The Pittsburgh Penguins can win Lord Stanley's Cup.
I don't believe anyone would objectively say that is an outlandish statement, even if they don't necessarily agree.
They can win the Cup, it's just whether they will.
It's been five long seasons since that wonderful Friday night, June 12, 2009. Three horribly disappointing playoff failures, with another poor showing in last year's Eastern Conference Finals versus Boston.
It's to the point where WXDX's Mark Madden compared these Penguins to the '90's Atlanta Braves. And while I have my issues with Madden's "character" and his schtick, I have to say, if the Penguins don't win another Cup soon, there's a certain element of truth in his statement.
So again, the Pens can do it, but will they?
Well, they can, but only if a lot of these happen, in no particular order:
- IF Marc-Andre Fleury continues his excellent season. But we've seen MAF have good regular seasons in previous seasons after the Cup win, only to see him have a poor playoff performance. Maybe those offseason counseling sessions will pay off. We shall soon see.
- IF Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin perform like the top handful of players in the world that they are. Perhaps this won't be that much of an issue vs. Columbus, but if the Penguins continue to advance, and face teams like Boston, Detroit or Philly, their primary gameplan will be to hammer 71 & 87 and force other players to beat them.
- IF the Penguins play physical, but not retaliatory. This is so huge. There is such a fine line, especially in the playoffs. The Penguins have to play a physical game. But what they can't do is take those stupid retaliatory penalties that come as a result of an opponent egging them on, which is exactly what they're trying to do.
- IF the Penguins defense is shored up enough to provide Fleury with adequate protection. The Penguins defense is finally back to being healthy. Sure, Brooks Orpik has gotten a little long in the tooth, and Rob Scuderi hasn't lived up to his previous tenure with the Penguins, but having both Paul Martin and Kris Letang back in the lineup is a huge asset overall for the Penguins defensive corps.
- IF the Penguins bottom six forwards can contribute some offense. Brandon Sutter is playing his best hockey of the year lately. It would be nice if the 3rd and 4th lines were somewhat solidified, though. It appears that Joe Vitale is very close to returning, along with Malkin. Not necessarily campaigning for Vitale's insertion into the lineup, just stating that his name should be thrown into the hat. And perhaps with Chuck Kobasew's recent excellent showing at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, he could be a big consideration as well. Certainly these lineup assignments won't be easy for HCDB.
- IF the Pens' special teams continue to be special. With both the Penguins' powerplay and penalty kill among the best in the NHL, it could be a major determining factor in the Pens' success, or lack thereof.
The Penguins can do it. They're finally healthy, and at the perfect time. And IF most of those requirements come to reality, this could be a special playoff run.