The Penguins have won 11 of their last 12.
I’m not sure how. I’m not even sure who. When I looked around the Penguins’ Consol Energy Center dressing room after last night’s 5-2 win over Minnesota, I was glancing at name plates. Who’s that guy? New faces. Smiling faces.
What’s not to smile about? Even minus the injured and suspended, the Penguins keep rolling. They have a 14-point lead in the Metropolitan Division. They have the second-most points in hockey, trailing Chicago by two.
A bunch of the Penguins’ current components won’t get a jersey come playoff time. Many won’t even be on the team much longer. Tick, tock. Tick, tock.
No matter how well Chris Conner, Zach Sill and Harry Zolnierczyk do up front, they can’t earn any kind of permanence. The same goes for Brian Dumoulin and Philip Samuelsson on defense. Simon Despres has arguably been the Penguins’ best defenseman since he was summoned from their Wilkes-Barre/Scranton farm club on Nov. 27. But, barring a lengthy absence by Kris Letang or Brooks Orpik, Despres’ days in Pittsburgh are numbered, too. Tick, tock. Tick, tock.
All these guys can do is win, and make an impression. They’re doing both. Ask the veterans, and eyes widen. James Neal: “Those guys are good.” Pascal Dupuis: “They’re doing an amazing job.”
As the dressing room clears out, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton gang sits along one side. Sidney Crosby shares the moment with them. It’s a nice scene. Crosby is held in awe. That seeps through, but you’ve got to look hard. It’s just a bunch of hockey players. At that moment, Crosby is more captain than superstar. A good captain, at that.
This group isn’t as talented as the Penguins’ regular lineup. But it’s a nice blend. You can’t get jaded with a bunch of enthusiastic kids helping set the tempo. This is the NHL. Good money. Chartered flights, not buses. National TV. Big-name teammates. Proud parents. Living the dream.
Enjoy the moment. The moment can be fleeting. For most, it will be.
Meantime, it’s a lot of fun. For all of us.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images.