It's been a while. This feeling. Not the playoffs, we're used to that. It's been 10 years. This feeling of hope, expectations free of dread. Do you feel it? It's been a while.
Spring is a time to shed the old, for the light to enter and hope to spring anew. For the first time in years this feels much like the case for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Gone are the sweaters and hairshirts of the Bylsma and Johnston era. Instead a new feeling, one that used to be common. One of hope, of expectations, of pride. Except this time there is no weight. This time there is no burden. This time there is no awaiting disappointment.
This year is different. This year the Pittsburgh Penguins are not the same. The core is unchanged, yet completely refreshed. This year is, finally, a new year.
Do you remember this feeling?
It's the feeling from 2007, when the upstart Penguins finally saw their rebuild take growth. When Sidney Crosby, Jordan Staal, Marc-Andre Fleury, Evgeni Malkin, and Ryan Whitney lead the Penguins back to the playoffs.
It's the feeling of 2008, when the Penguins traded for Marian Hossa and shocked the hockey world by tearing through the Eastern Conference on their way to the Stanley Cup Finals.
It's the feeling of 2009, when the Penguins surged their way in to playoff contention, remarkably battled the Capitals in a series for the ages, and took down the mighty Red Wings in a Game 7 thriller.
It's a feeling that hasn't been around since then.
A feeling of rebirth. A feeling of new life. A feeling of fresh breath.
For the first time in ages, this team feels like it's ready to meet expectations... because there are no expectations. For the first time in years, the core is complimented by players who can take pressure off of them. For the first time in a long time, the team is as full top to bottom as any team in the league.
For what feels like the very first time, the Penguins enter the playoffs. And they enter not expecting to win, but demanding to win.
Do you remember this feeling? This feeling of having fun? Of enjoying watching the Penguins?
The feeling is back. And for the first time in years, finally, so are the Penguins._________________________________________________________