Brother Karsh's Column for LetsGoPens.com
November 9, 2001
There's a reason flower sales dry up during the first week of November. Think about it, aside from the odd anniversary, birthday, or bereavement, is there much of an impetus to send flowers that week? Flowers beg for an occasion, something special, and for most of North America, the calendar is pretty lifeless during the first week of November. Thanksgiving is still weeks away, Christmas is even further down the road, and Halloween really loses its luster as soon as that sugar-high comes crashing to a halt.
People don't send flowers because it's Tuesday or because it's Friday, flowers beg for a grand catalyst. Why? Perhaps because as a stand alone gift, flowers don't really rate very high. They look good oncewhen they show upthen they slowly deteriorate and die. Not exactly the overriding message one wants to send for anything long term.
But maybe this isn't the only way to look at them. Maybe it isn't about how the flowers will look in a day or a week, but rather how they look at just that moment. Maybe what's important is only that brief instant when someone's day is brightened and their lips crack a smile.
Certainly some will grouse that if a few seconds of bliss are the goal, there are far more pleasurable ways to blow a hundred clams than at the florist. But what if it's not about the money, or the flowers. What if it's about the thought. What if it's about the effort.
Ever since Marty Straka was helped off the Igloo ice over a week ago, the Penguins have been trying their best to embrace just this concept. To be without Straka, Mario Lemieux, and Alexei Kovalev is to be without three players who totaled over 265 points for the Penguins last season. Subtract Robert Lang, as the Penguins were forced to do in the latter stages of Wednesday's game with Carolina, and another 80 points goes by the boards.
Yet despite averaging a mere 1.4 goals a game since losing Straka and Lemieux, the Penguins have soldiered on, holding their opponents to a scant 1.80 goals per game. They've been keeping it close, winning ugly, and doing the little things it takes to get by. Even as they limp into the final two games of a four game road trip, this team has managed a 2-2-1 record in their last five outings, something which has to be better than expected.
Yes, the power play continues to frighten and confuse all who subject themselves to its futility, but the Penguins' penalty kill appears ready for the post-season, and it's only November.
Which is precisely the point. It's onlyand alreadyNovember.
Why have the Penguins, a team with what has long-seemed some sort of ingrained allergic aversion to disciplined defense, clamped down in November as if their lives depended on it?
Because it has to be. Because it's about the effort.
Stephane Richer, Dan LaCouture, and Billy Tibbetts. These are the Penguins today. Kris Beech, Toby Petersen, and Ian Moran. This is who's out there and who this season turns on right now. Kevin Stevens, Milan Kraft, and Robert Lang. Right or wrong, role players and rookies have taken the helm this season and whether any of them know it or not, as of this minute, they are more important to the Penguin organization than Mario Lemieux, Marty Straka, or Alexei Kovalevbecause you can't score if you're not on the ice.
Few probably remember Dave Burrows' three goals in 1976, Rod Buskas' lone tally in 1988, or Len Barrie's three goals in 1994. But all of these had one thing in common, they all happened on the way to the Penguins making the playoffs.
It is seventy-two inches from post to post and the goal doesn't care what your name is.
It's a Friday in early November and sending her flowers today will mean no less than it will on your anniversary.
Currently the Penguins are nine points behind the division-leading Islanders, they need to weather the storm, and only the players who lace up the skates can steady the ship. These are the ones who must have faith, these are the ones who have to believe. No matter what their name is.
Collectively they have already taken up the flag and begun to lead the charge. Now it is time for each of them, individually, to refuse to use combined hardship as an excuse to pack it in.
For the next few games, the hero won't be named Mario Lemieux, or Marty Straka, this much is certain. Therefore there now exists an opportunity for a different star to emerge. It could be any Penguin, if they want it. It could be any player, if he decides to step up and take it.
Come to think of it, now seems like as good a time as any to do something special, even if it is only early November.
Brother Karsh appears weekly at LGP.com, has a shocking degree of faith in this Penguin team, and has forever appreciated receiving flowers for no reason.
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