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Old 05-05-2008, 01:47 PM   #5491
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Default Re: Pens Tidbits

Can I have a resounding AMEN?

http://postgazette.com/pg/08126/879243-61.stm

Hard work? It's in the Penguins' stars

Monday, May 05, 2008
By Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

When it finally ended late yesterday afternoon, after 67 minutes, 10 seconds of tough, physical, tense playoff hockey, Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik showed remarkable stamina by making it from his locker to the team refrigerator and a precious energy drink.

Hey, it was all the way across the room.

"It's not supposed to be easy," someone said to Orpik after the Penguins needed overtime to close down the New York Rangers for the summer, winning Game 5 of their playoff hostilities, 3-2.

"It isn't?" asked grinning team owner Mario Lemieux as he passed by on his way to shake a few more hands.

"Maybe for you it was easy. Not for the rest of us," Orpik told the great Lemieux.

Amen.

This throbbing win, which set off a raucous Mellon Arena celebration and nudged the Penguins into the Eastern Conference final later this week against the hated Philadelphia Flyers, will go down in team lore as the overtime thriller that ended in a New York instant when sniper Marian Hossa's dead-on shot found the back of the Rangers' net behind fabulous goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. But there was so much more to it than that goal and an earlier one by Hossa and even another out-of-this-world goal by Evgeni Malkin, your Conn Smythe Trophy favorite at the halfway point of these Stanley Cup playoffs.

Mostly, there was hard work.

From the Penguins' role players, sure.

But -- and this is really important, so write it down -- from the team's stars.

"It's not so much about skill in the playoffs," wise winger Pascal Dupuis said. "It's about effort. When your franchise players are working as hard or even harder than the role players, you're going to win."

So it was for this bunch of flightless birds.

Much of the extraordinary effort came from the Penguins' penalty-killers, every bit the heroes against the Rangers that Malkin, Hossa, Sidney Crosby and Marc-Andre Fleury were. Take a bow, Ryan Malone, Jordan Staal, Adam Hall and Mr. Dupuis. Step right on up onto the stage with them, Hal Gill, Rob Scuderi, Sergei Gonchar and Mr. Orpik. Those fellas never gave the Rangers a chance. The New York power play went 0 for 4 with one shot in this game, a dull 3 for 25 in the series.

Hard work?

We're talking off the charts.

"Guys are paying the price because they want to win so bad," Dupuis said. "They're blocking shots. They're getting in the shooting lanes. And when the puck does get through to the net, we've got a wall in front of it. Marc-Andre is playing unbelievably right now."

Penguins general manager Ray Shero's deal for Hossa at the February trade deadline was celebrated long into the night all over the city, but how about picking up Dupuis in the package? And what about the trade for Gill? "His stick is everywhere," Penguins defenseman Ryan Whitney said of Gill. "He just breaks up play after play."

Killing penalties -- actually, playing defense in general -- is largely about want to. These Penguins clearly want to. It was no accident that the Rangers had four shots in the first minute yesterday, then just three the rest of the first period. Or that they had a total of four -- count 'em, four -- in the second period, none in the final 14 minutes, 50 seconds. Or that they didn't have a single shot in overtime.

"It's pretty good to know we can clamp down like that," Whitney said. "People don't think of us as a defensive team. We're proving we are one."

Don't underestimate the stars' impact in that.

Hossa is the best two-way player on the team right now, just as reliable in the defensive zone as he is when he has the puck trying to torture goalies. "He's a special player," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said with obvious appreciation. "He doesn't cheat out there."

Throw in Crosby, the team's hardest worker on the ice, in practice, in the weight room, on the stationary bike ...

You get the idea.

And add Malkin, whose energy seems boundless. Was he all over the ice yesterday or what?

Stars aren't stars merely because they have terrific talent.

These stars are stars because they work for what they get.

Two examples from yesterday:

Hossa scored the Penguins' first goal, but that was the easy part after a wonderful pass from Malone. The hard part was keeping the puck in the Rangers' zone, which Hossa did with an all-out dive a few moments earlier. "You don't see superstars diving for the puck like that very often," Whitney marveled.

Malkin scored the second goal because he refused to quit on the puck. After he tried to split Rangers defensemen Paul Mara and Marc Staal in front of Lundqvist, the puck was nudged slowly back up ice. Malkin stopped on a dime, changed direction and pounced on the puck before firing a backhander by the stunned Lundqvist.

It's no wonder Lemieux was grinning so much on his handshake tour.

The boys are giving him his money's worth this spring.

"We deserved to win that game," Therrien said. "We deserved to win this series."

It's worth saying again.

Amen.
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Old 05-05-2008, 01:58 PM   #5492
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Default Re: Pens Tidbits

Great read on Ruuuuutuuuuuu!!! As XT can attest to, I was probably the first Pens fan to sport a #37 Ruutu jersey in Mellon Arena. I bought it the day after I learned this pesky, little critter was coming to the Burgh!


http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08125/879017-61.stm

Jarkko Ruutu: A pest worth loving
Sunday, May 04, 2008

By Robert Dvorchak, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

If he's on your team, you can't help but love Jarkko Ruutu and his infectious energy (not to mention his rhythmic last name). But if he's on the other side, he's a dirty, no-good, villainous pest. There is no middle ground.Mark Beall and Kurtis Slagle, who have been friends since they attended grade school together in the Harrisburg area, did some pre-game shopping for a specific item at Pens Station before attending a recent playoff game at Mellon Arena.

Jerseys bearing the names and numbers of such stars as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury are available in sports stores everywhere, but they were interested in something from someone who opponents love to hate -- Jarkko Ruutu, cult figure.

"You have to come to Pittsburgh to get a Ruutu," said Beall, 25, holding a freshly bought T-shirt adorned with Ruutu's name and No. 37. "Why him? He's got all kinds of energy and personality."

Slagle, who became a Penguins fan while attending the University of Pittsburgh, wanted to purchase the player's authentic NHL jersey, but it was sold out.

"He's a big hitter. It's part of playing the sport. He fits in with Pittsburgh," said Slagle, a Marine who is shipping out for a combat tour in Afghanistan.

Inside Mellon Arena that night, Ruutu put on a show of his handiwork after three unanswered goals by the Rangers silenced the audience. In one remarkable shift, Ruutu gestured with his stick blade to get the attention of defenseman Michal Rozsival in the faceoff circle, and shortly thereafter, he re-energized his team with a goal that caromed in off Rozsival's skate.

In what has become a signature ritual, the crowd chimed in with public-address announcer John Barbaro when he called the name that resonates around the old dome like some phantom of the opera.

"Not all hockey names flow that easily. His name lends itself to embellishment. Lately, I feel like I'm saying it a lot," Barbaro said.

At other times, the chant erupts without prompting.

"The fans caught on. They love him," Barbaro said. "Even when he makes a hit, there's a spontaneous chant of Rooooo-tooooo."

How a pest, agitator, pot-stirring role player with a notorious reputation captures the fancy of hometown fans is just one of many subplots in the playoffs, but as the saying goes, the Cup changes everything.

Opponents disdain him the way they loathe mosquito bites or jock itch -- irritants that must be dealt with and get worse when scratched. In the blogosphere, anonymous postings rant about his villainy even as Web surfers are drawn to his hits and fights on YouTube, including his run at Jaromir Jagr in the 2006 Olympics.

There's no middle ground with Ruutu, whose facial scars are a road map of his style. If he's wearing the home sweater, he's cheered. For those on the other side, he's a dirty fiend and cheap-shot artist. Call it selective outrage.

In a recent Sports Illustrated poll of NHL players, Ruutu tied for third in the rankings of dirtiest players, although Philadelphia's Daniel Briere would put him at the top of that list. Ruutu placed behind the Rangers' Sean Avery and Anaheim's Chris Pronger, and even with Chris Simon, who was suspended for 30 games this season for using his skate like a meat cleaver on Ruutu's leg.

His reputation hardly upsets him, though. If he gets under someone's skin with antics, gestures, insults or heavy checks, he succeeds because the hatred he generates results in wasted energy in those looking for retribution.

"I like it," he said with a grin. "People can call me what they want. I probably get penalties called on me more often because of my reputation. But players on the other team have to keep their head up and be aware when I'm in the game. I've never drawn a line on what I can and can't do. I'll do whatever it takes to win."

Whatever it takes? Not only was that the slogan of Chuck Noll's dynasty, the NHL Hall of Fame has more than one honoree who had a similar mind-set in, say, leveling two-handers across an opponent's ankle in the name of winning. And for all the talent of the Mario Lemieux era, the Penguins didn't win a Stanley Cup until they acquired Ulf Samuelsson, perhaps the most-hated man in Boston for a knee-on-knee hit to Cam Neeley.

Savagery is as much a part of hockey as highlight-reel goals and spectacular saves, although it's supposed to be regulated by the referees. Ruutu is not the only player who plays on that edge.

Yet for a third- or fourth-line player whose penalty minutes (138) far exceed his regular season output (6 goals, 10 assists), Ruutu has been key in some of the most pivotal points of the season. Coincidence? His fans think not.

When the team was struggling in November, Ruutu's shootout goal beat the Ottawa Senators, who twice blew a two-goal lead. It was the kind of win that turns a season around.

In January, Ruutu slugged it out with Toronto tough guy Darcy Tucker, landing an unanswered series of punches.

In March, just days after he lost his stick and soccer-kicked the puck to lead a rush against the Rangers, he had his lip and mouth gashed open after scoring a goal against the Lightning. A stitching needle was required to close the wound, sort of like Ruutu voodoo. "I want to win hockey games. I don't care what I look like," he said at the time.

In the first round of the playoffs, Ruutu scored the winning goal that completed a sweep of the Senators.

And Ruutu jump-started his team against the Rangers.

But followers of the Penguins aren't the first to climb aboard the Ruutu train. In his six years in Vancouver, he inspired a song composed by long-time fan Heavy Eric Holmquist, a professional lumberjack, Canadian log-rolling champion and Elvis Presley impersonator.

"He's a live wire out there. He's a bit of a side show when he's on the ice, but he knows how to play the game. He knows when to cut out the funny stuff. He just puts his hard hat on and grinds away," Holmquist said.

The song is downloadable at www.heavyeric.com, although a donation to a charity is requested. The opening line is Ruutu, Ruutu, rocks 'em like U2. One verse goes like this:


Jarkko Ruutu's a feisty Finn.

He's always getting under someone's skin.

He's not scared to throw open ice hits.

And he's not afraid to drop his mitts.

One fan felt such a void when Ruutu came to Pittsburgh via free agency that he posted the three-word lament "I miss Ruutu" on a Canucks' message board.

Asked what triggered the sentiment, Russel Barden said: "Whenever the Canucks were playing poorly, Ruutu would go out and either make a huge hit or take the puck and drive straight to the net as hard as he could, no matter what might happen to him personally. He was always one player who could get the average fan into the game. He is a favorite on the team he plays on because he is one of the best in the league as a 'pest.' Teams hate playing against him."

Penguins fans can relate.

At a recent home game, Erica Sharer of Fombell was on her way to watch the action on the outdoor TV. She was decked out in black and gold beads and Penguins knee socks, and from her Penguins tote bag, she had a Penguins glove with the No. 1 finger extended. Completeting the ensemble was her authentic Ruutu jersey.

"He's been my favorite player," she said. "I like his whole attitude. He's not just good at getting under people's skin. He's scored some big goals. What's not to like?"
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Old 05-05-2008, 02:12 PM   #5493
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Originally Posted by HometownGal View Post
I was probably the first Pens fan to sport a #37 Ruutu jersey in Mellon Arena. I bought it the day after I learned this pesky, little critter was coming to the Burgh!
haha, nice!

I got a Ruutu jersey for Christmas, one of my fav players!
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Old 05-05-2008, 03:22 PM   #5494
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LOL...well now that I'm officially on the Pens' bandwagon guess I have to get a jersey too....leaning towards getting a Fleury or Hossa.
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Old 05-05-2008, 04:18 PM   #5495
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Old 05-05-2008, 04:25 PM   #5496
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Very upsetting----but in everyone's defense, Ben was accepting the jersey from Umberger (right) who is from Plum Borough.

And Ben was at the game yesterday---showing the Pens some love.
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Old 05-05-2008, 04:28 PM   #5497
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Two "bergers" hangin' out - cool.

P.S. - - Ben - do something with that hair!!!!
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Old 05-05-2008, 04:33 PM   #5498
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hey now i own a flyers jersey.. although its a lindross jersey that just hangs in the back of my closet..lol
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Old 05-05-2008, 04:54 PM   #5499
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Very upsetting----but in everyone's defense, Ben was accepting the jersey from Umberger (right) who is from Plum Borough.

And Ben was at the game yesterday---showing the Pens some love.
Yeah, I don't take offense by it at all. The friends of mine who have seen it were angered and I didn't get why lol. I just thought it was kind of an interesting thing to see right now. The leader of our Pittsburgh Steelers holding the jersey of our Pens enemies lol.
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Old 05-05-2008, 04:58 PM   #5500
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is it me or does this dude on the right in the stands look like casey hampton
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