had for 10 to 15 seconds. There's really no time for it to sink in. Then, you get to the room, and it's there. You get on the bus and on the plane, and it's sitting beside you. You look at it, look at the names that are on it. That's when you really take a grip of yourself. You can say to yourself, 'We did this. We really won it.' "

The Cup is an extension of the self. Talbot figures that his hometown of LeMoyne, a suburb of Montreal, has a stake in it because nobody gets there on his own.

"I want to share it with the city where I grew up, share it with my family and friends and my old coaches, share it with everyone that helped me get here. I can't wait for that day," he said.

As an icon, the Stanley Cup is more than an object. It's a state of mind. Just ask any of these Emperor Penguins.

"It means a whole heck of lot to a team and players, more than what pro sports seems to be about at times," said coach Dan Bylsma.

"Guys will do some extraordinary things, pain-wise, injury-wise, just for a chance," he added. "To touch it, to have it, to hold it over your head, it's emotional. It's real emotional."

How extraordinary?

Petr Sykora broke a bone in his right foot blocking a shot in Game 6. Although his season was over, he ignored the fracture and laced up his skates to join the on-ice celebration after the Cup was won.

Sidney Crosby bruised his left knee in Game 7. Although the trainers did everything they could to numb the area -- which is hockey talk for taking the needle -- he played only one shift in the third period.

Rather than hurt his team, the captain made the excruciating choice to sit out the most important minutes of his hockey life.

"It's not easy watching, but there was nothing I could do," Crosby said. "Within 10 seconds, I knew I couldn't turn or stop."

After knocking off the Detroit Red Wings in an icy version of king of the hill, the Penguins have been eager to share their prize. The Cup has revisited Mario Lemieux's swimming pool, cruised some hot spots on East Carson Street and attracted a walk-up of 5,700 fans when it appeared at PNC Park. It has converted a football town into something like Cupsburgh, and it means the final season played at the Mellon Arena will be the home of the defending Stanley Cup champions.

Whether you're a hockey fan or not, the Cup is a symbolic magnet that attracts attention.

"That's what's so special about it. I don't think you see that in any other sport. Guys get to spend time with the trophy you work so hard to get," Crosby said.

But what's it like to put the Cup in your Range Rover and drive it home?

"It means a lot of things. Immediately, it's the group of guys who are able to achieve this. It's so hard to do. It's got to be the right group. You need some luck. You set out to do something with a group of people, and you accomplish your goal," Crosby said.

"Individually, you think back to all the people who have helped you get to this point. They all have a hand in it, whether it was a midget hockey coach or a teacher," he added. "It's almost like a way to say thanks. Having them see you lift the cup and achieve your goal, they can feel a part of it too," he added.

The best perspective may come from a hockey mom who saw her son become the youngest captain to hoist the Cup and then witnessed the standing ovation given to him and his teammates at PNC Park.

"He knows it's the journey, not the destination," said Trina Crosby.

And what a trip it has been.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Evaluating the Penguins 2005 Draft Class

National Hockey League experts will be rushing to pass judgment on the “winners” and “losers” of the annual entry draft within minutes after the two-day selection process concludes on June 26.

However, no matter how the Penguins’ draft class grades out in the present, we must keep in mind that general manager Ray Shero and his scouting staff are selecting 18- and 19-year-olds based upon projections as to how these guys will play when they are 21-24.

With that in mind, instead of waiting to examine the 2010 draft class in a few weeks, or even last year’s selections, we are going to dip back in time and evaluate the Penguins’ 2005 draft class.

The ‘05 class will always be defined by Sidney Crosby, whom the Penguins selected with the first-overall pick. Even if none of their other six selections would have never even sniffed the NHL, the Penguins were assured of hitting a home run the second the ping-pong ball came up in their favor and league commissioner Gary Bettman opened the envelope containing the first-overall pick and revealed the Penguins logo, ensuring Crosby would begin his career in the Steel City.

When you factor in the Penguins were able to grab two-way blueliner Kris Letang with the first pick of the third round (62nd overall), that home run quickly turns into a grand slam to the deepest part of the ballpark. Letang would no doubt be a top-10 draft pick if the ’05 draft were to be held today based upon his rapid development and the fact that GMs at the time didn’t know how the game would be played post-lockout.

Pittsburgh also appears to have unearthed a hidden gem in seventh round (195th overall) selection Joe Vitale, a potential fourth-line/penalty killing center currently toiling for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League.

While Vitale figures to help improve the Penguins’ overall depth in a few years, Crosby and Letang have already delivered a Stanley Cup championship, two Cup Final appearances and are both locked into long-term deals which place them at the forefront of the team’s impressive collection of young core talent which will lead the franchise into the CONSOL Energy Center Era.

Crosby was the no-brainer selection when former Penguins general manager Craig Patrick stepped up to the podium in Ottawa on July 29, 2005, and that thought has only become more apparent over the course of the last five years.

Hailed as the savior of both the Penguins and the NHL even before he pulled on a Pittsburgh sweater that day, Crosby hasn’t disappointed on either account.

At 22, the Cole Harbor, Nova Scotia native already has the following accomplishments on his ever-growing resume:

- Youngest captain of a Stanley Cup championship team
- Art Ross Trophy (scoring champion), Hart Trophy (MVP) and Lester Pearson Award (players’ MVP)
- 2009-10 Rocket Richard Trophy winner (leading goal scorer)
- Game-winning goal for Team Canada in the Gold Medal Game at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver

Of course that is but a small sampling of the wondrous display of on-ice wizardry Crosby has performed, but you get the idea.

The Penguins got a steal when they chose Kris Letang with the 62nd overall selection.

As he gets set for his sixth season (where does time go?), Crosby continues to find ways to improve his all-around game. This past year he added goal-scoring sniper and faceoff extraordinaire to his job description as he has quickly become the most well-rounded player in the game. The Penguins couldn’t have asked for a better player, leader and person at No. 1 overall.

While everybody anticipated great things from Crosby, expectations weren’t quite as high for Letang at the time. But that’s why you need to wait a couple years before really evaluating a draft class.

After watching Letang morph into a potential all-star who is a presence in all three zones on the ice, it’s tough to imagine 61 picks going by without Letang’s name being called.

When Letang broke into the NHL he was regarded as an elite offensive prospect. He has proven that analysis to be spot-on, scoring 10 goals during the ’08-09 regular season and pacing all blueliners with five goals this past postseason.

Letang’s goal-scoring exploits alone, combined with his smooth skating and passing skills, would have him considered by many to be a future No. 1 defenseman. Factor in that he has already been entrusted with shutdown minutes after just 217 NHL games by head coach Dan Bylsma and you see why the Penguins made Letang a priority among their upcoming free agents and inked him to a four-year extension in March.

Although Vitale has yet to suit up for an NHL contest and has just 95 AHL games on his docket following a successful four-year run at Northeastern University, he too is seen as potentially having an NHL future, further bolstering the A+ mark the Penguins have already received from the ’05 class.

Vitale projects to be a defensively-responsible performer capable of winning faceoffs and helping out the PK unit when he arrives in the NHL. The Penguins were so happy with Vitale’s development they rewarded him with a two-year contract extension on Jan. 28.

Writers from coast to coast were quick to give the Penguins high marks on the third-to-last day of July in 2005. Five years later those grades have only risen behind the development of Crosby, Letang and Vitale.


New Letang Wallpaper I found on another blog site

I found this on the Sidney Crosby Show blog.