OK, I can't stand the word "yinz," but I haven't been to Pittsburgh in too long.
Now to the topic at hand: I've been trying to get into hockey, and since I was at school in Pittsburgh for the previous five years I decided to follow the Penguins. It seems like I'm being a fair-weather fan, but I swear it had nothing to do with their success. My timing was just extremely lucky. Last year's winning sure made it easy to become an involved fan though, I won't dispute that.
This season, though, coincided with my moving on from the Pittsburgh area. Couple that with the Pen's moderate start and the NHL's terrible TV contracts, and it was hard to keep following at first. I still counted myself as a fan, just not a very good one. Then an amazing chain of events happened, albeit rooted in disappointing injuries. First Marc-Andre Fleury went down. But wait! Ty Conklin stepped in and protected the net like it was his child. Crosby and Malkin turned it on too, and all of a sudden the Pens bolted into first place in a VERY tough division.
Cue the next bad news: almost as soon as the Pens grabbed the division lead, wunderkid Sidney Crosby was sidelined with a broken leg. It looked like the Penguins were sure to fade, but if only they could play about even without him and keep their heads above water they could make another run when he got back. They looked a little shaky without him at first, being shut out in the game in which he was injured and then going 1-1-1 in the next 3. Evgeni Malkin stepped it up, though, and the Penguins' scoring didn't really suffer. In fact, since the injury (not counting the game in which he was hurt and played for a period) they are 9-4-2, notching 20 points (behind 49 goals) in 15 games. They're also 7-2-1 in their last 10, tied for 3rd-best in the NHL over that span. Only New Jersey and Dallas have better marks in that category. That's also been enough to keep them tied with the Devils for first place in the Atlantic.
Good teams respond well to injury. Great teams shrug them off sometimes and keep on succeeding. Which are the Penguins? It's hard to say thus far, but if they keep it up for another couple of weeks and get to the stretch at full health, watch out. The rest of the league should pay close attention to this team (as I'm sure they are). The way this team has plugged huge holes and rallied around their new (temporary?) leaders could be the greatest NHL story in years.