Time to take a second to reflect.
In the season that just was, who was the best, who's been better and what's to come?
Raise your hand if you were worried.
You're a liar if you kept your hand mouse bound. No worries though, the dog days are over. Spring has come and things are getting better every day for the Pens. Finishing one point out of first place in the East and a fourth seed has to be better then what most could've hoped for after the abysmal rash of bad luck the Pens had to deal with after the All-Star break.
It was like the winter winds crippled our joy with seasonal effective disorder and crippled the Pens in every other way possible, but things are looking up and just at the right time. It's time the clouds parted and the Pens make their push for a fourth Stanley Cup.
Think back, when was it that the bottom seemed to drop out? For my money, the fairy tale first half of the season ended when Sidney Crosby's brain rattled against his skull beneath the bright lights of Heinz Field, the HBO cameras and in front of one of the largest TV audiences the NHL history. The ease with which wins came during Sid's point streak seems like seasons ago. And if I remember right, there once was another pillar the Penguins leaned on; a broad shouldered son of Russia, who had a beautiful Momma and a proud poppa that sat in the stands, a scoring machine named Geno. The season has seemed to come to a sad complete circle for Evgeni Malkin. We waited for his return before the All-Star break, imagining how relentless the Pens would be with Geno and the team playing the way they were. Now some of us are wondering the same, or at least how less worried we'd be about are chances if Malkin was out there.
After the onslaught of injuries and the suspension of Matt Cooke, who could've predicted the Pens would be in the position they are? Forget for a second that they have one of the top candidates for league MVP in Marc-Andre Fleury; the Pens have been bolstered by the play of Tyler Kennedy and Chris Kunitz. Both have emerged from "role players," to become two of the top five point's leaders among active Pen's players.
But getting back to one of the best players in the NHL, "The Flower" has truly blossomed in the second half of this year. It does the heart good to see a talent like Fleury getting the opportunity to have the spotlight seemingly squarely on him for a change. Playing with possibly two of the best players of his generation, Fleury doesn't always get the attention that Sid or Geno acquire.
It would've been another mind scratching event in the beginning of the year to think that Fleury would be a top contender for MVP, when he might not have even been the top goal keeper on his team at the time. If you'll think back to the first two months of the season, some Pen's fans were calling for Fleury to be replaced by Brent Johnson who was on a bit of a hot streak. It would've been a rash decision and Fleury has proven Dan Bylsma's sensibility and foresight and also made him a major candidate for coach of the year.
And finally, less we forget what still might be in store for the Pens; there is still the possible return of #87. Anticipation is one of the greatest feelings in the world because it gives hope. Pens fans have been holding their collective breath with that feeling ever since that scratchy camera phone footage of Sidney Crosby taking to the ice to take a few laps around the rink hit news outlets.
Wednesday's playoff game against the Tampa Bay Lightening marks the start of the third act of this season's drama. The first act was a fable, the second; a harrowing calamity. Will the third be a fairytale? Is it right to think it would have to take an act of God for the Pens to win it all? Would it be considered mythic if Sid comes back and takes over? It isn't quite Shakespearian, but it'll do.