RICHMOND, Va. -- As sports fans go, we in Pittsburgh are luckier than most. There are cities that suffer through entire decades of abject misery, and though we suffer our occasional setbacks, there’s usually something to be genuinely excited about.
A notable recent exception might be the early months of 2004. The Steelers had just completed a rare, miserable double-digit loss season, going 6-10 in 2003. The Pirates were, well, the Pirates, only halfway through their decades-long streak of sub-.500 baseball. And of all three teams, the Penguins' straits seemed direst of all. They were the worst team in the entire NHL, Le Magnifique was inching toward the ultimate showdown with the one opponent who could best him, Father Time, and the possibility that the team might leave the city for good hung like a specter over everything.
Then came the skid. For 18 straight games, whether in regulation or, on one occasion, overtime, the Penguins lost. No Penguins team had ever lost 18 straight before. And this streak, which may or may not be the longest in NHL history, given the complexities of the record book when ties and overtime losses are taken into account, represented the nadir, Pittsburgh sports at rock bottom.
However, once they’d won in Glendale to stop the bleeding, the Penguins would immediately get as hot as they’d been cold, going 12-5-3 over the remainder of the season. They’d still finish last overall, but got a pretty nifty consolation prize in Evgeni Malkin at the NHL Draft a few months later. Sure, they weren’t out of the woods yet, as the threat of relocation continued to loom and with a miserable, year-long lockout on the immediate horizon … but it’s hard to dispute that Ric Jackman’s goal represented a turnaround!
[caption id="attachment_780446" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] ROB ULLMAN / DKPS[/caption]
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