Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Young guns riding high in Pittsburgh

If the hockey fans of Pittsburgh don’t get the message across that this team is worth saving, we could be looking at a replay of the great Quebec Nordique migration of the 1995. Not since Joe Sakic and his Nords packed up for the journey west, has a young hockey team promised so much for its future, while performing in an highly entertaining style in the present.

Much like that up and coming team of soon to be household names that eventually settled in for the long run in Denver, the Penguins are quickly becoming everyone’s favourite team to watch.
Saturday night, it was time for Jordan Staal to introduce himself to hockey world, with an outstanding performance on the high church broadcast of Hockey Night in Canada. And Staal did not disappoint with his centre stage debut, rattling off three goals and a providing dominating force on the ice for his Penguins.

The only drawback to Staal’s amazing game, was that the CBC had chosen this past Saturday to split the network three ways. The Pens/Leafs game was available to the Maritimes and through Ontario, with the exception of the Ottawa area and Montreal which picked up the Sens/Montreal match up. Out west the Flames were in Buffalo, a hockey night in Canada treat for the long suffering western fans who frequently feel ignored by the Toronto centric broadcasts.

However, as word quickly spread about Staal’s amazing night, the frequent updates from the Gardens became a welcome thing. Giving those with satelite dishes a cause to work the clicker into overtime on Saturday.

Having been in a bit of a shadow of Sidney and Evgeni for the most part of this season, Jordan at eighteen stepped up and reminded everyone that the Pens are much more than that other Kid and the young Russian star.

Staal recorded his first ever hat trick, with a timely over time goal that secured the win for the Penguins and put his name into the hunt for the scoring lead among rookies, trailing his fellow Penguin Malkin by four goals. His performance Saturday, also guaranteed him a place on the set with Don Cherry and Ron McLean, the equivalent of a papal audience for hockey players when they arrive in Toronto.

Interestingly enough, the Hockey Night in Canada duo had been involved in a bit of a spat earlier in the night over the handling of an interview situation with Sidney Crosby by the Penguins. As William Houston tells the story in the Globe and Mail, Cherry and the Penguins PR official got into a bit of an argument over some comments that Cherry had made about the Penguins on Coach's Corner.

By the end of the game, it was probably a case of Sidney who? Get us that Staal kid!

The rise of Staal is just another positive sign for the team that may soon be the most talented bunch of Gypsies to ever look for a new home. From Crosby to Malkin, Staal to Fleury, the future is looking positively Silver for the Pens, Silver as in a trophy named Stanley.

The only question left to answer is which city will this core of talented youngsters be working to bring hockey’s Holy Grail home to?

Pittsburgh should phone the folks in Quebec for some guidance, they have been down the road before and it wasn’t an enjoyable journey what so ever.

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