"It's a pathetic performance. Half of the team doesn't care. That defensive squad—I am really starting to believe their goal is to be the worst defensive squad in the league. They turn the puck over. They have no vision. They are soft. I have never seen a bunch of defensemen as soft as this."
Legendary words from Pittsburgh Penguins Head Coach Michel Therrien just two and a half seasons ago. Hearing those words without context today, one might be inclined to think of the Toronto Maple Leafs, but certainly not the Penguins.
In such a short period of time, the Pittsburgh Penguins have gone from one end of the spectrum to the other: laughing stock to powerhouse.
Of course, having Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, two of the NHL’s top five players, virtually handed to them through the draft helped. But this season, Pittsburgh’s dominance is about so much more than just Crosby and Malkin.
Ryan Malone has taken the next step in his career, providing consistent secondary scoring along with a rugged physical presence.
Ray Shero became the first general manager to understand that Marian Hossa cannot play the go-to-guy. Surrounded by other great players that take some of his pressure away, Hossa can be dynamite.
Jordan Staal, still just 19, continues to score timely goals while growing into one of the most reliable defensive players and penalty killers in the game.
Somewhere between Toronto and Pittsburgh, Hal Gill became a consistently solid defenseman.
The Penguin's fourth line plays seven to 10 effective minutes per game, chipping in with important goals while keeping their opponents off the scoreboard. And Marc-Andre Fleury seems to have finally allowed his last soft goal.
Maybe it had something to do with getting rid of those horrendous canary yellow pads?
Mix in all those ingredients and then top it off with two franchise players like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and that’s where total dominance comes from.
But hey, all that was just rigamarole.