First of all, I said last year as I happily watched the Detroit Red Wings win the Stanley Cup that it would only be a matter of time for the Penguins. That they'd be good for the better part of the next decade, and that they'd win it someday.
As it turns out someday came only a year later for the Penguins and maybe it's fitting that it all happened the way it did.
As a Rangers fan, the Penguins are not my favorite team, as can be expected. Like the Penguins, the Rangers were bad for so many years. But unlike the Rangers, the Penguins were able to draft pieces to build a better future - Fleury, Staal, Crosby, Malkin. The Rangers, as we very well know, just haven't been able to wrap their minds around how to go about this.
Now, we can say the Penguins got lucky with these guys, had it too easy, made too quick a turnaround. Say that any team lucky enough to draft so many good players in so short an amount of time had it made.
But you know what, today, a dozen hours after their Cup win, I am going to stop for just a minute and give them some credit. Give them credit because even though they had the pieces handed to them, to some degree, they still had to put it all together.
True they have some of the best young players in the NHL play for their team. But they also had a few question marks and a heck of a bumpy road this season.
I didn't even know if they'd make the playoffs, the way things were going. I had them going out in the first round to Philadelphia because I just didn't think they had it. They fired their coach. Their goalie suffered endless criticism for not being able to "get it done." Their super-stars, at times, looked pedestrian, if possible.
But they made the playoffs, never looked out of control for too long, and they made it happen.
As much as Detroit wins on their endless supply of talent and system, in machine-like execution, Pittsburgh is a team that can never be counted out. As many times as I thought they'd fall - to Philadelphia, to Washington, to Carolina, and to Detroit, they just kept coming back.
That's a credit. A big credit to them. And they deserve congratulations for that.
As hockey fans, when our team is out, all we can hope for it to be entertained by the hockey teams that remain. I thought a Detroit/Pittsburgh Final for the second year in a row would be boring.
I think I can safely say I was wrong. I think of all the four-game sweeps I saw in the Finals (NJ over Detroit, Detroit over Florida), and I was always disappointed because it wasn't a closer match-up, it wasn't enough games.
Look, it might not have ended exactly how I wanted it to, but,...give me a Game 7 in a Stanley Cup Final and I will gladly take it.
*I thought, as of last summer, that the Detroit Red Wings would probably win the Stanley Cup again. I saw no reason why not. Yet, I picked Detroit to go out in the first round, their most vulnerable time of year, and they went on to make it within one goal of another Stanley Cup victory. Perhaps because they did not win this year, the conversation of Dynasty takes a break. But you know what, Detroit's machine like execution, that we've seen for over a decade now, is amazing. Literally amazing. That they didn't win it all will hurt them, I'm sure, but to me it hardly takes much away from all they've been able to accomplish. Sure, I don't think we'll ever see 5 Cups in 7 years like in Edmonton, but Detroit surely has made their mark on this game.
*I don't "love" all the Penguins, but I will tell you who I am happiest for. Jordan Staal, because I respect his brother so much and I know that he'll be happy for him. And Marc-Andre Fleury, because he's such an interesting character. He seems like things roll off his shoulders, in winning and in defeat, but you can tell how horrible he must have felt after game 5. He came back to rebound in game 6, and then, perhaps once and for all, silenced his many critics by shutting the door, even in the closing seconds, and winning the Stanley Cup on the road for his team. I'm happy for the kid.
*The one thing I think we can all think about - Pens fan, Wings fan, Rangers fan, Blue Jackets fan - is just what exactly was going through Marian Hossa's mind during those final seconds and the celebration that followed. As much as I wanted to cry, somewhat jokingly, because the Penguins had won the Cup, I had little reason. He, he has every reason. You make a decision. Your coach says the important thing is that you made a decision and that makes it good - the fact you made it. You must live with the consequences. I can't see very much in life being more poetic than what transpired for that man. The team you battled with heart and soul, you leave them to go to the team that beat them. The following year, you, on your new team, are facing your old team. Your new team is favored but your old team is the one that beats you in the end. I can't imagine many more things being as ironic and as sports storybook as that.
*That's all I have for now, but I'm sure more thoughts in the next few days and in leading up to next weeks NHL Award's Show and the following week's NHL Entry Draft. Also, a short look back on the NHL season on a whole. It was filled with some amazing moments.