Penguins

Kovacevic: Exorcising Flyers hardly optional

It was Friday the 13th in May of 2011, and the Pirates were in Milwaukee's Miller Park, their own house of horrors that never needed a Freddy because the final score was always terrifying enough. Hours remained until first pitch, and Clint Hurdle walked out to the dugout area to look around.

I couldn't resist.

Me: "You know, until you get this place and that team out of your guys' heads, nothing changes."

Hurdle: "You believe in that stuff?"

Me: "I believe in this stuff. Seen too much of it."

Hurdle: "Come on. The players play the game. Last year was last year. We don't own that."

Me: "OK."

Late on that Sunday afternoon, after the Brewers had just racked up Ws of 5-2, 8-2 and 9-6, sending poor Bernie down that slide so often he probably had dizzy spells and running up their tear against the Pirates as if it would extend into perpetuity, Hurdle waited until his press conference was done to flash me a playful evil eye.

"All right," the manager conceded, "we'll put this one on the list."

Mike Johnston is new to the Penguins now, and he'll be tested by plenty of challenges large and small between now and when the games really count. But I'll submit here and now, same as that day in Milwaukee, that until his players exorcise the Flyers from their heads once and for all, Freddy will keep calling on them.

Or is that Jason, given the goalie mask?

Whichever the case ...

Flyers 5, Penguins 3.

And, as with most of the previous sequels, it wasn't the slightest bit suspenseful.

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