Now the Work Begins for the Pens

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 21: Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins waves after being selected as number one star of the game at Consol Energy Center on November 21, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Penguins defeated the Islanders 5-0. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Yesterday, the sports world witnessed an unforgettable moment. For Pittsburgh Penguins fans, we could only sit back and smile, knowing nothing is outside the realm of Sidney Crosby's potential.

Each season, the Pens are perennial contenders for the Stanley Cup but there was recently a shred of doubt without the likes of Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal for extended periods of time. Those three, together, were the reason the Pens brought the Silver Chalice back to the Burgh. With the three now reunited and an overwhelmingly dominant performance under their belts, many analysts have announced the Pens as Cup favorites.

ESPN's Matt Barnaby changed his Eastern Conference pick from the Philadelphia Flyers to the Pens last night on SportsCenter.

This comes from a recent piece by ESPN's Scott Burnside:

The Penguins are a better squad now than they were when they won the Stanley Cup in 2009. Their defense is better and with Jordan StaalEvgeni Malkin and Crosby all healthy for the first time in almost a year, no team in the NHL boasts as much talent and size down the middle. Throw in Neal and Steve Sullivan, who stands to benefit from Crosby’s return on the power play even if they don’t end up playing on the same line, and an already imposing defensive team can now light it up with any team in the league and jumps to the head of the queue in the “who’s your favorite to win the Cup” debate. 

At the start of the season, I had no doubt in my mind that the Pens would be Cup contenders, especially with Crosby's return in sight and I'm happy to see so many analysts jump on board with the idea that the Pens are now heavily favored to win the Cup.

But as much as I want to believe it, I can't help but remember it's November. We're barely two months into the season with a ton of hockey left. The Pens have more difficult teams to face and undoubtedly some difficult times ahead, just like any other team. I will always expect the best from the Pens, but I think it's important to keep things in perspective as well.

Remember this familiar post from Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis? Now, in no way am I trying to infer that our reactions have demonstrated we believe the Pens "have arrived" because of one game against the struggling New York Islanders. In fact, I've seen none of that behavior from any Pens fans.

So what am I trying to say? Buckle up.

The first hurdle is over, but the race has only just begun. Everyone seems to be "all in" for the Pens, but at this point, the Pens have a lot to prove in order to turn the predictions into a Stanley Cup banner.

Celebrate this, cherish it, Pens fans. We have earned the right to do so. But keep in mind the work is only beginning. Tomorrow, it's back to work.

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