Injured winger Pascal Dupuis will be rehabilitating rather than playing, but he’ll also be watching in great anticipation of something truly special just the same.
“This team can win it,” Dupuis announced today.
He wasn’t talking about the Penguins’ first-round matchup against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Dupuis was talking about the Stanley Cup.
“I think they’re ready,” Dupuis assessed of his teammates on the eve of the postseason. “Had a nice little meeting this morning, I was part of it. Guys seem ready and enthusiastic about going into the playoffs.
“It’s the same core, same guys that know how to win, same guys that are dedicated every shift, every game to win. There’s one goal. We know we failed to do it the last couple years.
“Why not this year?”
The short answer might be because Boston, like the Penguins, plays in the Eastern Conference.
Or because multiple teams in the Western Conference, like the Bruins, are better than the Penguins.
But the most accurate response to Dupuis’ why-not query might be this:
Because it's such a difficult proposition to begin with, no team, no matter how stacked, how enthusiastic or how well-peopled, should ever consider the hoisting of a Cup a mere eventuality.
The Pens will be happy to take their chances with their track record and with what they have assembled.
They’ll do so willingly beginning with Game 1 against Columbus.
But they won’t be the only team that considers itself capable of ultimately outlasting all the others and they won’t perceive themselves as such.
“I think all 16 (playoff) teams are among the contenders,” defenseman Brooks Orpik maintained. “I think everyone thinks they have a legitimate chance. You look at the parity across the league now and some of the teams that get to the Final; it’s not always the No. 1 seeds.
“I think we’re confident in here. The organization, once you win it and with the collection of talent we have and the commitment we have from management and ownership contractually, that’s just realistic.”
“It’s tough to win because there are 29 other teams trying to win, as well,” Orpik continued. “But (General Manager) Ray Shero reminds us at that meeting in training camp every year that it’s the Stanley Cup or bust. Everybody here is aware of the situation and the expectations.
“If you lose in the conference final or the Stanley Cup Final that might be an accomplishment for some organizations but that’s not the case here. Most guys welcome that challenge.”
The Penguins haven’t successfully answered that challenge to their Cup-or-bust standard since 2009.
And they’re entering the playoffs this year, seemingly, as less of a favorite than they were a year ago, when the Penguins were swept out of the Eastern Conference Final by Boston.
They’ll try again this time around as committed to the cause as ever, and at the same time painfully aware of all the why-not aspects of such an undertaking.
“Given the guys that I played with on the ’09 team, you’d think ‘they’re going to be a perennial Cup candidate,’” defenseman Rob Scuderi said. “But sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. It’s not easy to win in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Just because you have a team on paper that looks like it’s going to blow the doors off the Stanley Cup playoffs it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.
“It’s not easy to win; it’s hard. You have to come together at the right time and you have to keep it together for a long time. It’s a hard time of year to win.”