It is not as coveted as talent, or as requisite as money, but there is more than a little something to be said for heart. Heart is that indescribable, indefinable something. It's what makes a first date so hand wringing, and what makes a junior varsity football game feel like life and death. This is because heart puts you in the line of fire, you are the one involved. Not them, or him, or her; you.
The stake in the outcome is personal, your own. Rise or fall, sink or swim, you are on the table. Not your money, not your credibility, not your word; the very thing that makes you who you are, that is what is wagered.
This is why Saturday will be so spectacular.
The world knows, what happened last night is not why Mario Lemieux came back to hockey. What possible masochism could he have buried deep within him that says the only real way to experience a Penguin collapse in the month of May is to be on the ice for it? No, this is not how this ends.
Altruism aside, Kevin Stevens wasn't brought back to the 'Burgh because Mario wants to help turn a guy's life around either. He, and others before him (Corbet, Boughner, even Tugnutt a year ago) were called to the Igloo ice because they want something desperately, because they will do anything to get it, and because that is what must be instilled into every Pittsburgh Penguin player before reclaiming the Stanley Cup can ever be anything other than a fantasy.
Now is when it happens. Right now. When the Penguins are on the verge of letting a fourth straight post-season end with a whimper, when the team is at its lowest, this is when the team reaches down and finds out who they are and of how much mettle they're made.
Yes, it can be said that a plethora of opportunities have already been squandered, yet even during Game Four there would be a tomorrow. No longer is that the case. It has gone beyond reasonable consideration to believe that the Penguins could lose Game Five, making it three losses in a row, and win the final two games of this series. It must be now, and it must start with heart.
Heart grants you the ability to look an opponent dead in the eye and say, "Over my dead body." Heart makes a moral victory more than a platitude. Heart is what asks that girl for her phone number, what is willing to say 'I love you' without the slightest idea how it will be received. Heart fears no failure.
This is what the Penguins, as a team, must find before Saturday.
For too many seasons, the Penguins have had no part of this. It has been the only foreign language they've been unable to corral. Perhaps they've been too talented, with players like Kovalev and Jagr smirking and assuming their skill would get the job done right up until the moment it didn't. Or perhaps they haven't been talented enough, with players such as Moran, Corbet, Lang, and Morozov being serviceable in the regular season, but rendered inconsequential when it really matters. In either case, the Penguins have lacked that one element which is essential to winning the most prized chalice in all of sport. But this year is going to be different.
Mario is back.
Now is when it starts.
Now is when somebody looks around the room, puts their foot down, and reminds the world that it wasn't over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor. Or something to that effect.
For better or worse, right or wrong, now is the time. Because if it is not now, if this is not the moment, then now is when every single change ever considered is fair game for this roster. Kovalev, fair game; Kaspar, fair game; Jagr, fair game.
At the bottom of it all, there is only one goal in professional hockey and, no matter what Pavel Bure appears to believe, it has nothing to do with personal achievement. It has to do with a team and a trophy, and if a player isn't willing to give their all to realize that goal and make this dream a reality, they do not deserve to be on the ice. They may not even deserve to play the game for a living.
This is why Saturday will be so telling, so magical, no matter the result. Because now is when Penguin fans will finally find out if the Mario-led Penguins are truly different from the Mario-bought Penguins. Starting Saturday, the city Pittsburgh will get to find out exactly what their hockey team is made of, and that's what the playoffs are all about.
Brother Karsh appears weekly at LGP.com and believes that heart is essential for every day living. Oh, and that the sooner the Penguins find it, the sooner Mario will bring the Stanley Cup back to Pittsburgh.