Beware everyone, the march of the Penguins has begun.
Pittsburgh looked awfully good tonight beating the Senators in Ottawa 3-1 to complete a sweep of the defending Eastern Conference champions and I think it was the first step in what will be a very big spring for the Penguins. It certainly showed just how far this team has come in a year.
As electrifying and talented as the Penguins were last season, they were still very green at playoff time and it showed in the first round against the Senators. But young teams have to learn how to lose before they win, and the Penguins have obviously made use of the lessons.
"For most of us, our first playoff memory was losing here," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "It was a different situation last year, but we went through some learnign experiences and to come back this year, to learn and get a win feels good."
No doubt because the Penguins exacted revenge with a sweep that was even more dominant than the result would imply. And it was a warning sign to everyone else in the playoffs because Pittsburgh looks to be in a zone now and has all the roster elements for a real run at the Stanley Cup.
Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are obviously catalysts for Pittsburgh and both stood out against the Senators. But so did goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. And defense partners Sergei Gonchar and Brooks Orpik who helped keep Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza from scoring any goals. And role players like Georges Laraque, Maxime Talbot and Pascal Dupuis, who provided energy and physical intervention.
The Penguins are usually seen as a high-powered offensive machine and that's fair because of the explosiveness, which was enhanced by the addition of Marian Hossa. But against Ottawa, Pittsburgh proved in can play playoff defense as well and that it has the size and toughness to avoid being pushed around. Put it all together with the goaltending the Pens are getting now, and it looks very dangerous.
"I definitely think this is a team than can go far," Senators coach Bryan Murray said.