As this issue goes to press, the Penguins are down in the Stanley Cup finals, two games to none. Already fans and columnists are wondering whether the team can find the answers it needs to beat the Red Wings.
Wonder no longer: The Pittsburgh Penguins will defeat the Red Wings in Game 6. I've already found the answers -- without ever leaving the house. The solution won't be discovered on a chalkboard, or even on the ice of Mellon Arena. They appeared on my wide-screened Phillips hi-def television, thanks to my Nintendo Wii.
Instead of waiting to see what would happen over the course of the next few days, I decided to peek ahead and let the video game NHL 2K9 tell me who was going to win the Pens-Wings finals. After years of stealing cars, beating up pimps and winning professional wrestling titles, I turned my talents toward more noble pursuits -- simulating the outcome of professional sporting events.
There are plenty of reasons to doubt the science, I know. So far this year, I've used video games to pick the Super Bowl winner -- the Tennessee Titans -- and the NBA champions, the Phoenix Suns.
My Stanley Cup series began the same way the real one did: Game 1 opened up in Detroit's Joe Louis Arena -- and having lost to the Red Wings in last year's final, the Penguins were looking for a little payback.
The start of the game was delayed for 45 minutes due to a power outage: My Wii blew its power cord. But once the game got underway, it was obvious this would be a tough, physical series with emotions running high.
It was also obvious that my little digital Penguins were going to try and beat the snot out of Marian Hossa whenever possible. Less than 12 minutes into Game 1, Penguin Maxime Talbott knocked Hossa to the ice.
"Take that, you traitorous son-of-a-bitch," yelled his coach, spewing diet Mountain Dew and corn chips all over the screen.
Despite all the fisticuffs, a pretty decent hockey game broke out. But the Wings came out on top, 6-4. Part of the problem may have been the approximately 65,327 minutes spent in the sin bin for putting skates into Hossa's posterior.
But perhaps the Pens were as inspired as I was at the sight of Hossa sprawling on the ice -- because they came out strong in Game 2. They notched a 5-1 victory, thanks to an Evgeni Malkin hat trick and one goal each from Sidney Crosby and Sergei Gonchar.
Back on their own home ice, the Pens got more of the same in their next two games: a 3-0 Pens win in Game 3 and a 4-2 win in Game 4. It should have been a 4-1 victory, but somebody called in the middle of the game with a great offer on my car insurance and I didn't hit the pause button in time, making the game look closer than it really was.
The Red Wings were on the ropes. Hossa had been in about 33 fights. Goalie Chris Osgood had been scored on more than (insert own age-appropriate pop-culture reference for loose girl here) and Henrick Zetterberg had been a non-factor. Until Game 5.
Back in Detroit, Zetterberg went on a tear, scoring a hat trick plus one. Hossa, meanwhile, fought off his injuries to rout the Pens by the painful score of 7-2. "Screw you, you traitorous son-of-a-bitch!" came the cry from the Penguins bench.
Game 6 was a defensive battle, with both goalies blocking shots left and right. It was 0-0 with about four minutes left to play when Crosby scored on a wrister, throwing the Igloo into absolute bedlam. The celebrating proved to be short-lived, however, when Hossa shot a liner over Marc Andre Fleury's left shoulder to tie the game less than 45 seconds later.
The game seemed destined for overtime with less than a minute to go when Malkin caught the puck on a turnover in his own zone and took off on a breakaway. With 13 seconds left, Malkin slid the puck between Osgood's pads.
So what's the lesson for the Penguins in all this? Simple: Beat the snot out of Marian Hossa.