Maybe. If you would have told Penguins fans they'd make the SCF in February, most would have looked at you funny and mocked your turtleneck. Yet here they are after a resounding sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes.
Some scattered thoughts from the playoffs:
- It's not fair to blame Cam Ward and Eric Staal for the series loss. Both had some low moments (Staal being held to a mere sprinkling of points; Ward allowing that ugly Max Talbot goal), but they need some help. Ray Whitney was abysmal. The Hurricanes' D couldn't handle Malkin or Crosby. Media members always want storylines, but a lot of times one team is just deeper, meaner and more talented.
- After witnessing Rob Scuderi limiting Alex Ovechkin toward the end of their second round series and playing very well against the Hurricanes, I was prompted to check his contract status. Rut roh: he's an unrestricted free agent for 2009-10. Could this be a problem for the Penguins?
- Rudy Kelly rightly pointed out that the Penguins might have been wrong when they passed up talents like Jonathan Toews and Phil Kessel to draft Jordan Staal. Still, Kessel is injury-prone and Toews might be too great to keep under contract (or as the third banana). Staal's lack of finishing touch can be really frustrating, but he's still an extremely impressive player who's willing to play a lesser role alongside the Penguins other blue chip centers.
- This year's Penguins team is more of an adventure than last year's runner-up. Last year, they didn't even go to a game 6 (until the Red Wings claimed the Cup on Mellon Ice, the bastards). Yet this year's scrappy bunch almost missed the playoffs, went down 0-2 to the Capitals and won a Game 7 on the road.
This time around, it seems like everyone is willing to put it on the line. Even Miroslav fucking Satan looks like he's expending energy out on the ice each game. They're also less "stacked" without Hossa and some other solid supporting players, making them about as close to an underdog as a team with Crosby and Malkin can be.
Will some extra sand paper and an extra year of experience be enough to overcome (probable opponent) Detroit? Probably not. But either way this Penguins team is special.