For the length and breadth of this Stanley Cup Final, the national media fawned over Nashville’s arena atmosphere, heaping upon it the same aura they do when talking about Jonathan Toews’ leadership.
But Smashville suffered a Steel City Invasion, the kind of invasion that hushed the whole of Bridgestone Arena’s collective vocal cords.
Because that’s what these Pittsburgh Penguins do. They just play, no matter the circumstances. No matter the fact that Kris Letang, their top d-man, never touched playoff ice due to neck surgery. No matter that Matt Murray ostensibly pulled a groin fifteen minutes before Game 1 of the 1st round against Columbus. No matter that the defensive corp struggled to break pucks out. No matter that they were stretched to seven games against Washington and Ottawa.
No matter what, the Penguins just played. And they just won their second straight Stanley Cup Finals.
The Pens’ roster, laden with talent, delivered virtuoso performances. Evgenie Malkin finished with a stat line of 10 goals-18 assists-28 total points. Crosby followed with 8G-19A-28TP. Phil Kessel ended with 8G-15A-23TP. Jake Guentzel, the rookie wonder kid, had 13G-8A-21TP.
That’s production from your big-earners, and it manifested as the Stanley Cup Final stretched deeper.
We are in the golden era, for from 2007-2017, a decade of excellence has capped itself off with back-to-back titles. Enjoy the riches, Pittsburgh. Gawk at the talent. Crosby. Malkin. Kessel. Guentzel. Savor the character. Cullen. Hornqvist. Kunitz. Salute the coaching staff. Sullivan. Tocchet. Martin.
Many will claim, “It’s just a game!” Well, is your favorite movie, “just a movie”? Is your favorite novel “just a novel”? Is your favorite theatre production or favorite comedy special or favorite Netflix series “just that” to you?
Whether art imitates life or vice versa, the redemptive contours of this playoff run have led the Penguins to back-to-back titles.
Defenseman Ian Cole played with a fractured hand and a fractured rib.
Defenseman Justin Shultz played with a broken rib.
Right wing Patric Hornqvist, who scored the game-winner, played with a broken right hand and finger.
Defenseman Brian Dumoulin has reportedly played with a back injury all throughout these playoffs.
It’s more than just a game to them.
Pittsburgh, the Steel City, is blessed beyond recognition. We are collecting new hardware, dancing with Lord Stanley in consecutive years. Our privilege is to watch generational talents like Sidney Crosby and Evgenie Malkin take over games and go 1-2 in playoff scoring. We watch as Crosby receives back-to-back Conn Smythe trophies.
And we witnessed sterling character from a goalie who’s remained loyal to his team. Marc-Andre Fleury handed the Cup to starting goaltender Matt Murray.
The Penguins could not have captured their second consecutive title without the contributions of either goalie.
Soak up the glory, Pittsburgh, because iconic moments are but a fleeting shadow, only passing over for a stitch in time. So for now, all of Steel City stands in awe of the hardware.
Kevin Cochrane is a writer and college student. Like what you read? Follow him on Twitter @RunFree_KC, find him on Facebook, or click the follow button at the bottom of the page to get Town Crier’s latest updates. Want to read more? Visit his blog at restandrefuge.wordpress.com which offers a Christian perspective on the surrounding culture. You can contact him with comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.