How did the Boston Bruins sweep a Pittsburgh Penguins team that comprised Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jarome Iginla, and Kris Letang?
That’s the question I have been utterly unable to answer since Friday’s series-ending game.
I had my post in the event of the Bruins being eliminated ready to go, but I had nothing in place to address the Penguins getting knocked out let alone swept.
Had these events taken place a decade ago, I would have submitted them to the show Unsolved Mysteries so that the ominous voice and unnerving stare of Robert Stack could have opened a sensational investigation into these matters. Unfortunately, the show was cancelled in 2002 and Stack died in 2003, so neither can cover this story.
However, not all is lost: drawing on years of watching this show, I think that I can offer a mock up of how the series would have addressed the Bruins-Penguins match up. Don’t feel that you can’t read along if you didn’t watch the show: you’ll get the gist of the program well enough to take part in the “investigation” that I propose.
If you need a quick overview of what Unsolved Mysteries was all about, check out this clip from the movie BASEketball in which Robert Stack parodies himself and the show that made him a household name.
Now, without further ado, here’s a posthumous episode of Unsolved Mysteries.
(Eerie synth music that makes you fear that the very shadows in your home are plotting against you. Camera shows Robert Stack walking about a crime scene.)
On Friday June 7th 2013, an unexpected tragedy occurred here at the TD Boston Garden. The National Hockey League’s Pittsburgh Penguins–a team favoured by numerous hockey writers and Las Vegas bookies to win the league’s championship–vanished from the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. In order to account for this strange disappearance of a promising team, we have put together a compilation of unexplained events that compound the greater mystery behind the Penguins, who are cleaning out their lockers rather than clearing up the opposition this June. Join me. Perhaps you may be able to help solve a mystery.
Segment 1: Abduction with Suspicion of Foul Play
When people vanish without a trace, we often assume that they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Evgeni Malkin, however, was in the right place at the right time: he was part of a star-studded professional hockey team on a deep playoff run when his scoring ability suddenly disappeared.
On Friday May 31st, Evgeni Malkin made arrangements with friends to play a game of ice hockey at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh against a group of guys they knew from Boston. For the native of Russia, this decision may have proven to be fatal to his scoring prowess as it led to the strange disappearance of both his goals and assists.
Evgeni Malkin’s scoring ability was last seen traveling toward Tuuka Rask’s net on Saturday June 1st. The ease with which Malkin entered the offensive zone that night suggests that he knew and was perhaps even friends with his assailant. As the Penguins centre skated up the ice with the puck, his attacker emerged from the shadowy perimeter of the rink and proceeded to batter Mr. Malkin until he surrendered the puck and withdrew from Boston’s end of the ice. The assailant, however, would not so easily relent in his pursuit of the Penguins star. Over the next week, he reportedly stalked Evgeni Malkin in order to perpetrate subsequent attacks.
The identity of this assailant remains a mystery: sources simply refer to him as “Big Z.” Police are looking for a male Caucasian who stands 6’9″ and weighs approximately 255 lbs.
Here’s the only known picture taken of the elusive “Big Z:” it was taken hastily after one of the many attacks made upon Evgeni Malkin.
Apparently “Big Z” is a close relative (in both appearance and gait) or Bigfoot.
Police advise that viewers who see the suspect in this case should not confront him on their own. If you see “Big Z,” call the police immediately. An elite force will then be dispatched to tranquilize him or, in the event that he scales the Empire State Building with the Stanley Cup as his captive, bring him down humanely using biplanes.
Police are also investigating the Pittsburgh Penguins for criminal negligence. Despite the numerous attacks on Evgeni Malkin, no player came forward to alert police that the well-being, and, later on, the very life of Mr. Malkin’s offence was in peril.
Police have interrogated various players in order to determine why they witnessed Mr. Malkin being repeatedly assaulted and yet decided not to intercede on their teammate’s behalf. As in the series against the Boston Bruins, the Pittsburgh players being interrogated have yet to mount a meaningful defence.
Various members of the Penguins organization have, however, begun a lawsuit against the police. They allege that law enforcers did not take the disappearance of Malkin’s scoring prowess seriously at first, and so they wasted precious time that could have been spent recovering his lost stats.
Teammates reported that Evgeni Malkin was essentially missing when they could not find him at his normal whereabouts (the score sheet) on Saturday June 1. Sadly, police did not take his disappearance seriously at that time as Mr. Malkin has been known to disappear from the score sheet periodically in the past. It wasn’t until three scoreless games had passed that suspicions of abduction began to be taken seriously. At that point, however, there’s little hope for his recovery as many assume that Malkin’s scoring prowess was bludgeoned to death with an extraordinarily long stick some time on or before Friday May 7th.
Here is a photo of Evgeni Malkin taken around the time that his scoring disappeared.
And here is a computer-generated image of what experts believe Malkin would look like today had his scoring prowess not disappeared.
If you see Malkin’s missing skills, please contact Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma immediately (but not by Skype as that will cause unnecessary turmoil for the coach after the Ralph Krueger firing).
Segment 2: Robbery
At the onset of the Eastern Conference Finals, everyone knew that the Pittsburgh Penguins had the top-ranked powerplay among teams who made it into the third round of the 2013 playoffs. The Penguins had combined for 13 powerplay goals in 15 postseason games.
While many around the league marveled at this success, the belligerent brigands of the Boston Bruins conspired to rob their opponents of this powerplay success in order to defeat the impoverished team thereafter.
Had Boston not robbed Pittsburgh’s powerplay, experts estimate that the Penguins may have scored anywhere from 13 to infinity goals in the 15 times that the Bruins made themselves shorthanded on the ice.
The estimated value of the stolen powerplay goals is estimated to be worth more than the Stanley Cup’s weight (approximately 15.5 kilograms) in silver and nickel alloy.
While the Bruins’ burgling of the Penguins took place before upwards of 20 000 witnesses, no one has come forward with information on this crime yet.
If you have any information regarding this special teams heist, please send your tips (along with a completed application to coach the Pittsburgh Penguins) to Ray Shero.
Segment 3: The Supernatural
Did ghosts meddle with the Pittsburgh Penguins’ success from beyond the grave? Did divine forces intervene on the Bruins’ behalf? Is it possible that a player’s study of occult arts cost Pittsburgh the series against the Boston? Unsolved Mysteries investigates three possible ways in which the Penguins may have been foiled in the conference finals by otherworldly forces.
Drawing on the prophecies of Nostradamus, druids have long prophesied that the hockey gods will one day make the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks (two teams whose histories hearken back to the misty, mythic origins of the NHL) face each other in the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time. These mystics have long been unable to determine exactly when the hockey gods would force this match up to occur by the faulty calendrical systems of the Mayans. It appears that this prophecy is behind the rout of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2013 playoffs.
The intercession of supernatural forces might explain why Sidney Crosby was unable to score during the entire series against Boston. Mr. Crosby is, as has been reported time and again, an exceptionally superstitious person. He has certain routines that he follows as though they were rituals that guaranteed success.
During the series against Boston, the observance of these superstitions went horribly wrong.
For instance, the service responsible for delivering Dempster’s bread to Crosby informed Unsolved Mysteries of a strange occurrence that haunted the star.
“Before every game, Sid likes to eat a peanut butter and jam sandwich. During the Bruins-Penguins series, many accidents occurred involving those sandwiches: the peanut butter and jam would be on the outside rather than the inside of the bread, or the ingredients would be transformed into almond butter and pumpkin-pie filling. One day, he found the strangest thing between the slices of bread: a black cat holding a broken mirror on top of a ladder with 13 rungs. That was the night the Bruins beat the Pens 6-1. In my opinion, whatever spirits messed with Sid’s bread are responsible for his scoring streak to become toast.”
All punning aside, these maleficent forces caused Sidney Crosby great anguish. One source of frustration involved his hockey sticks. The Penguins captain tapes his own sticks and does not allow anyone to touch them. If someone does, he feels compelled to retape them. This routine nearly gave Mr. Crosby a nervous breakdown on a number of occasions in which (partway through a period) he found phantom fingerprints on his stick tape. When he undid the tape, he found that someone had wrapped a chain of Bazooka Joe comics underneath.
No one knows who or what is responsible for these repeated acts of athletic espionage.
Some deny the involvement of the hockey gods and instead allege that acts of sorcery are behind the pranks that vexed Sidney Crosby. Some suspect that none other than Boston’s resident warlock Brad Marchand is to blame. Here is a picture of Marchand wearing his necromancer’s robes.
Marchand holds records for most goals, assists, and penalty minutes with Slytherin’s hockey team, “The Slashing Serpents.”
Others suspect that Mario Lemieux, part-owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins, tried to cut expenses after the costly 2012-2013 NHL lockout by using materials from a haunted bunkbed (the one featured in a previous episode of Unsolved Mysteries) to fashion hockey sticks for the team.
Segment 4: Alien Abduction
The nefarious forces that interfered with Sidney Crosby do not account for the fact that the team as a whole could be classified as Missing in Action during the series against Boston. Combined, the Pittsburgh Penguins managed to score only two goals on 160 shots during the futile four games played in the third round of the playoffs.
How could a team that scored 47 goals in the 11 games in the first two rounds of the 2013 playoffs suddenly forget how to play hockey?
Perhaps the only sane explanation is that extraterestrials (the ones that once stole talent from NBA players) have purloined the prowess of Pittsburgh’s players. I am, of course, referring to the events surrounding the intergalactic event known as Space Jam–the most well-documented instance of alien lifeforms interacting with earth’s inhabitants (namely, Michael Jordan and the collection of violent, socially-maladjusted characters known as the Loony Tunes).
Conspiracy theorists suggest that the alien known as Mister Swackhammer has noticed the unprecedented popularity in hockey and has dispatched his goon-squad (a.k.a. the “Nerdlucks”) to steal hockey talent. With those skills, Swackhammer will be able to feature hockey as the newest attraction at Moron Mountain, Swackhammer’s perennially poor amusement park.
Given that the Looney Tunes are currently producing new material for television, it seems unlikely that they have been captured by Swackhammer and forced to play a game of hockey in which their freedom and the powers of the Pittsburgh Penguins are on the line.
So what cartoon cohort might be currently in captivity?
The most popular candidate among alien believers is the cast of homestarrunner.com, which mysteriously disappeared from the internet in 2010. Their disappearance was followed shortly afterward by former Philadelphia Flyers captain Chris Pronger’s withdrawal from playing in the NHL. While Pronger claims that a lingering injury has kept him from playing since 2011, conspiracy theorists cite certain abnormalities (e.g. the absence of stars and the way in which the American flag appears to wave in the background) during supposedly “staged” interviews as evidence that the Pronger injury was a hoax perpetrated to cover up the fact that Chris Pronger is currently the captain of a cartoon hockey team on which both the survival of the Homestarrunner and hockey itself hinges.
Further evidence of this conspiracy to cover up the perils facing hockey and online cartoons alike is this poster that was supposedly leaked by HBO, which has been rumoured to be involved with the cover up as well as a behind-the-scenes documentary on Pronger’s battle with tyrants from beyond our galaxy.
A brutal assault and possible murder, a special teams heist, the interference of black magic, the intervention of the hockey gods themselves, and/or Earth’s invasion by beings beyond this world–are these merely scenarios considered to sensationalize the Pittsburgh Penguins’ surprisingly lopsided loss, or are these the keys to solving one of hockey’s greatest unsolved mysteries? You decide.
Join us next time on Unsolved Mysteries as we try to determine exactly where in the world Carmen Sandiego is, and how exactly she has managed to steal so many potential buyers of the Phoenix Coyotes from the NHL.
James McClure is a contributor to THW’s features on hockey history. When not procrastinating, he is a doctoral candidate who studies Shakespearean drama. His graduate work also analyzes representations of Canadian national identities in literature of the First World War. He blends this serious approach to literature with his hockey humour blog in order to offer a humourous approach to reviving hockey’s past in the present.