PITTSBURGH - Kris Letang said Tuesday the Penguins are “all guys that want to win for the guy next to him.”
That was not the case last postseason, when many among the nucleus never embraced some of the players acquired by general manager Ray Shero at the 2013 trade deadline, especially winger Jarome Iginla.
During the fall of 2012, when the NHL locked out players, Penguins veterans staged near daily on-ice practices at Southpointe Iceoplex.
Something special was formed or maybe rekindled. The talk then was of craving a chance to make up for what players believed was a wasted opportunity to win the Cup in 2012, when the Flyers upset them in Round 1.
That talk still existed in late March 2013, when the Penguins were 11 wins into a 15-game run of consecutive victories.
However, in a span of about five days, winger Brenden Morrow, defenseman Douglas Murray and Iginla arrived — and factions formed quickly.
Many of their new teammates resented the attention heaped upon Morrow, Murray and Iginla. Others worried for their jobs. Leaders fretted about the chemistry, coaches over the fit of slower players into a system predicated on skating, and a couple of franchise cornerstones hated the presumption they suddenly needed help from outsiders because the 2012 series against the Flyers had embarrassed the organization's top brass.
Members of Penguins' nucleus always thought they had the team to take on the NHL last season. That was not the team they were part of in the playoffs, and it showed against Boston in the East final. Good teams get swept sometimes, but they show more resolve than the Penguins did in scoring only two goals.
This postseason, the Penguins are 0-3 in overtime, have not had a goal from Evgeni Malkin and/or Sidney Crosby in six of nine games and twice have surrendered home-ice advantage.
They're also playing their best hockey of the season, coming off consecutive shutouts of the Rangers.
Resolve has become their identity, and that happened because, as Letang strongly suggested Tuesday, these Penguins want to win for one another. More importantly, they have the chance to win with one another.
(Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.)