This season, for the first time in six years, the Pittsburgh Penguins managed to place fifth in the Eastern Conference to face the future Stanley Cup Finalists, the Ottawa Senators, in the first round of the Eastern Conference Quarter Finals. Though the Penguins ultimately fell short to the Senators, they reached a goal of making the playoffs, with a team led by its young superstars. The city of Pittsburgh had satisfied a craving, and the taste was familiar to that of the Penguins glory days when they held the Stanley Cup high above their heads.
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It's June now, and as General Managers prepare for the draft and look ahead to free agent month, Penguins GM Ray Shero can look at his team with a smile knowing that last season was just the beginning of their success. He knows that giving 19 year old Sidney Crosby the "C" was a smart choice, he knows that Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal are becoming better every day and he knows that his club will prosper in the 2007-2008 season. Talks about the Penguins moving to another city have been forgotten and talks of a third Stanley Cup have just begun in Steeltown.
The Penguins success starts as most stories do, with a hero, and in this case the hero for this Pittsburgh team was Sidney Crosby. So much hype surrounded the young Crosby from his junior career and people wondered if he could perform with the pressures of being the biggest draft pick in years. Crosby had a fantastic start to his NHL career with 102 points in 81 games, but he was just getting started. The following season Crosby collected 120 points in 79 games which later won him a Lester B. Pearson Award, an Art Ross Trophy and a Hart Trophy at the 2007 NHL Awards. But all the awards and points didn't add up to the feeling Crosby had when he rallied the Penguins back into the playoffs and back into the competitive spirit.
Of course, Sidney Crosby is the biggest superstar on the team but who can forget the supporting cast of young talent and veteran wisdom. Jordan Staal and Evgeni Malkin joined the team as two of the most promising young stars in the game while Mark Recchi and Sergei Gonchar adjusted the "A's" on their jerseys ready for another long season as Marc-Andre Fleury and Jocelyn Thibault get their goalie equipment ready. This is a team, a to have a team you have to have all your players working together and knowing they count on one another and the Penguins are lucky enough to have that knowledge.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are a team that know what they want and they know what they need to do to get it. In the next few years don't be surprised to see the words Presidents Trophy in the Penguins vocabulary. But most of all don't be surprised to see this team holding up Lord Stanley's Cup, because the Penguins have just started to be force to reckoned with and as the years go by, they'll only become stronger.
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