17 Years in the Making: The Pittsburgh Penguins' Return to Greatness

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17 Years in the Making: The Pittsburgh Penguins' Return to Greatness
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

When the Pittsburgh Penguins were defeated in the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals, no one with a computer or a pen or a job at any major sports outlet was giving them a chance of returning to the Finals the following season.

When Dan Bylsma took over as head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins with just over 20 games remaining in the regular season, no one was giving the Penguins a chance of making the playoffs.

When the Washington Capitals won the first two games of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the whole world was ready to end the debate about who the best player in the National Hockey League was with two letters "AO".

When the Penguins' headed into the Verizon Center for Game Seven against the Caps, no one outside of Pittsburgh expected them to win.

When the Detroit Red Wings stole the first two games of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals on their home ice, people around Detroit were already planning their parade.

When the Pens forced yet another Game Seven, people said that there was no way that Marc-Andre Fleury could overcome his history of choking under pressure to win a game of this magnitude.

No one thought the Red Wings would, or even could, lose to the Penguins on their home ice.

No one outside of Pittsburgh thought Max Talbot would do anything beyond blocking a few shots on the penalty kill and finishing his checks in the corners.

In each of the above circumstances, the Pittsburgh Penguins overcame adversity.

You see, it didn't matter what "no one" thought.

It didn't matter that the Penguins might not have been the most experienced or even the most physically talented team in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

All that mattered was the will and determination of the 21 Penguins who set foot on the ice at one time or another during the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Bill Guerin, Petr Sykora, Philippe Boucher, and Hal Gill were playing for what could have been their last chance at raising the Cup.

Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Tyler Kennedy, Jordan Staal, Marc-Andre Fleury, Max Talbot, Kris Letang, Rob Scuderi, and Brooks Orpik were playing for a chance to fulfill boyhood dreams of winning the greatest trophy in professional sports.

Everyone in a Pittsburgh uniform was playing for a chance at redemption.

Marian Hossa wasn't even playing. Whooooooooooooooo!

Let's make one thing clear, the Detroit Red Wings did not lose the Stanley Cup, the Pittsburgh Penguins won it.

17 years ago, the Lemieux-led Penguins hoisted Lord Stanley's Chalice for the second time in as many seasons.

You can be sure that not-one Penguin fan thought it would be another 17 years before they would do it again.

The 2008-09 season was not the Penguins' most prolific season in team history.

However, 2009 has now become an integral part of their history.

The 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins will forever be the Stanley Cup Champions.

No one can take that away from them, or from us, the fans.

Pittsburgh has once again become the self proclaimed city of champions after the Steelers and Penguins both won their respective championships in 2009.

Which is nice for now but doesn't really matter after the celebration is over.

Next season, 29 other NHL teams will take the ice again, looking to cash-in on what could be their last chance at greatness, or fulfill boyhood dreams of their own.

New names, new faces, and new successes will flourish.

The Penguins might not even make the playoffs.

But none of that really matters.

All that matters right now is that the Pittsburgh Penguins are once again World Champions, and 60 minutes on a muggy night in June has made the last 17 years well worth the wait.

Relish this moment, Penguin fans, because you don't know if it will be another 17 years, or longer, before you get the chance to do it again.

Then again, it could happen in 2010.

We learned a lot about the Pittsburgh Penguins during this season of adversity.

We also learned a lot about the Detroit Red Wings during these Stanley Cup Finals.

We learned that the Wings' veteran presence and advantage in experience that aided them in dismantling the youthful Penguin presence last season actually worked against them this year.

The Wings looked tired from Game Three until the final buzzer in Game Seven.

We also learned that Nicklas Lidstrom can log all the ice time in the world, but leading a series in ice time doesn't win championships.

After this series, it has become quite clear that Lidstrom has become the most overrated player in the National Hockey League.

Not saying he isn't a great talent, and still one of the best defensemen in the league, but this guy is no Rob Scuderi. Sorry, Jack.

We learned that red beards are a joke and that Chris Osgood would be a second string goaltender on the majority of NHL teams not named the Red Wings.

We also learned that Max Talbot scored big goals in big games.

Max finished what he started back in Game Five of the 2008 Finals during last night's Game Seven, but he was quicker to praise his goaltender, and his lifelong friend, Fleury, than he was to comment about his two goals.

We learned that Mario Lemieux will have his name etched on the Stanley Cup for the third time in his career.

We also learned that the moving vans might be pulling up in front of the Gretzky residence in Phoenix before the end of summer.

We learned that Ray Shero truly has the Midas touch. The moves he made during the off season and at this season's trade deadline were nothing short of controversial, but once again, Shero proved his doubters wrong.

I could go on forever, listing everything we learned from these Finals, but the sound of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin's names being carved into the Stanley Cup is becoming increasingly more distracting by the second.

Chew on that, Ovechkin.

Let's Go Pens.

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