At a certain point, one gives up on illusion. The fantastic, while still desirable, eventually seems to become unobtainable and is thus rendered little more than fantasy. Logic supercedes the ideal and the rational mind says that because a feat springs forth from the improbable, it is therefore too preposterous to believe. Such a triumph is hence explained by chicanery, by luck, or is simply overlooked as inconsequential because it cannot be easily quantified.
It is an individual's history of practical experience which dictates perception, what is possible, what is not; and, not surprisingly, one's spectrum of feasibility seems to grow smaller and smaller with each passing year. Age constrains the body, the body constrains the mind, and the mind slowly adjusts its sights accordingly.
Yet even as the dreams of youth are slowly brushed aside, they are never quite forgotten. Deep within the heart of the most jaded cynic it is easy to believe that there still sits a little boy named Peter Pan who once knew how to fly.
Such is the marvel of suspending disbelief.
The Penguins have no earthly reason to contend for the Stanley Cup this year. They finished the season fifteen points behind conference leader New Jersey, twenty-two points behind the league leading Avalanche, and they gave up more total goals against (256) than any team in the entire Western Conference.
Their defense, when healthy, consists of relative babes, journeymen, and castaways. Their goalie has barely been in town a month, their back up has been out of the line up for twice that, and their 'coach' rarely plays more than three lines a game.
In December, this was a team that was going to fire their coach, fire their players, and start looking for a voodoo priestess to exorcise all the demons within. The sky was falling, Chicken Little was in the fallout shelter, and nothing could stop the impending implosion that was the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Only something did. Something happened that was so remarkable, so unthinkable, it went beyond implausible. It was, quite frankly, the impossible, and it turned the team around. It turned the league around, and somehow the Penguins finished the year just shy of one hundred points on the season. Jagr had over fifty goals and there were enough career years in stock to allot one to each member of the second line. Suddenly, impossible wasn't so impossible after all.
A little voice somewhere seemed to say something about magic. It mentioned that the Penguins had more goals than every team in the league save one, New Jersey (281 to 295 respectively), that Pittsburgh went 27-14-3-2 since The Return, and that the Penguins first playoff draw is Washington, again; a team the Pens seem to deftly dismiss every season.
While one doesn't dare whisper words like 'miracle,' or wonder aloud if it really could be, the idea has already been given life, the story already left the ground.
It's because now is when one wants to believe. This is when one has to believe. It has to be possible, right here, right now. Inexplicable, yes; inconceivable, absolutely, but somehow entirely believable.
There is a reason the hockey season is eighty-two games long, it's the same reason the baseball season is nearly twice that. Professional sports are a daily grind, a boys game played by men whose purest emotions play out live before eyes of the world. These sports are not fun every day, they are not memorable every day, but every so often; often when it matters the most, something spectacular happens.
One gets to see history. One gets witness greatness, and one gets to experience magic. Not because it's possible, because it's impossible. Because it shouldn't, wouldn't, and couldn't happen, right up until the moment when it does. Ask Jaromir Jagr about Game 6 against the top-seeded Devils. Ask Petr Nedved about a shot he took at 2:15 in the morning. Or ask Mario about going end to end against Minnesota.
The Penguins this year have no defense. They've got no goaltending, and their coach centers the first line and literally owns the team. They're going to give up three goals a game, at least, and they'll be lucky if they can keep from getting blown out of the building.
The truth is so self-evident, it bears repeating until one is blue in the face, the Pittsburgh Penguins have no earthy reason to contend for the Stanley Cup this year. None whatsoever. Even with the career years, even with Jagr's scoring title, even with Mario; such a feat would be beyond the realm of comprehension. It simply could never happen. It would be impossible.
Brother Karsh currently writes for LetsGoPens.com and would entrust his first born to Mario as he believes Mario is more than just a mortal man. Although, Achilles and Prometheus were more than mortal men too, and, well . . .