What a fabulous finish to a fabulous hockey season. Stanley Cup #3!! I’ll never forget the day that truly started us on this journey – Draft Lottery Day, 2005. There was a chance that the Penguins were going to win that lottery and draft Sidney Crosby. I watched that entire event. It was down to two teams — Anaheim and Pittsburgh. Gary Bettman opened the billet and I could see the Penguin logo on it before he said it and I started cheering as loud as I was at the end of Game 7 this year. You knew right then that there was another championship in the future for the Penguins – this kid was born to play hockey. The year before, the Capitals won the lottery. That was a blessing in disguise — the Penguins got Conn Smythe winner Evgeni Malkin instead of Ovechkin. Next came Jordan Staal and things were really starting to shape up. The Penguins already had the goalie they wanted, courtesy of a prior losing season. Let’s not forget Craig Patrick made a move in that draft to secure Marc Andre Fleury — we said all along we knew there was a Cup in his future. So the foundation was built, Shero locked them all up, and then brought in the final player pieces — Guerrin, Kunitz, Adams. Last year — almost. But that loss was a part of building the resolve needed to win it all. In reality every game and every player were a part of the final puzzle.
In 2008, Ryan Whitney had foot surgery, and Sergei Gonchar got a cheap shot in the pre-season, so the season started out in a tough fashion. The record was good early, but things started to unravel in November. By mid-February, the Penguins found themselves in tenth place. Somehow I always felt that they would make the playoffs — there was just so much talent. Ray Shero felt a change was necessary to make that run for the playoffs, and what a change it was. Shortly after Bylsma took over, a group of six family and friends made a road trip to Chicago. We were among a few thousand Penguin fans there. Evgeni Malkin scored the game-winning goal in overtime, and I would bet there had never been that loud of a cheer when a visiting team won in overtime. That fan support showed up again in Detroit. It was truly amazing to clearly hear the chant of “Let’s Go Pens!” on NBC. That game in Chicago was the start of a 5-0 road trip that propelled them to their 18-3-4 record down the stretch. The Penguins ended up with 99 points. Good for home ice advantage versus the Flyers. Think about this for a minute — 93 points would not have been enough to qualify for the playoffs. If the Penguins would have gone 15-6-4 they would not have had the opportunity to vie for the Stanley Cup. That’s just how far Bylsma and staff had to take this team. So now — June 12th is another great day in Penguin history. Stanley Cup #3 has been secured. I can’t wait to see it at the parade tomorrow!! That’s the view from E – 11.