There’s no way these guys can do it again, right?
I mean, the Penguins have played 212 games over the last two seasons. They’ve gone through the emotional ups and downs of reaching the Stanley Cup Finals two years in a row.
They won the Cup last year, so the motivation won’t be as high, right?
This is what all the critics are saying. You know, the “Experts.” Wear, tear and motivation to the outside world appear to be huge factors going against the Penguins.
To our niche in Pittsburgh, though, we know that none of that is valid. And personally, after second-guessing the Pens last year, there’s no doubt in my mind that this team can be what we all have been hoping for since the lockout: A DYNASTY IN PITTSBURGH.
In my season preview last year I was just like the naysayers going in to this season.
I believed in the curse of the Stanley Cup loser and thought that such a long run and emotional loss would keep the Pens from doing anything special come playoff time.
Clearly, I was an IDIOT.
So this year, it’s a quest for back-to-back Cups and the sky’s the limit.
Let’s address the issues, but let’s do it with four key factors that prove the Penguins can defy the critics…
The Pittsburgh Penguins have an average age of less than 28 years old. There are just two players of 35 years of age or older (Compare that to six on Detroit’s team last year, for what it’s worth).
The Penguins are built for the NHL and its evolving style of play.
There are 10 players at 25-years old or younger. For some, this would be a problem because it would translate to inexperience.
That’s not the case in Pittsburgh, with three straight playoff appearances and two trips to the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Penguins have the benefit of having their best players down the middle. Each of the top three centers on the roster — Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal — make their teammates better.
A prime example is looking at Bill Guerin’s play before and after he came to Pittsburgh. Guerin had 16 goals and 20 assists with the New York Islanders in 68 games on Long Island.
The minute he hit Pittsburgh and skated next to Crosby things changed. He scored 5 goals and added 7 assists in just 16 regular season games. Then Guerin added 7 more goals and 8 more assists in the playoffs.
He might just have a few more years left in the tank — something no one thought while he was playing for the Islanders.
Malkin did the same with Petr Sykora and Ruslan Fedotenko. Now, obviously, Sykie is gone. However, Fedotenko returns and should build off the chemistry he and Geno developed last season.
Fedotenko had 16 goals and 23 assists while playing alongside Malkin in a season that was shortened due to a knuckle he broke on Colby Armstrong’s jaw.
Give him a full season with Geno and he’s a 20-goal scorer and maybe even more. He left a ton of opportunities out there last season, especially in the playoffs, and still managed to pot 7 goals in the postseason along with 7 assists.
Jordan Staal just does more of the same. He turned a solid third line in to arguably the best unit on either team in the Stanley Cup Finals. His goal in Game 3 was the biggest of the series and the goal just 51 seconds in to the second period of Game 4 can’t be too far behind.
The work ethic he displayed was contagious with Tyler Kennedy and Matt Cooke. From what he’s done in the preseason, there are signs that he took a lot away from the Finals and isn’t going to be the player that has yet to live up to his full potential anymore.
THEY’VE DONE IT ALL
These guys have been through the injuries and came out better on the other side.
We all remember Malkin disappearing in the Eastern Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Finals in 2008. All he did was come back and dominate, getting stronger as the playoffs wore on en route to a scoring title and Art Ross Trophy.
Crosby has been through the high-ankle sprain in 2008. It made him stronger last season and he led the Pens through a rough stretch in the regular season all the way to the Cup.
Every single one of these players is young, talented and experienced. There’s no other team that has hurdled more adversity than the Penguins. The Penguins have battled through tougher situations than most and have reached the peak.
There’s no doubt they can handle anything that comes their way this season.
Some say it can’t be as strong as it was after losing in the Finals in 2008.
I beg to differ.
All Geno has talked about this summer is winning more and more of … well, everything. He wants a trophy case unlike any other and he’s motivated to make that happen.
Sid is the same way. He’s made it clear that he doesn’t care about the individual accolades. All he wants is to be a Stanley Cup Champion.
Well you know what? He WAS.
The season starts tonight and once that puck is dropped, everyone is tied — fighting for the ultimate prize once again.
Sid’s gone all the way, winning once and losing once. As the Penguins’ captain he knows the ins and outs of every aspect of this game by now.
The sky’s the limit.
Chris | PPT