The one thing I’ve come to understand from watching, playing and writing about ice hockey for the better part of three decades, is just how fast things shift in the NHL. And I am not talking about the speed of the play on the ice, nor the deftness of the line changes during the playoffs.
What I am talking about is just how fast teams and their respective expectations grow, and how popular opinion shifts with them.
To be perfectly honest with you, I have been one of the Pittsburgh Penguins biggest detractors since their phoenix like rise from NHL's worst to hands down the Eastern Conferences best team.
I criticized the manner in which they built their team, and how they have taken the nation and NHL by storm in each of my last two NHL articles.
I despised just how eager the NHL and Gary “clueless in N.Y.” Bettman was to skip on their proverbial bandwagon.
I loath, or should I say loathed; I think its evident in which direction this article's headed, how Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin comported themselves on the ice. The diving, bellyaching, whining to the refs, and playing up to the cameras made me sick to my stomach. The Penguins represented much of what I detested about the “new” NHL.
I abhorred watching their fans small-town faces smirking about just how good their golden boys were. I cringed at the “Marry me Sidney” signs plastered throughout the Mellon Arena.
I must admit I truly hated the Penguins and all they represented, however something’s happened. Something has most certainly changed.
Watching the Penguins dismantle the Carolina Hurricanes, the team responsible for dismissing my beloved Devils, holding the mighty Eric Staal to one goal in 4 games, and witnessing the manner in which they did so, told me this team is most certainly for real.
Brooks Orpik, Sidney Crosby, even Evgeni Malkin have earned the respect of each and every one of their detractors. Bill Guerin has reminded us all of just how good of a player he was before age and New York “Wanglanders” pushed him into obscurity. The Penguins as a team, are certainly not one to be taken lightly.
When evaluating the likelihood of another Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins final prior to the start of the Conference semi-finals I felt an overwhelming feeling of nausea.
“Detroit’s will take it in 4, max 5 games.” I shouted drunkenly at my mate and Pens supporter, John.
Now? This one looks as though it’s going the distance. We’re in for a real treat boys. Make no bones about it. This is going to be a classic.