The road is long and difficult. Longer and more difficult than any other road in sports. The silver chalice is storied -- more so than any other professional trophy. In the middle of the season, nobody would have been caught dead predicting the Penguins in this position right now.
One year later. One lost, prima donna winger later. One coaching change later. One year older, wiser and more experienced, but still young with excitement. Young enough to fully appreciate this opportunity, but skilled enough to actually take advantage of it.
The Penguins showed their depth, the same kind of depth that announcers, sports writers, coaches and players have bestowed upon the Red Wings. Nobody talked about Max Talbot, or Jordan Staal. Everybody talked about Marc-Andre Fleury, but it wasn't positive. Ruslan Fedotenko, Tyler Kennedy, Bill Guerin, Chris Kunitz -- the smaller-named hockey players -- were the ones who vaulted this team led by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin beyond the team they were last year. Losing Marian Hossa freed up finances to pay Guerin, Kunitz, Brooks Orpik, all the players who played a significantly better game than Hossa did for the other side.
We all knew this day would come. Sidney Crosby was meant to write history. There's a reason he's been slated to win the Cup since his teenage years, a reason he's the face of the league, a reason he gets all those commercials. He may not have been the playoff MVP (an honor which deservedly went to Geno), but at 21 years old, he's the youngest captain to ever hoist that shiny cup. And words can't describe his face, and the feelings every Penguins fan felt as they watched his expressive and childlike smile spread to his teammates, with the Stanley Cup lifted high.Until next year, boys.