I find every reason to be worried about the Penguins at all times. This prevailing mindset exists in all fans of all sports teams, regardless of the quality or recent performance of that team, for two main reasons:
1) As a devoted fan to a particular team, one is uniquely privy to that team’s subtle weaknesses.
Commentators and casual Penguin-watchers might remark that Marc-Andre Fleury is one of the best clutch goaltenders in the NHL, or that the Pens are loaded with offensive firepower on the blue line with Gonchar, Letang and Goligoski, and they wouldn’t be wrong. People who watch and root for the Penguins on a nightly basis, however, know that Fleury is capable of going into “Fleury…what??” mode and letting in unscreened wrist shots from any concessions stand on any given night, and that Gonchar, Letang and Goligoski all occasionally forget how to play the sport of hockey and become unable to stand in front of other human beings while in their defensive zone. These concerns aren’t extreme pessimism on the part of fans; they’re legitimate aspects that we notice and worry about because we’ve seen them happen hundreds of times.
2) Fans are always reserved about praising their own teams too highly for fear of jinxing them by celebrating prematurely.
Part of this is in a joking, supernatural “don’t want to jinx them!” kind of way, which people don’t actually believe (but dammit, we’re not deviating from it in the playoffs), but on a more practical level, fans also don’t want to appear overconfident and gloat and then have their team ultimately lose, which would make the situation far less digestible on all levels. By curbing our expectations in advance, we give ourselves an emotional safety net if our team loses, rather than the devastating free-fall we’d experience if we were positive the team was going to win and they didn’t.
Both of these reasons are completely legitimate and almost completely universal — you want to scream at Yankee fans when they get nervous when Mariano Rivera comes into the 9th inning of a game when the team’s up 3-1 in the playoff series, but that’s just what fans do. Who wants to be confident and rational about their own team? Douchebags, that’s who. Also rational people, I guess. No, only douchebags. There – proved it!
My point is, I am very much one of these always-worried people. I am extremely one of these people. And yet, having explained in depth all of this jargon about all fans making themselves worried at all times, I am extremely, almost dangerously confident about the Penguins heading into the Montreal series, and here’s why: