Tonight's not just any other game night for us is it, Flyers fans?
We're in the midst of an emotional elevator ride filled with not only the customary ups and downs, but sudden jolts, free-falls and the occasional Rod Stewart song leaking through the speaker (blech). Metaphorically speaking, of course.
::turns off iTunes::
The biggest story is unmistakably Jaromir Jagr's first return to the 'Burgh since sliding on his #68 orange sweater. Since Free Agency Frenzy Day, the neighboring Western Pennsyltucky city of Pittsburgh has had one sore ass.
"We never wanted that bum anyway!"
"He's washed up! F*ck him!"
Yadda yadda, whateverthehell, yadda. Whatever helps you sleep at night, Pittsburgh. Fact is, when news broke that Jags was once again going to throw himself into the NHL pool, a handful of Penguins fans salivated at having him back while a majority hit YouTube to introduce themselves to what a star was like prior to 2005.
See, when someone mentions the words "Penguins fans" in my presence, I instantly get the same image in my head. And it's funny, too, because I have some very close friends who happen to be Pens fans. Knowledgeable, unbiased fans at that! Yet they are the complete opposite of the returning, stereotypical image of their fanbase that pops in my mind.
Again, when "Penguins fans" is spoken aloud, I picture a normal, suburban high school couple around the ages of 15 - 17 years old. Young bucks. The girlfriend is wearing a Sidney Crosby sweater, either shaded in pink or their alternate baby blue. Pick whichever you want, both colors can be found in a newborn's bedroom, and she just finds them darling.
The boyfriend (trying to stay in touch with the current flow of players, yet remain distant from the majority purchase because it's the "cool thing to do") dons his Evgeni "Geno" Malkin jersey and cherries atop his head a straight-brimmed hat with the throwback logo of the soldiered Penguin. Maybe it still has the price tag hanging from the back strap, maybe it doesn't. Point is, he'll be damned if you don't believe he's anything but gangsta who'd sooner cap a bitch's ass than live in his parents' $700K house.
Neither of these children heard the names of skaters such as Randy Hillier, Mike Bullard, Syl Apps Jr., Brian "Bugsy" Watson, Michael Briere, or Paul Coffey.
Yes, they're aware of who Mario Lemieux is, but he's one of the faces of the league's Mt. Rushmore.
Go ahead and tell me he isn't. Respect.
Together this blooming couple spends the sixty minutes of regulation holding up a combination of "I <3 #87", "City of Champions" and "Bylsma is Boss!" signs. The Terrible Towel swings in circles from their hands even though it has no real rationale to be presented at a hockey game. But for some reason the city sees these catch-rags as a symbol of their inhabitants; cheap, annoying, and everywhere all of a sudden, like Justin Bieber music.
Now take this high school couple and multiply that by 11,000.
Welcome in tonight's attendance.
Jaromir "You Mean That Guy with the Mullet?" Jagr will be booed brutally as Pittsburgh's own Benedict Arnold. Jags spent nine seasons wearing the flightless-pigeon as a crest before moving on to Washington and then finally ending with the Blue Shirts in 2007-08.
He's very well aware of the hate that will be delivered to him from the stands;
“It’s gonna be a lot worse in Pittsburgh, no question about it,” he said when asked about his reception in New York last Friday. “If you want to hear boos, go to Pittsburgh.” ~ PSD
If the Flyers were on any sort of positive momentum, all this drama surrounding "Jagr's first-return" would be an inkling in my thought process. But it isn't. Our boys are struggling, and the Pens are on a four game winning streak. Division rivals are climbing the ladder, while Philadelphia's hit a plateau and is laboring to keep their feet.
Nevermind points in the standings. This is about overcoming odds and personal skids, and getting back into the win column on a night-by-night basis.
Our front "Yagaroo" line seems to be the only combination consistently contributing to the scoreboard, while skaters like Danny Briere and James van Riemsdyk continue to fail to rise as tempo-setters and goal scorers.
Bryzgalov has just been a flat out disappointment to every length and corner of the word.
Our blue line has holes shot in it, with no one seemingly able to fill the voids.
So the last thing this team needs to be concerned with is a group of rowdy, fly-by-night fans behind the game glass flipping our winger the middle finger. Focus on the basics. Perfect them. Test Marc-Andre Fleury each chance you get. Enough of the flashy passing. When a hole opens up, put the puck on net. Then, attack the crease looking for the garbage.
Don't be too aggressive on the forechecking. This Pens team is hot right now, so taking advantage of their mistakes is a must. Capitalize on the goddamn turnovers.
FINISH. FINISH. FINISH. FINISH!!!
Now let's go!