Kovacevic: All clear in Penguins' window
TribLIVE Sports Videos
“Yeah, it does seem like a long time ago. Really does.”
That was Marc-Andre Fleury's reply the other night at Consol Energy Center, offered through that toddler's smile, when asked how far removed he feels from that magical Motown moment in 2009.
From that sliding save on Nicklas Lidstrom.
From raising that silver chalice.
“Once you don't win it, you miss it,” Fleury continued. “We went to the final the year before then we won, and you think you'll be there every year. But that's not how it's gone.”
No, not in the slightest.
The Penguins have gone 1-3 in Stanley Cup playoff series since, bombing against the Canadiens and Lightning and, by far the most painful, melting down in Philadelphia last spring.
There's now a postseason trend line that's sunk with each passing season.
There's even a temptation, or so I sense, to suggest that, if this team's window hasn't slammed shut, the sash is at least diving downward.
And maybe it's true.
But good luck making a case.
Really, all it takes to debunk the notion is to block out the emotional noise of those playoff losses and look at cold facts.
Sidney Crosby is 25 — and a young 25 at that, given the beating his body's been spared for the better part of two years now. No reason he shouldn't lead the NHL in scoring.
Evgeni Malkin is 26. He just did lead the NHL in scoring. Won MVP, too.
Those two alone should be enough to sway any skeptic. Backcheck through hockey history, and you'll find that those fortunate few teams blessed to have two of the game's top players almost always wound up winning it all twice or more:
· Phil Esposito and Bobby Orr, Bruins: 1970, 1972
· Guy Lafleur and Ken Dryden, Canadiens: 1973, 1976-79
· Bryan Trottier and Mike Bossy, Islanders: 1980-83
· Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier, Oilers: 1984-85, 1987-88
· Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr ... you know.
· Steve Yzerman and Sergei Fedorov, Red Wings: 1997-98, 2002
· Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg, Avalanche: 1996 and 2001
Now add this: Could any of those duos claim to be 1-2 in the league at the time they won?
Jagr was still a mullet-headed child in 1991-92. Messier wasn't yet Mr. Guarantee. I'll grant you Esposito and Orr, and that's it.
Until Crosby and Malkin.
Are we really dismissing how special this situation is because of a couple lousy playoffs?
Are we really forgetting that both will enter a season healthy for the first time in four years?
Because I can assure you those involved are not.
“I think it's huge,” Crosby said. “It's been a while, for sure, and Geno's coming off such a great season and now playing great in Russia, so that makes it even more exciting.”
Yeah, just a little.
So what of the supporting cast?
James Neal is 25. He just busted out for 40 goals.
Kris Letang is 25. All that's keeping him from a Norris Trophy is consistency. Maybe a contract year will do it.
Brandon Sutter is 23. I'm not close to weighing the Jordan Staal trade, but anyone who saw this kid in camp would love Eddie Johnston's old-school assessment after the scrimmage the other night: “Kid's a (heck) of a hockey player.”
Now tell me again, where's this window?
Is it with the other forwards?
Chris Kunitz (26 goals), Pascal Dupuis (25) and Matt Cooke (19) all set career highs last season. Overall, the Penguins led the NHL with 273 goals. Same group.
The rest of the defense?
OK, there are issues here once you get past Letang, Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen. But Ray Shero can trade for help at the deadline, if not sooner. That process tends to go well.
Well, this is where we come full circle back to the Flower.
None of the above matters if he doesn't blossom again. That's just hockey. The Penguins scored plenty on Philadelphia, but the Flyers buried a ridiculous 26 pucks past Fleury in just six games. Bad goaltending can't be overcome.
But Fleury is hardly old at 28, and he ranked second in the league with 42 regular-season wins despite being driven into fatigue by Brent Johnson failing as backup. Truth is, until Fleury hit the wall, he was very good.
Moreover, Shero tried to fend off a sequel by wisely signing Tomas Vokoun, probably the game's most qualified backup.
The goaltending will be fine.
So will the Penguins. I really believe that. The facts — and I use the term advisedly — support that powerfully.
Maybe this window hasn't even entered the picture yet.
Maybe for now everyone, the Penguins included, would do well to slam shut their own windows on the bitter aftertaste of Mike Cammalleri's goals, Dwayne Roloson's saves and Scott Hartnell's smirk and focus instead on the imminent task.
Which has a lot to do with Hartnell's smirk, come to think of it.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates rout Cardinals to keep things interesting in NL Central
- Steelers remain confident in defense
- Security guard shot outside East Hills restaurant
- Berry wins Steelers’ punting job; Wing traded to Giants
- Pitt’s Narduzzi revisits YSU roots in opener
- Rossi: Baseball needs a new schedule
- LaBar: Best next opponent for Brock Lesnar
- State lawmaker proposes increasing cost of state fishing licenses
- Armstrong River Hawks make their debut
- Megyn Kelly’s forte not Pa. Megan’s
- Yukon pet shelter, ex-leader battle over electricity shutoff