It's all gravy for Pens
Picture the Penguins' playoff series against the Ottawa Senators as a 200-yard dash.
Now, picture the Senators crouched at the starting line in winter clothes, each man tethered to a half-ton boulder.
Picture the Penguins standing there in gym shorts and tank tops, eagerly awaiting the pistol.
There couldn't be a matchup pitting teams of more dissimilar emotional mind-sets.
Ottawa has to win. If it doesn't make a lengthy run, heads could roll. A 10th consecutive postseason plunge will go over about as well in that city as a scoreboard tribute to Alexander Daigle (the guy the Senators took with the first pick in 1993, just before Hartford took Chris Pronger).
The Penguins badly want to win and would no doubt spit at the notion their season is a success no matter what, but that's the truth: It's all gravy from here.
The players aren't thinking that, of course. Nor should they. The fans aren't thinking that, either. They'd be disappointed if the season ends with anything less than a Stanley Cup, but the pain would ease soon enough because the promise is so great.
Look at what has transpired already. This team made a one-year improvement nearly unmatched in NHL history and is headed for its first playoff appearance since 2001 with one of the more imposing collections of young talent the league has ever seen.
Meanwhile, the franchise satisfied its seven-year quest for a new arena, securing the team's future here.
That's a pretty good season.
Paradoxically, the lack of pressure might be exactly what propels the Penguins past the tortured Senators and deep into the playoffs.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, a quick recap of a regular season worth remembering. The Penguins handed out their awards Saturday, before playing the New York Rangers.
A few of ours:
I'll Show You Award: Maxime Talbot. Cut in training camp, Talbot returned Oct. 24 and played like the Tasmanian Devil on every shift thereafter.
Rented Mule Award: Erik Christensen. The Penguins' turnaround coincided with their improved performance in shootouts. Christensen led the way, degrading goaltenders regularly.
I Need (Bleepin') Goals Award: Michel Therrien yelled those words - with a different word for "bleepin'" - during a practice Dec. 8 in Atlanta. The Penguins hadn't scored more than three goals in their previous eight games. They scored 24 in the next four.
Underrated Player: Michel Ouellet. All he did was finish fourth among the team's forwards in scoring.
Biggest Surprise: Jordan Staal.
Biggest Break: Evgeni Malkin's shoulder injury in camp could have been a season-wrecker. Instead, it allowed Staal to show his stuff - and Malkin missed only four games.
Fathers Know Best Award: Therrien. The January surge began when GM Ray Shero invited the players' fathers on a road trip. Therrien played Ronald Petrovicky and Jocelyn Thibault against Phoenix specifically because their fathers had traveled to see them. Petrovicky scored his first goal of the season in an 8-2 win.
The Three Best Goals (Feel free to drop a line if you disagree, and, yes, we remember Sidney Crosby's preposterous backhander against Phoenix):
3. Cirque du Salei. Crosby crashes through Panthers defenseman Jay Bouwmeester and Ruslan Salei and scores as he's falling to the ice.
2. Whiteout. Evgeni Malkin splits Devils D-men Brad Lukowich and Colin White, and, as Lukowich slashes him to pieces, fools Martin Brodeur with a Lemieux-like move, forehand-to-backhand.
1. Lightning struck. Sliding full-speed on his side, Crosby tips a Mark Recchi pass into the net against Tampa Bay. He later tells FSN Pittsburgh it was his best goal of the year.
Who could argue?
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.
- Now healthy, Penguins’ Bennett eyes bigger role
- Penguins’ Scuderi offers honest assessment of his 2013-14 performance
- Penguins captain Sidney Crosby says aching wrist doing better
- Penguins backup goaltender Zatkoff eyes new challenge with team