I don't think it needs to be said, but I'll say it anyway. The Igloo deserved a far better ending than this. But instead of looking at it in a negative sense, there are quite a few positives to take as well.
Let's face the fact - we WILL not win the Stanley Cup every year. All the talks of a repeat were simply a nice daydream. But in today's NHL with such a hard salary cap, it is nearly impossible to see a team repeat let alone qualify for three straight Cup appearances. On paper, it might look like a huge missed opportunity, not being able to capitalize on the insanely weak Eastern Conference. But what would it's reward have been?
The team struggled all year with the size of the Capitals and had no answers defensively. The team was physically dominated in each of the three contests against San Jose, Los Angeles and Vancouver. The team had absolutely no solutions to the trapping game employed against them on so many occasions. Call me a pessimist, but bottom line is, this team just didn't have what it takes to win a Cup. But that's OK. Would it have been nice to win another one? No, it would have been great. But did we really need to win now, similarly to a team like the Sharks? If they would have lost in the semifinals, the team would have been completely broken up, and it could still happen if the they turn in a horrendous performance against Chicago. There is no tomorrow. The Penguins core however, is happily locked up for years to come, but the right pieces were simply not in place to win another Cup this year.
There was no shut-down defensive pairing to rely on like a season ago. The overall team energy and desire was not there like it was a season ago - however, 300+ games over the past three seasons can do that to anybody, along with coming off a Cup high. Naming nobody, outside of No. 87, the team was consistently inconsistent and where players elevated their game in 2009, that simply didn't happen this year. There was no "unfinished business" or driving fire of a past failure. The It factor was gone.
But maybe it was a blessing in disguise.
It was a blessing because the team will finally get some time in the off-season to rest and come back stronger than ever in the fall. It was a blessing that every weakness the team had was painfully exposed throughout the course of the season, making it abundantly clear what the team needs to do this summer to better itself. It was a blessing because the team will be able to regain its passion, because there's nothing like the motivation gained from a "no you can't" failure to achieve a goal.
No, it wasn't the fairytale ending for the Old Lady Mellon that we had all hoped for each and every night. But one game will hardly define her legacy as the only home we've ever known. I remember how Mario scored 5 goals in 5 different ways, or how his return to the ice on that December evening in 2000 seemed to lift the entire city. I also remember Darius Kasparaitis scoring the goal in Game 7 that he was never supposed to score or the deafening roar that immediately followed the amazing series of goals in the 2nd period of Game 4 with Detroit last season. There are memories upon memories that no final performance could wash away 43 years of history.
Which is why instead of now looking to the past, we must look to the glorious future that awaits at the Consol Energy Center. This isn't an end, but instead just the beginning of a new dawn for Penguins hockey.
It's a Great Day for Hockey!