Wow, I really did not see this coming. Even though Crosby, Malkin, and Fleury were all a year older, wiser, and better, I always thought last year's team was superior. Hossa/Malone > Guerin/Kunitz, but I was wrong.
I actually thought the toughest series in the East would be Carolina. Again I was wrong. After the Game 7 domination in Washington, the Pens were just full steam ahead against the Hurricanes.
I predicted Wings in 6, and again I was incorrect. The Pens had the superior grit and heart of a champion.
Part of me feels bad for Hossa. He hated Therrien and that was the single greatest factor in signing with Detroit. If you view it in terms of the Therrien factor opposed to Pittsburgh versus Detroit solely, than Hossa made the right decision. If Bylsma would have been the coach and his style implemented, Hossa would have signed with Pittsburgh, I almost guarantee it. Hell, if Bylsma was the coach last year, the Pens would have probably won. Shows how important the coach has been. Accept for his year with Crosby, Hossa has just never shown up in the playoffs.
Zetterberg and Datsyuk are good if not great, but not to the level of Crosby and Malkin.
Lidstrom and Osgood are about done. With a win, Osgood would have probably been a borderline Hall of Famer. Now, he probably isn't, again, wow.
This might be the end of the line for Detroit in the forseeable future. They will certainly be on the decline next year and young teams like Pittsburgh, Washington, and Chicago are only getting better.
Role players stepped up in big ways throughout the playoffs. Mark Eaton against Philadelphia. Ruslan Fedotenko against Washington. And of course Max Talbot in the finals.
Rob Scuderi and Brooks Orpik were absolute studs, the entire playoffs.
Staal stepped up big throughout and greatly improved on last year's playoff performance. Still the question is: Do you keep him or trade him and get a better wingers?
Fleury is simply one of the best net-minders in the NHL. He showed it last night, he's showed it throughout the playoffs, and he has shown it all year. Losers that complained after game five are probably praising him now. He is equally important to the Penguins as Crosby and Malkin.
It helps when you have the two best players in the NHL. The only problem with Crosby surfaced last night. He's just injury-prone. He has been throughout his career, and he will probably continue to be.
Which finally brings me to Malkin. I have been saying it for two years. He's the best player in the world. Out of the big 3, Ovechkin is the best scorer, and that's about it. In Pittsburgh, Crosby centers the top line, and had Hossa last year. Malkin has played his entire career with second line wingers. There have been some quiet whispers that the team plays better, at least in the regular season, when Crosby is out. They are equal passers and playmakers. Evgeni is tougher, more physical, and a superior pure scorer. In my opinion, the debate isn't even that close anymore.