It's not uncommon to be flipping through channels on a Saturday and seeing lots of movies, especially comedies that have aged well after a decade or two.
Last weekend, Comedy Central was playing a few of them. First, Billy Madison, Sandler's first feature film (when Sandler's style of comedy was liked) and in-between another well-known (and liked) Sandler film, Happy Gilmore, was Tommy Boy.
The 1995 movie, starring Chris Farley and David Spade, is a cult classic. It's one of the few movies I can grab a random quote from, and use in a conversation, usually to make a joke. When that person or persons gets the reference and laughs, it's worth it.
Now, that airing of Tommy Boy was on December 9, which made me think to when Farley died at the age of 33.
Farley's death came on December 18, 1997: 20 years ago today.
The comedian, who once sang "I'm a clown, but I cry" on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, was an incredible comedic and physical talent whose demons led to his accidental overdose in Chicago.
Of all the movies he did in his short life, Tommy Boy remains my favorite and I would imagine many others feel the same way.
I was 12 or 13 when I first saw Tommy Boy. My dad had it on VHS (it was circa 2001 or 2002 so VCR's were still around). But my love of the movie grew as I got a little older.
Every year since the mid 1980s, my dad, his brothers and my grandfather have traveled out to South Bend, Indiana for a Notre Dame football game. My grandfather, who is now 94, owned one of those old Dodge Ram vans that featured the wood paneling, nice roomy seats and a television with the antenna and VCR.
After Tommy Boy came out, the movie joined the catalog of movies they would watch during the long car ride from Pennsylvania.
As I got older, I started going on the trip and a few of my cousins started going, too when the Dodge Ram van was still around. I still remember the first time Tommy Boy was put in the VCR. It felt like a weird right-of-passage.
Also, if you travel from Pittsburgh to South Bend, you pass the exit for Sandusky, Ohio, so everyone got a kick out of that a few hours into the trip.
So why do I like this movie so much and why I am I dwelling on it 20 years to the day its star died far too young?
When I think of Chris Farley, I like to think Tommy Callahan III (along with his "Chris Farley Show' SNL sketch) was the character most like the real Farley: a "people-person" with faults, but would sacrifice everything for others. It's the old cliche of "the lovable loser", but its a character most can relate to, and I want to believe Tommy was a reflection of Farley.
Not to sound sappy, but the family aspect of the movie where Tommy wants to make his dad proud after his death and keep Callahan Auto hits home for me as a guy who comes from a big Irish family on my dad's side.
The old "what if" scenario came to mind when thinking of his death. What if he finally got serious about getting sober for good? (Here's a fan's theory)
We probably see him play Fatty Arbuckle in a biopic, voice Shrek and star in a few of the Sandler movies that have come out in the last 20 years (and maybe make them a little better).
I'm just glad Tommy Boy was a thing and will always be my best memory of Chris Farley.
So here are some of my favorite Tommy Boy moments (in no particular order)
"The Original Brake Pad Pitch"
I learned this whole scene after the watching the movie a few times.
I don't know what's funnier: When he lights the model on fire, or when he goes "here comes the meat wagon" and starts making the alien siren sound. At that point, Richard and the guy they're trying to sell to looked shocked. I would imagine it took a few takes for everyone to keep a straight face.
Honorable Mention: Tommy asking to have parking validated after being kicked out.
I have come upon blown out truck tires while driving, and I always think about how Callahan brake pads would keep me safe.
The only scene with Farley and Rob Lowe together. Also, before they go cow tipping, Tommy said one thing they could do in Sandusky is "go to the livestock auction and cruise the 4-H babes".
I've lived in Oklahoma for the last 16 months, and that joke is funnier now than when I first saw the movie
"Fat Guy in a Little Coat"
A bit originally done by Farley for Spade in their SNL office, this might be the most memorable moment from the film.
The outtake from the blooper is just as funny when Farley cant get the jacket to rip.
"Tommy Want Wingy"
What was the turning point of the film, Richard realizes Tommy is a "people person" type of salesman after convincing a waitress to make chicken wings in a pitch of self-loathing.
"Your sail is limp, like your d***!"
Kids are the worst. Especially in this scene.
We got from Big Tom's funeral and Farley walking alone and sitting on the loading dock at the auto plant, contemplating what will come next.
This scene is a good way to remind you that it's still a comedy. The kids hurl every insult at Tommy until he finally snaps and threatens them, and as kids their age, they don't take him seriously, until Michelle puts the fear of God into them. Definitely unexpected when you watch it the first time.
"Hey! Thanks Dad!"
A nice way for the movie to end. Tommy sitting in his boat, talking to his father having a nice moment. He gets the wind for his sail, and it also happens to hit him right in the back of the head.
Holding back tears, Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, as well as the media members huddled around his locker, could not have imagined his time as a Penguin would end the way it did.
None of us did.
The 32 year-old Fleury, who after winning his third Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh, waived his no-movement clause, is most likely heading to the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft coming up June 21.
Everyone knew for a while that Pittsburgh's first overall pick in 2003 was not coming back for the 2017-18 season, but as winter turned to spring, nobody saw Fleury playing a major part in the Penguins second-straight Stanley Cup championship.
Matt Murray, still technically a rookie, was starting a majority of games over the veteran who is almost ten years older than him throughout the season. A spectacular performance in last year's playoffs when Fleury was dealing with a concussion raised Murray's status and he soon became the number one goalie this season.
When Murray suffered a torn hamstring in warmups of Game 1 in the Penguins first round series against Columbus, fans saw Fleury back in the net. Nobody knew what to expect.
Fleury played well in the first round, as Pittsburgh eliminated the Blue Jackets in 5 games, but it was the series against the Washington Capitals where Fleury reminded both fans and cynics, that he could still get the job done. Without him, the Capitals find a way to get through the second round and are playing Ottawa in the conference finals.
Mike Sullivan's decision to go back to a now-healthy Murray after the Senators beat Pittsburgh 5-1 in Game 3 was met with criticism, but Fleury, who had been a model teammate during this changing of the guard between the pipes, went with it.
Murray may have been the man in net, but it was Fleury who got them over the biggest obstacle, which was Washington.
In this final week of Fleury as a Penguin, it provides a chance for the goalie from Sorel-Tracey, Quebec and fans to reflect.
I remember attending opening night in 2003 and watching Fleury make his NHL debut. It was October 10, 2003 at Mellon Arena against the Los Angeles Kings. The Penguins were attempting to rebuild a team that they had to deconstruct due to bankruptcy a few years earlier.
The opening night premiere of 29 was not the most ideal. The Kings won in a 3-0 shutout. He appeared in 21 games his rookie year, bouncing back-and-forth between Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre Scranton and was one of five goalies who started at least one game that season, in which the Penguins were 23-47-8-4.
Following the lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season, Fleury played 29 more games his second year as the Penguins had drafted two players that would provide an offensive boost. Those two being Evgeni Malkin in 2004 and Sidney Crosby in 2005.
Fleury was 17-41-8 in his first two seasons. In 2007, the Penguins, who were building through the draft and were rescued by the new salary cap, saw an incredible turnaround, and that was a reflection of Fleury's play. He went 40-16-9 that season, as Pittsburgh made the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
Flash forward to 2009. The year before, the Penguins lost in six games to the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Final. Now, they had forced Game 7 back in Detroit and were hanging onto a 2-1 lead with 6.5 seconds to go.
A face-off to the left of Fleury was won by the Red Wings. A shot by Dan Cleary finds its way through a bunch of bodies get a piece of Fleury and creates a rebound for captain Niklas Lidstrom.
That diving save by Fleury would keep the game from overtime and seal the first Stanley Cup for Pittsburgh since 1992.
Most fans can tell you where they were when that happened. I was two feet from my television and began cheering the minute I saw Fleury made the save.
For the younger Penguin fans, that is there first memory of a Stanley Cup win. I was alive when they won in 1991 and 1992, but I was just shy of my 2nd and 3rd birthdays.
The first one is always the sweetest. That 2009 championship was, and Flower, along with Max Talbot's two goals, became a Game 7 hero.
The Penguins were seen as a franchise that would win several more Cups as the 2010s began. That didn't happen, as the Penguins suffered several first and second round exits before getting back to the final in 2016. The closest they got was in 2013 when the Bruins swept them in the lockout-shortened season.
Of course, Fleury took his share of criticism from fans looking for an easy scapegoat. Heck, he had his fair share of critics in these final few seasons with the team. If those people haven't learned their lesson after this spring, they never will.
This post could go on for ages, talking about Fleury's time with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but I will simply say that Pittsburgh was lucky to have had a player like him.
Hockey players are said to be some of most personable players in pro sports. Fleury, along with Crosby, Malkin, Chris Kunitz and Kris Letang, who make up the remaining players from that first Cup win in 2009, are a fantastic representation of what this team has been for over a decade.
That class of 2009 will get smaller this summer and this photo will hit you in the feels a little bit.
The two guys on the end could be gone by the end of the summer, bringing that quartet down to a trio.
If you haven't yet, take a listen to what Fleury had to say on Thursday.
Now wipe those tears away. We're almost done.
With ten months to go before the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, the National Hockey League announced Monday they won't send players to the games next February.
The reactions were as such:
-The NHLPA was mad at the owners
-Players were mad
-Fans are mad at Gary Bettman (when are they not?) and the NHL
-NBC (who has the Olympic TV rights) isn't happy either
It screams of the old "Owners vs. Players" that every league has. The NHL itself has had three lockouts in the last 20 years, one of which resulted in the loss of the entire 2004-05 season.
The NHL's decision to hold players out is unfortunate for players who want to represent their country in what is one of the biggest international tournaments for hockey. Players like Washington Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin expressed their desire to play in future Olympics with the hope of winning a gold medal, something his adversary, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, has two of.
The Olympics in South Korea would have marked 20 years since the NHL sent its players to Nagano, the first of five consecutive winter games.
Initial anger and resentment towards the NHL was expected, but you can't put all the blame on the league for their decision.
The corrupt International Olympic Committee is also to blame.
The IOC has garnered a bad reputation over the years. It's a group that has a ridiculous list of demands for cities to host the games, and most of the time, leaves host cities in economic disarray after the two weeks of Olympic action.
These things made it hard for them to find a proper host for the 2022 Winter Olympics. When ideal candidates like Oslo, Norway and Stockholm, Sweden pulled and cancelled their bids, and were left with Beijing and Almaty in Kazakhstan. They went with Beijing, who held the summer games in 2008 and are not an ideal spot for a winter Olympic.
While they are great at listing their outlandish demands, the IOC could not find common ground for the NHL, who did not appear willing to shut down operations for two weeks and give in to the committee.
When the dust settles, neither side comes out clean. The I.O.C. wreaks of the sewage that wound up in the waters in Rio and the NHL will be viewed as a league that continues to trip over itself.
If the public were Olympic judges, nobody makes the podium in this situation.
The NHL has groundwork with the World Cup of Hockey and amateurs will once again have the chance to play in the Olympics.
2017 Stadium Series Brings Better Weather (and Hopefully a Better Outcome) Than 2011 Winter Classic for Penguins
This week leading up to tonight's Stadium Series game in Pittsburgh, which finally matches the Penguins and Flyers outdoors, the temperature averaged in the high 60s each day. On Friday, the high recorded in Pittsburgh was 78 degrees: not the most ideal weather for outdoor hockey. Temperatures were in the 70s when the Ducks and Kings met outside at Dodger Stadium in 2014, but not a place like Pittsburgh!
Luckily, a cold front has moved in today, and temperatures will be in the mid 30 by puck drop and will drop below freezing by the time the game ends.
Mother nature must be a fan of hockey (or perhaps this rivalry).
The weather and matchup are more ideal this time around in Pittsburgh. For the Penguins sake, misfortune doesn't greet them like it did back in the '11 Classic, when Sidney Crosby was hit by Dave Steckel and it began the long road back from a concussion for the Penguins captain.
I attended that game in 2011. My parents have had season tickets since the 2001-2002 season, and our seats at Heinz Field matched your location at the then-named Consol Energy Center.
My parents have seats in the lower level of the arena, second-to-last row of the section, where the Penguins shoot in the first and third periods.
At Heinz Field, that put our seats in section 128, just to the right of the tunnel where Steelers opponents exit and enter into their locker room.
When you put a hockey rink in the middle of a football field, your vantage point will be altered the lower you sit. It's the one time you prefer to be in the 500 level at Heinz Field.
Regardless, my dad and I were among the 65,000 plus in attendance to watch a game in rainy conditions that matched the Penguins and Capitals in a rivalry game before the two became division rivals two years later with realignment.
I won't make it to Heinz Field this time. I'm over 1,200 miles away and am in the midst of high school basketball playoff games. I've got the DVR ready, and I'll be home later tonight to watch this spectacle between two teams and fans who can't stand the site of each other. I might have to turn the notifications off on my phone and tablet, though.
If you're going: Have fun, stay warm and drink it in if you didn't make it in 2011.
Sadly, it appears that goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury may have less than a month to live...as a
member of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Based on the comments made by team General Manager Jim Rutherford, and the upcoming expansion draft with the Vegas Golden Knights, the team might make the decision to deal him before the NHL trade deadline March 1. Fleury has a no-movement clause, which makes him the goaltender the Penguins can hold onto when the Golden Knights start building their team. It would leave Matt Murray, who is ten years younger, at the mercy of the expansion draft.
As a fan, you felt like the writing was on the wall when Fleury unveiled a new mask for the Stadium Series game at Heinz Field, that featured teammates he has had over the last 13-plus years.
There's a part of me that wants to label this beautiful artwork on his mask "The Long Goodbye".
Whether it happens at the deadline or before the expansion draft, Fleury's time with the team seems to be near its end and the farewell seems underway as it continues to be business as usual for everyone in the locker room.
Fleury, 32, was at the mercy of two concussions during the 2015-16 season, and it was the younger, surprisingly hot hand of Murray, 22, who helped the Penguins get through the spring and win the Stanley Cup. Fleury was 35-17-6 in the games the 58 games he played. He appeared in one playoff game after being cleared, stopping 15 of 19 shots on goal in a 4-3 overtime loss in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final. After that, Murray started the rest of the way.
When the team realized they had two good goaltenders (a luxury in the game), they knew that eventually their two-goalie system would need to be addressed. No move came last summer, but with the deadline approaching, and the situation the team faces as the NHL welcomes in their 31st franchise, a decision needs to be made.
With the end approaching, you go back to the 2003 NHL Draft. Then-General Manager Craig Patrick had a rag-tag group after salaries were dumped, being marketed as the "X Generation". Fleury went first overall to the Penguins that year, and was one of five goalies to see action that season.
Fleury was between the pipes for the home opener on October 10 when the Penguins welcomed in the Los Angeles Kings.
His first game was a 3-0 loss in front of an optimistic sellout crowd at Mellon Arena. It didn't last long as the Penguins finished at the bottom of the league standings, playing in front of crowds that averaged about 11,000 a game. I was in section F18 for several of those games. Only two other games drew 16,000 plus fans. A January 24 game against the Colorado Avalanche (who had an amazing list of names on the roster that season) and the home regular season finale against the Washington Capitals April 4 (both were losses).
Fleury finished with a 4-14-2-2 record that season (when ties were still in the game) while jumping back-and-forth between the NHL and AHL.
Things got better as Patrick, followed by Ray Shero, began putting the pieces together and found themselves in the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs after a 6-year absence.
The shining moment came in 2009 when this new era of Penguins won the franchises third Stanley Cup, in a heart-stopping finish against the Detroit Red Wings in the deciding Game 7, where Fleury made a diving save on Niklas Lidstrom after the Penguins lost a faceoff with 6.5 seconds left in their zone and gave the former Red Wings captain a juicy rebound.
When it comes to numbers, Fleury's 2006-07 (40-16-9) and 2011-12 seasons (42-17-4) have been his two best. Although both ended in first round playoff losses.
It would be easy to get sentimental about what could be the last weeks of Fleury as a Penguin, but this is life in any professional sports league. The Penguins have the best of both worlds with two good goalies on the depth chart, but the future (not rifts or locker room troubles) has finally brought the team to this point.
It's not known what Rutherford will do at the deadline, but there might be a need come March. If another team makes an offer and it involves Fleury, he might pull the trigger.
So maybe fans should take Marc-Andre's approach to the situation: enjoy each day and take a few selfies that will help you remember the good times
It would not be the beginning of college football without those FCS-FBS matchups.
Most of them end with the FCS school getting blown out by 60 or more points while making seven figures. But sometimes, that FCS program can stun the bigger program and walk away with a win and cash.
There's always a few, but there are many lopsided defeats as well.
Let's take a look at "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" from week 1.
THE GOOD: FCS teams that beat FBS opponents
-Alabama State 21, Mississippi State 20
The Jaguars escaped defeat after a missed 28-yard field goal with seconds left. You could just feel every Bulldog fan's spirit break when the ball hit the goal post.
-Richmond 37, Virginia 20
You can't help but support a team with a nickname like the Spiders. The Cavaliers were 4-8 last season and may not reach that win total in 2016. Richmond is a competitive team in the CAA.
-Northern Iowa 25, Iowa State 20
For at least one week, the Kansas Jayhawks are not the worst team in the Big 12. That dishonor belongs to the Cyclones. Don't worry Iowa State, you'll bounce back... I think.
-Eastern Washington 45, Washington State 42
Wasn't Washington State a sleeper pick for some in the Pac 12? Fly that giant WSU flag at half-staff during College Gameday this upcoming Saturday.
THE BAD: FCS teams that didn't fair well (But were not bad enough to be ugly)
East Carolina 52, Western Carolina 7
East beats West in a game nobody outside of the state watched.
South Florida 56, Towson 20
Towson is more of a lacrosse school, anyway. Maybe the Bulls can make the American Athletic Conference title game? It could happen. Houston's not in their division.
Kansas 55, Rhode Island 6
What?! Kansas?! They are on this list and not for losing to an FCS team? Way to go, Jayhawks! There's still a chance you go 1-11 this year, but wait to go!
Arizona State 44, Northern Arizona 13
Those who can't party hard enough go to NAU.
Texas Tech 69, Stephen F. Austin 17
This bordered on ugly, but since Stephen F. Austin doesn't play many FBS teams, I'll just leave it under bad. Also, expect the Red Raiders to ruin someone's season in the Big 12.
Baylor 55, Northwestern State 7
A Big 12 Snooze Fest in Waco Friday Night
Oklahoma State 61, Southeastern Louisiana 7
Another Big 12 Snooze Fest, but in Stillwater on a Saturday afternoon. Central Michigan is next for OSU, who gave the visiting Pokes a game last season.
If Pitt beats Penn State this Saturday, James Conner and company will ride into town looking for another big win against the Cowboys.
THE UGLY: The "Stop! He's Already Dead!" Game
Miami (FL) 70, Florida A&M 3
Mark Richt told his team they can't be complacent after this win. Really? I thought they had Sarasota Community College next weekend.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN: Upsets that were close, but yet so far
Michigan State 28, Furman 13
Not an impressive performance by the Spartans, who made the College Football Playoff last season. This game was played on a Friday, so most people were probably going to high school games as seasons kicked off across America.
TCU 59, South Dakota State 41
The Jackrabbits gave the Horned Frogs a game for almost three quarters. TCU just had a little more in the tank in the second half. After Texas' win at Notre Dame, Oklahoma's loss to Houston and TCU's close brush with South Dakota State, the Big 12 might more open than anyone thought this season.
Connecticut 24, Maine 21`
Isn't UConn on the Big 12's short list? It must be for the basketball program, right?
HONORABLE MENTION: FBS Schools Destroying other FBS Schools
Michigan 63, Hawaii 3
You knew Michigan is going to be good this season, but it is hard to believe how bad Hawaii has been as of late. My mind must be stuck in 2007, when my Fighting Irish went 3-9 and the Rainbow Warriors made the Sugar Bowl.
Ohio State 77, Bowling Green 10
If you pick just the right team from the MAC, you will get a result like this if you're Ohio State.
The Buckeyes will get their first test in week 3 against Oklahoma in Norman, a Sooner squad with a lot of question marks after losing to Houston.
It's been seven years since the Pittsburgh Penguins appeared in the Stanley Cup Final and won it. During that time span, free agency and the passing of time itself has reduced the number of players remaining from that 2009 championship team to six guys. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Marc-Andre Fleury, Chris Kunitz and Ben Lovejoy (who came back in a trade in 2015).
This season's run into the Stanley Cup Final has seen what many would call the "core group" of that Stanley Cup team mixed with veterans that were acquired since last July by General Manager Jim Rutherford and the youth that has been developed in Wilkes-Barre Scranton come together as a team that has strong depth offensively and a defense that combines older, veteran players like Lovejoy, Trevor Daley and Letang with younger players like Brian Dumoulin, Ian Cole, Olli Maatta and Justin Schultz.
Conor Sheary's game-winning goal in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final Wednesday night was a perfect example of that mix the Penguins have. Crosby wins the faceoff, Letang gets the puck on the left point, and young Sheary positions himself where his linemate and captain told him to be, and receives the puck in the high slot and beats Sharks goaltender Martin Jones in overtime to put the Penguins within two games of the franchises fourth Stanley Cup.
While Sidney Crosby (6 goals) and Evgeni Malkin (4 goals) have not been scoring at the rate fans expect them too, the two have had reinforcement from the likes of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel. The "HBK Line" was brought together piece-by-piece by Rutherford. First Kessel when free agency opened July 1, followed by Bonino later that month, and nabbed Carl Hagelin in a trade from Anaheim on January 28 in exchange for David Perron. The trio have provided a good chunk of the team's offensive production in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Kessel leads in scoring with 10 goals and has a total of 19 points through Game 2 of the Final. Hagelin is fifth with 14 points, one behind Malkin, and Bonino is tied with Crosby for total points (17) and two of his four goals have decided games this spring. The first coming in Game 6 of the second round in overtime to eliminate the Washington Capitals, and this past Monday in Game 1 of the Final with 2:33 left in the game to give the Penguins an early lead in the series.
His goal also gave us this wonderful call from Hockey Night Punjabi in Canada.
To give you an idea of the HBK line's contribution as of late, they scored in five of the seven games against the Tampa Bay Lightning and have goal scorers in the first two games of the Final (Bonino, Kessel).
Getting back to the rookies, give Matt Murray some love!
Murray was asked to hold down the fort when Marc-Andre Fleury was out with a concussion and has been consistent throughout the spring. His biggest game to date during the playoffs has to be Game 3 of the second round series against the Capitals, where he made 42 saves to hold off a late Washington comeback and help seal a 3-2 win that gave his team the series lead from that point forward. He faltered in Game 4 of the Lightning series and sat as Marc-Andre Fleury started Game 5. After a 3-2 loss in overtime and elimination looming, Sullivan went back to what people would call the "hot hand" in Murray, and the team has won the last four ever since.
You feel for Fleury. He was a major part of the team's Stanley Cup win in 2009 and is one of the reasons for the Penguins late season surge into the playoffs. But as stated in the last paragraph, in the playoffs, you go with that "hot hand".
Bryan Rust is another rookie that has shined at the most important times lately. His two goals in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final made him a hero, and he tallied the first goal of the Stanley Cup Final four nights later.
Defensively, Kris Letang has been the rock during this playoff run. Letang was suspended for Game 4 of the Capitals series following a late hit to the head, but Trevor Daley, who was acquired during the season from Chicago in exchange for Rob Scuderi, stepped up in his absence, and was right behind Letang as one of the most important pieces of the defense. Unfortunately, Daley broke his ankle in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final, and can only cheer on his team during the Final. Daley for Scuderi was quite the steal for Rutherford.
The other veteran defenseman, Ben Lovejoy, is not the same Lovejoy the Penguins had in 2009, and Rutherford trading Simon Despres to Anaheim for him last spring was met with backlash from fans. Despite this, he provides a veteran voice on defense.
I think I could sit here and write a personal paragraph on each player who has been in the lineup during the playoffs, but I think the point has been made. The Penguins are a deep squad that no longer relies on its starts to carry the load. In the years following their 2009 Cup win, when Crosby and Malkin were out with injuries or not finding the score sheet, other players stepped up (guys like Brian Gibbons) but it could not be sustained. Jim Rutherford's moves to bring in Kessel, Bonino and Hagelin helped the Penguins build a third line that could be called "Line 2B". The young guys who had been with Sullivan in the minors provided help on the bottom six, and I would be remissed if I left out Matt Cullen, who at 39 signed a one-year deal back in August. He, along with Eric Fehr, who signed on for three years in July, have provided a fourth line that goes beyond the expectations of a fourth unit.
The Penguins find themselves two wins away from raising the Stanley Cup for the first time since that 2009 title that enthralled fans here in Pittsburgh. Most of the names have changed, the remaining core guys like Crosby, Malkin, Letang and Fleury are still here, but they have not been left to do it all themselves.
The Washington Capitals did something this season that most have become used to over the last decade: They failed to reach the Eastern Conference Finals.
What makes the 2015-16 version of the Capitals shortcoming even more disappointing was the feeling that the team put together by General Manager Brian MacLellan and Head Coach Barry Trotz was good enough to go the distance and win the franchises first Stanley Cup.
And for most of the season, it appeared to be going that way.
Despite a 56 win season, the President's Trophy, a Vezina trophy candidate (and future winner) in Braden Holtby, and winning the Metropolitan Division by 14 points, Washington ran into a team that got hot in March, has a history of taking the Capitals out in the playoffs and now finds itself in the Eastern Conference Finals, a place where Washington has never been in the Ovechkin era.
The Penguins have won eight of the nine playoff series they have met the Capitals in and after Tuesday night's Game 6 win, continued the trend of Washington falling short of the conference finals, a place they have not been since the 1998 playoffs when they went to the Stanley Cup Final.
You may not find many in Pittsburgh who are sympathetic to a great player like Alex Ovechkin's playoff plight, but there are others who would like to see him lift the Stanley Cup at least once before his career ends. He is only 30, so it is not like this season was his last chance to do it, but it felt like the best chance to date for the Capitals to do it.
I wrote a post last year highlighting all the times the Capitals have "choked" in past playoff series. This year, it is hard to claim that they choked this year. It might be easier to say that they simply ran into a team that was better than them at this point of the season.
Blame the NHL's bracket system for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, blame history, or perhaps blame the universe. But in the end, the Capitals continued a trend that fits them like a glove.
A lot can happen in seven years. For the Pittsburgh Penguins, it can be described as one of triumph and disappointment with a rebirth of optimism during these playoffs. The Washington Capitals have been consistent.
“Consistent” for Washington in this example is not a positive thing.
During the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs, these two teams met in what could be described as one of the greatest playoff series in the history of the game. It featured hat tricks by Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby in Game 2, and a comeback by the Penguins after going down 2-0 in the series. Games 5 and 6 featured overtimes, with Pittsburgh winning the first, and the Capitals forcing Game 7 back at the Verizon Center, which, in Capitals fashion, resulted in a 6-2 blowout by the Penguins to take the series in seven games.
The Penguins went on to sweep the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Finals and got revenge on the Detroit Red Wings, winning their third Stanley Cup in franchise history in an exciting seven-game series.
As previously noted, both teams have not met personal expectations over the last five years.
Pittsburgh’s inability to return to the Final and having first round exits in three of the last six postseasons has left some in the fanbase discouraged and feeling as though a dynasty has been wasted, while the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings can boast multiple Stanley Cups over the last six seasons.
On the other side, the Capitals have stayed consistent with their playoff history. Since Alexander Ovechkin’s first season in 2005, Washington has never advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. The Ovechkin Era consists of two President’s Trophies, but not the hardware players really want to win in June. They don't even have a Prince of Wales trophy to show for it. The Capitals have made the second round in three of the last six playoffs following their loss to the Penguins in 2009, but could never meet expectations. One of the most disappointing moments of this span has to be the 2010 playoffs, when the Capitals boasted hockey’s best record, but fell to the eight-seeded Canadiens in the first round.
The two now come together for the first time in seven years in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They have become division foes one again with realignment in 2013, so they see more of each other than they used to. The same big names like Ovechkin, Crosby, Malkin, Backstrom and Letang will be there, but with different supporting casts and coaches.
Washington once again won the President’s Trophy this season and were Stanley Cup favorites to many throughout most of the regular season, and held off a feisty Flyers team that won two-straight after going down 3-0 in the series, giving some fans that sick feeling that a monumental collapse was about to happen, but never did, as the Capitals won Game 6 in Philadelphia. The Penguins have been at a different level since early March, surging up the Metropolitan Division standings to take the second seed, making Henrik Lundqvist and his New York Rangers teammates look one-dimensional, scoring five or more goals in three of their four wins to take the series in five games.
When this series finally gets underway, it will be the ratings-grabber the NHL needs after a poor showing in round one, and the two favorites in Vegas will play a series that many wish could determine the Eastern Conference’s representative in the Stanley Cup Final, but must settle on this being a second round match, where the winner plays the Islanders or the Lightning for the conference title.
Fans will expect the Penguins to overcome their shortcomings in the playoffs since their Stanley Cup title in 2009, while the Capitals, who may have their best chance to advance since that series against Pittsburgh seven years ago, might be expected to lose this series, and nobody, including some of their fans, would be surprised.
The minute the Pittsburgh Penguins announced their new third jersey for the 2014-15 season, I knew it was the beginning of the end for the Penguins "Las Vegas gold" look.
The 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs will do just that.
The jersey on the left below will be worn for all home games for as long as the Penguins are in the playoffs. If you follow the team, you know that the "Pittsburgh gold" third jersey is the old road jersey from when the team went from blue and white to black and gold in 1980. It was the look until the 1992-93 season, when the team went with a different look that lasted a decade.
Since Monday morning, the Penguins have been promoting the jersey and that "Pittsburgh gold" for the playoffs.
Even the teams official website has turned Pittsburgh gold.
"Pittsburgh gold" which you can't find in any box of crayola, does look amazing, especially on the updated jersey. Also, keep in mind that Pittsburgh is the only sports city in America where all its professional teams have the same color scheme. Well... from 1980 to 2002.
The Penguins kept the "Pittsburgh gold" in their color scheme until 2002, when the popularity of their then third jersey, which has been the teams home jersey for the last 14 seasons, led to the Penguins adopting the "Las Vegas gold" look as their main home and road uniform.
LEFT: The Penguins first rendition of the "Las Vegas gold" from 2003-2007.
RIGHT: 2007-Present: Same jersey with the Reebok design.
The Las Vegas gold was popular when it became permanent. The Penguins were looking for a new persona (remember the "X Generation") and seeing the skating Penguin logo again caught the eyes of fans young and old, so changing the gold scheme a little bit would add an edge (and more profits with people having to buy new apparel, which will continue to happen as they go back to the old gold).
From 1992-2002, the Penguins wore these jerseys. If most franchises regret one thing from the 1990s, it would be their jersey designs.
There was "Pittsburgh gold", but it fell flat with the updated logo, and the road jersey on the far right could have been better. Like I said, 90s uniforms. Take a look, and realize how lucky you are to live in this current age of hockey jerseys.
LEFT: Home jersey (1992-2002) MIDDLE: Road Jersey (1992-1997) RIGHT: Third Jersey (1996-1997) Road Jersey (1997-2002)
While the Penguins have not officially announced that they are ditching "Las Vegas gold" for 2016-17, they are slowly phasing it out by incorporating more "Pittsburgh gold" in their team store and promotions.
When the Penguins unveiled their 50th Anniversary logo, it probably made many think that "Pittsburgh gold" was coming back permanently.
When the Penguins qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, here was their official playoff logo.
Yeah. It's over for "Las Vegas gold". It was a good run.
I do have one question. Will the Penguins rip out the "Vegas gold" seats at Consol Energy Center and replace them with "Pittsburgh gold" seats?