It’s such a weird feeling. The playoffs go on without the Penguins for the first time in two seasons. Emptiness fills your heart and the feeling of a longer offseason sucks. But, looking back on it, this just seemed like the storybook ending.
The Penguins have tortured Braden Holtby and the Capitals over these Stanley Cup triumphant seasons. It was the fourth meeting between Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin in their playoff careers. Crosby had bested the first three and it was only a matter of time until Crosby felt the defeat and emptiness of losing to Ovechkin and not vice versa.
Washington had been the better team throughout the entire series. The Penguins flashed their moments but the Capitals truly were just better. It’s okay to admit it. It happens. It was worrisome that the Penguins took a third period, game six outburst against Philadelphia to put away a Flyers team many felt would barely last five games. The Penguins weren’t the same team this year. It’s okay to admit it. It happens.
Personally, this series had a different feeling heading into game one. My mind told me that the Penguins would win solely because they had pretty much given everyone reason to guarantee it. The Capitals couldn’t beat them. For the first time in these past two seasons, the Capitals weren’t the main team in the Eastern Conference. They weren’t the team expected to breeze through everyone. They weren’t the President’s Trophy recipients. They were merely another team in the field looking to prove they are the team to beat.
The Penguins, on the other hand, were being carried by Crosby and second year playoff phenom Jake Guentzel. Legitimately the only players on the team that had been doing enough to win. The Penguins managed somehow to win six playoff games with those two at the helm. That is pretty impressive. Just imagine if those other 10 forwards decided to pitch in. This team would be deadly.
But that’s the thing. No matter how many players you recycle in and out of the lineup over the course of the seasons, the premier core stayed the same the whole way through. That’s a lot of hockey. The Penguins may have worn down. They get a whole extra month this offseason to rest and get away from the game and the grueling practices head coach Mike Sullivan has run since his tenure in the city.
This city is beautiful. Every single one of us sports fans loves this city. They breath black and Pittsburgh gold. That’s how it is an always will be. These players do too. They are ingrained in Pittsburgh lure forever. They did something that had never been done in the salary cap era. They passed many tests along the way. They are just an amazing group of places that figures to be pretty similar yet again next season.
But all good things must come to an end. The three-peat mantra is over. But we will never stop #3elieving in this group because they are the premier team in this city. The inevitable happened but don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened. And take a significant chunk of money and go ahead and bet that they’ll be right back in the conversation to win their third in four years next season.