DETROIT – If the Pittsburgh Penguins were to march into Joe Louis Arena and upset the Red Wings, there was no doubt at least one of the Black and White crew would need to step up with a super-human effort. But who would have thought the one wearing the hero badge after a remarkable Game 7 victory would be Max Talbot and not Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury or even Jordan Staal?
But there you have it. With his seventh and eighth goals of the 2009 playoff run, the 25-year-old has cemented his place in playoff lore and in the hearts of Penguins fans in Pittsburgh and beyond.
“I don’t have a good explanation about why this guy can come up big in tough situations of big games, but he’s done it enough to know that’s what he can do,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “He’s gritty, he’s determined and he’s not scared to go after it.”
Amongst madness of the on-ice celebration, Talbot deflected credit to his teammates.
“There’s more than one hero tonight,” Talbot said. “Geno was unbelievable; everyone who made the little plays. I was lucky to be in the right place at the right moment to score two goals. This is the best day of my life.”
Later on, however, Talbot opened up about what has become an uncanny knack for stepping up at the most opportune times.
“When you get one goal and you lead a team to a championship, which I was lucky enough to do in junior, and you score big goals throughout your career it feels like it stays with you and people talk about it,” said Talbot. “You start believing in it and you just say to yourself that you’re that type of player. You want to be there in big games.”
To minimize Talbot’s effort by solely focusing on his heroics in Game 7 wouldn’t do justice, however. The Lemoyne, Que., native, who the Pens drafted in the eighth round (234th overall) in 2002, found the net at key times throughout the post-season and provided invaluable energy game in and game out.
“I could talk about him all day,” said GM Ray Shero. “He’s been just unbelievable. He’s got a great personality; he’s kind of a glue-guy for our team. Everybody appreciates his hard work and tenacity.”
Much less noteworthy, but equally enjoyable for fans of the playoff beard, is Talbot’s mess of facial hair, a growth rivaled in depth and thickness, perhaps, only by teammate Pascal Dupuis. So now that his Cup run is done, is he looking forward sheering it?
“I don’t care about the beard,” Talbot said. “The bigger it is, the longer you’ve played. I think I may shave it off and keep it; it’ll be a great memory.”
Among the more popular questions posed to the Pittsburgh players in the moments following their victory concerned Marian Hossa and handing the former Penguin his second straight defeat in the final.
“In the end, I think he knows he made the wrong choice,” said Talbot.
Crosby, meanwhile, was much more diplomatic, admitting there was part of him that felt sorry for Hossa.
“A little bit, yeah,” Crosby told a throng of reporters on the ice. “I’ve been there and it’s not a fun feeling whatsoever. It wasn’t us against him; he’s a great player and we respected his decision. It’s never easy to be on the losing end.”
Hossa, an unrestricted free agent once again this summer, was disappointed with the loss, but said he had no regrets about his decision.
“That’s life and you make choices,” said Hossa. “I still had a great year with this organization…it could have gone the other way; only one goal made the difference.”
DESTINED TO BE?
Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final was No. 25 (Talbot’s number) for Pittsburgh and No. 87 (Crosby’s number) for the playoffs overall. The only other road team to win a Game 7 was the ’71 (Malkin’s number) Montreal Canadiens, who beat the Blackhawks in Chicago.
THN Shootout: Pens prevail
From the road in Detroit, host Ken Campbell and Pittsburgh Penguins’ color commentator Phil Bourque discuss... The Pens' remarkable turnaround… Pittsburgh’s ability to overcome adversity… The similarities between Evgeni Malkin and Mario Lemieux… And the likelihood of the Penguins contending for the Stanley Cup for years to come. PRODUCER: Ted Cooper
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THN is on the road following the Stanley Cup final and will file daily reports until a champion is crowned. To read other entries, click HERE. Also, check out THN.com's regular video roundtable, the THN.com Shootout for updates from both Detroit and Pittsburgh.
Edward Fraser is the editor of thehockeynews.com. His blog normally appears Thursdays.
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