Penguins showed heart, teamwork

Area fans of hockey are riding high on the shoulders of the Pittsburgh Penguins, again among the rare ranks of the back-to-back Stanley Cup winners in the NHL.

The extra 25 games of the 2017 NHL post-season tournament that it took for the Penguins to bring home the hardware for the second year in a row is more than just a rare achievement. Fans were struck by the ability of the team to keep reaching into its bench and bring forward quality play from a seemingly endless depth of talent.

When captain Sidney Crosby went down with a concussion, the team held on until he could come back. When stellar rookie goalie Matt Murray went down in the warm-ups before the first game of the playoffs against Columbus, it was the man he replaced during the playoffs last year, Mark-Andre Fleury, himself a Stanley Cup star, who stepped up and played to the best of his abilities to keep the Penguins moving ahead through the first two playoff series. When Murray came back, Fleury didn’t complain. He went to the bench, ready in case he was called upon again.

It was the heralded and the unheralded, the veteran and the young all working as a unit to attain their goal.

It was the story of the team all year. When defenseman Chris Kunitz went down for the season with injury early on, the team found ways to win, found players to step up, made its way through to the playoffs.

It’s not easy to win the Stanley Cup back to back. It’s a matter of playing more than 200 hockey games in two years, meaning the season ends late and starts when it always does.

It was a special effort in an era where teams don’t stay together long in professional sports and in hockey, where units are constantly changing due to the extent of injuries.

It was a group of young men together for their moment in time, who did their jobs, no matter the adversity that injuries may have brought, who won the top prize in their sport, a rare example of inspiration in the world of modern professional sports.