COLUMN: Turning The Page

82 regular season games have been played. It’s time to turn the page and head towards the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. It’s time to throw out all the preconceived notions that the Penguins can’t win without certain players. It’s time to “Just Play”.

The Penguins just finished a season in which they went 50-21-11 and dealt with injuries to just about every player on their roster while doing it. Yet, people are still worried.

Well, I’m here to tell you to stop worrying about all of these minute details. The Penguins faced one of the league’s easiest schedules down the stretch and didn’t have their playoff roster for any of them. To me, any of those wins could single-handedly be stripped down and considered worthless. When you’re the Penguins and are all but guaranteed a playoff spot from the puck drop in October, those first 82 don’t matter. It’s the last 16 wins that matter.

It’s those 16 wins that will define the careers of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Nobody remembers second place.

Compare Dan Marino to every quarterback of his era and despite him arguably being the best, his reputation was tarnished because he never won that elusive Super Bowl. That’s obviously not a problem for Crosby and Malkin as they have both won, and been a huge part of, two Stanley Cup titles. But the comparisons to Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews won’t stop until he wins his third because “Three in Six, Bro!”

“The Penguins don’t care about the regular season. They went through a stretch of games in January where you could tell they weren’t 100% there.”

This was a conversation I had with a fellow hockey fan outside of the twitter world. Try telling the Penguins they don’t care about the regular season. Yes, the same Penguins who saw Malkin miss the last 13 games because he blocked a shot. Tell Ian Cole that the Penguins don’t care about the regulars season after his 194 blocked shots that were good for third in the NHL. Tell Phil Kessel his 610 game ironman streak means nothing on a team that was plagued worse than the Bubonic. Tell those players they don’t care about the regular season and they’ll laugh at you.

But in the end, I promise you, they want nothing more than that second crack at a Stanley Cup.

Are people really still doubting the Penguins?

After the last 15 months or so, people really still doubt Mike Sullivan and his Penguins team. Do so at your own risk.

They just posted the second best record in the NHL this season. On top of that, it is the second highest point total in Penguins franchise history.

They are playing the Columbus Blue Jackets. If you are unaware, they have NEVER won a playoff series.

I’ll leave you with this. The Penguins are a team that you shouldn’t bet against but you should also be weary about this year. It won’t be the breeze that last year was. With Letang out for the season and the other team’s vastly improving around the Penguins. It’ll be a challenge.

The playoffs are a whole different animal. Turn the page on the regular season. In fact, rip it out. 16 wins stand between Pittsburgh and a repeat. Buckle up and prepare for what’s soon to be fate. Whether it’s another Stanley Cup or an early exit or even somewhere in between, enjoy it. Not many teams can sustain the success the Penguins have for as long as they have.

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