There hasn’t been a Hockey Night in Pittsburgh that’s included the voice of the Penguins yet, a development as unfortunate for Penguins fans as playing the games amid a pandemic has been unfamiliar, even after last season’s bubble experience.
The plan, as stated prior to the first drop of a puck, has been for Mike Lange to wait until he’s been properly vaccinated against COVID-19 before resuming his Hall-of-Fame career.
But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t already started warming up the pipes.
In advance of the beginning of his 46th season with the Penguins, Lange made the first of his in-season, every-other-week appearances on the DVE Morning Show this week.
The insights, expertise and enthusiasm covered a lot more than 200 feet.
“Aldi’s makes a turkey-pepperoni, you can just microwave it, not a long time, I do it on ‘defrost.’ It has no fat in it, very little, and it has an amazing taste to it, but they don’t have it all the time because it sells out. But they’ve got turkey-pepperoni.”
You had to be here to believe it.
There was also this on snacks/desert:
“Buy a bag of mini doughnuts. You eat two of those and you go, ‘I don’t need a third one, I’m OK.’ And you feel pretty damn good.”
But what Lange provides best is perspective on the Penguins.
And he was dishing that out like it was the first of the month.
“It’s gonna be a really tough division but I think the Penguins have competitive strength,” Lange offered off of what at the time was a two-game sample size. “I think they have the possibility of being a pretty good hockey team, and that’s what we’re looking for and hoping for in this day of COVID.”
The MassMutual East Division is, indeed, a monster.
Couple that with the Pens’ recent playoff failures and the initial uncertainty that always accompanies changes in staff and personnel and “competitive strength” seems much more of a reasonable expectation at the season’s outset than “Stanley Cup or bust.”
But if even that proves unattainable, it won’t be because of goaltending in Lange’s estimation.
“He has established himself,” Lange maintained regarding Tristan Jarry. “He did that last year. I think he’ll return to form.
“The Penguins didn’t help him out a whole lot in the games in Philly, that’s something they’ve gotta rectify as a team. I have no hesitation at all in telling you the Penguins are really strong in goal, both with Casey DeSmith and with Tristan Jarry.”
Lange, likewise, has confidence in head coach Mike Sullivan to push the right buttons.
Lange has seen that fish before, as well.
“I certainly have a lot of faith in Mike and his ability to handle his players, without question,” Lange said. “And he knows the right time, he’s shown it time and time again, making changes that have been beneficial to the team. So I kinda leave that part of it in his hands. And he’s got a
pretty good staff now, (new/former assistant coach) Todd Reirden’s certainly one of the best in the business.
“So I think they’re going to cruise here on auto for just a bit to see if they can get the wheels moving and I think they’ll be a strong performer here before it’s all done.”
In the event it doesn’t work out that way and Penguins fans end up singing the blues, Lange will still have them covered.
“Gary Moore is one of my favorites of all time,” Lange assessed. “You might want to do yourself a favor and check him out. Buddy Guy’s doing some stuff these days that is amazing, seriously. And Robert Gray’s got some stuff out that’s all pretty good.
“Vanessa Collier, a saxophone player, she’s up and coming, a pretty good performer. Samantha Fish, I’m not overly overwhelmed but I’m not disappointed, either.
“It’s good blues and it gives some credence to a new generation of blues players and that really makes me happy.”
Maybe even smile like a butcher’s dog.
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