As soon as the Pittsburgh Penguins swept past the Carolina Hurricanes Tuesday night to win their second consecutive Eastern Conference Championship, Sidney Crosby declared that this successful season is not a rerun of last year's.
Twelve months ago, he avoided touching the Prince of Wales Trophy, bowing to the superstition that says handling it ruins a team's shot at hockey's biggest prize. Well, that didn't get the Penguins the Stanley Cup last year, so this time, the team captain firmly grasped the trophy, took a quick victory skate and then let alternate captains Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar get their hands on it, too. This year is different.
In February, this team was breaking in a new coach and was all but left for dead. Then Dan Bylsma's aggressive offensive style turned defensemen into attackers. It seemed that every player was putting the puck in the net. Stars Crosby, Malkin and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury were electrified on the ice.
And this time, Lady Luck is on their side, too. How else to explain Max Talbot's fluky second-period game-winner to blow past the Hurricanes and into the Stanley Cup final?
Congratulations, Penguins. Go get the Cup.