It will come as no surprise that the five ballsiest moments of 2009 came during the Penguins’ run to the Stanley Cup championship. Although they have had a very good start to this season, despite the current end-of-year malaise, the real gumption was on display during last year’s miraculous triumph.
Evgeni Malkin shows off his out-of-this-world talent and puts the final nail in the Hurricanes’ coffin, essentially sealing the Eastern Conference finals in game two and sending Pittsburgh into the Stanley Cup for the second consecutive year. Not many have the cohones to even try this move, let alone succeed.
Penguin GM Ray Shero fires Michel Therrien and names Dan Bylsma as interim coach on February 15. Despite leading Pittsburgh to within two games of the Stanley Cup championship the year before, Therrien was guiding a rudderless ship and couldn’t inspire a team loaded with talent. The Penguins were just 27-25-5 and on the outside looking in at the playoffs, mired in 10th. We all know what happened after Bylsma took over.
Facing many critics as well as the league’s top sniper, Penguin netminder Marc-Andre Fleury stones AO on a breakaway early in game 7 of the second-round series. It was the beginning of a stunning domination that culminated in the Penguins’ winning the second of all four series on the road.
With his team trailing 3-0 and on the verge of being run out of the building, Mighty Max Talbot begins what would be a playoff full of heroics by taking on heavyweight and all around bastard Daniel Carcillo. Despite looking the worse for the wear after the tussle, Talbot raised a finger to the Philly crowd, telling them to be quiet not that they are #1, and single-handedly sparked the Pens.
Other-wordly-being Mario Lemieux sends a text to the entire team the night before game 7 in Detroit. When I first heard this story it brought tears to my eyes, typing this today, many months later, I still have goosebumps. This is definitively the best text of all time.
This is a chance of a lifetime to realize your childhood dream to win a Stanley Cup. Play without fear and you will be successful! See you at center ice.
To all of you ushering in the New Year tonight, remember to have a designated Penguin take you home.
If you can take over control of the TV at whatever party you attend, watch as the US junior national team takes on tournament-favorite Canada at 8 p.m. on the NHL Network.
Raise your glass, here’s to more ballsy moments in 2010.