After epic first round disaster by the Penguins in 2012, the core had hit rock bottom. They couldn't play defense but worst of all, couldn't ignore the obvious attempts by the Flyers to frustrate them.
It was a series that should have ended the tenure of Dan Bylsma as he lost control of the team.
Now fast forward to December after the firing of Mike Johnston.
All we've seen since Mike Sullivan has taken over is a team that has faced those tough situations and plowed through it.
None of it happens if it wasn't for 39-year old center Matt Cullen.
He's been a consummate professional playing on the second, third and fourth line at different points of the season, all in the best interests of the team. It didn't matter what line or how much ice time, Cullen just kept on chugging along, shift after shift, game after game.
Cullen's leadership has been the missing ingredient for the core to win another Stanley Cup.
Cullen: "We all understand that we have a special thing going. We want to keep it up. It's fun to be a part of it."https://t.co/M16AML4APl— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 12, 2016
While you would have hoped for one of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin or Kris Letang to have taken that step, it hasn't happened and good thing for General Manager Jim Rutherford, he knew the right guy.
In 2009, Bill Guerin served the role as the former champion ready for one last push.
Much like Guerin, Culllen has been a calming influence on and off the ice.
Not only was Cullen visible on the bench talking to his teammates but while on the ice, he was talking over strategy with his linemates.
Coach on Cullen: "He's been such an invaluable part of this team. His play and his presence in the locker room. He's really a great person."— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 20, 2016
Best of all, Cullen produced offensively scoring the game-winning goal thanks to whatever New York calls this defense.
Cullen: "It never gets old scoring goals." pic.twitter.com/oD4bS3buzN— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 20, 2016
All of that could have gone for not and into a cardiac mess when Mr. October (Rick Nash) went with the flying elbow into Trevor Daley's head.
Nash hit that the Pens were mad about pic.twitter.com/q5uYK5H1h7— Stephanie (@myregularface) April 20, 2016
But not Tuesday night. These Penguins just worried about doing their job like Cullen and kept going for the puck and getting it north.
This kind of thing the Penguins have going is how a group of players become a team then a Stanley Cup Champion.