248 days ago the Penguins began their regular season on a different continent with a different coach and five players in the lineup that won't be there tonight.
It was 105 games ago that Pittsburgh and Ottawa played in Sweden. Fall turned to winter, then eventually the snow yielded to spring and now the humidity of summer is creeping in.
Everything is coming full circle, as it always tends to do given enough time. One way or another; tonight will be the last game at Mellon Arena's second to last season. Whether it'll be the last game of the Penguins season is another matter.
James Mirtle has a great piece showing just how few players get their names on the Cup. Opportunities like the Penguins have had in the past two years really are rare. The players know this. Even though the franchise is in great position over the next decade to make many long playoff runs, it takes a certain mix of skill, coaching and the luck to get the bounces and stay healthy to make it this far. And it won't happen every year, so you have to make the most of it as players and as fans.
By now we've all read what Pittsburgh needs to do; Sidney Crosby has to break free from Henrik Zetterberg and create offense; Evgeni Malkin has to produce, Bill Guerin and Chris Kunitz have to convert; Jordan Staal has to play big and Marc-Andre Fleury needs to be the best player on the ice for either team. Talk is cheap in the lead up to the game and while all those points have some truth in them, it's just words.
The Penguins just need to come out and play. They were totally outclassed the last time out and they know it. But there's no time to roll over and die. The boys in that room don't believe this thing is decided yet, and neither should you. There's no doubt the Red Wings are coming back to celebrate on Pittsburgh ice for the second year in a row.....How about not this time, boys, not tonight, not this year..
All bets are off in a Game 7, but Pittsburgh has to get it there. They have to step up and get it done. It's going to come down to Crosby and Malkin making some magic and a total team defensive effort lead by Fleury.
It's been 248 days since this whole ride began, so what's three more.