Pittsburgh's core of great players is young and getting better.
Sidney Crosby is just 22 and he already has won all there is to win in this game, capped by the Olympic gold medal he copped this February and the Stanley Cup he hoisted last June. Crosby just gets better each season.
Two years ago, Crosby couldn't win a big faceoff, so he worked all summer and came back as a top-end draw artist. This past summer, Crosby felt he was too predictable as a pass-first option and put his vast talents toward improving his shot. The result, his first career 50-goal season, finishing with 51 and a share of the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy as the League's top goal scorer.
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is just 25 and has also claimed Olympic gold and Stanley Cup silver. In the past two postseasons, Fleury has won 30 games and posted a sub-2.50 goals-against average to go with a .919 save percentage.
On the blue line, youth also is served. Alex Goligoski, second among Penguins defensemen in scoring, is just 24. Kris Letang is just 22 and already took a regular shift in a Stanley Cup championship campaign. Brooks Oprik is a seven-year veteran at age 29 and in his prime. Sergei Gonchar is the old man of the unit at 35, but the Pens' leading defense scorer and still a big part of the team.
Even the coach, Dan Bylsma, is young. Upon being named to the post a little more than halfway through last season, Bylsma was the youngest coach in the League. Today, he is just 39 and already owns a Stanley Cup ring as the man responsible or guiding a team to 16 wins in a single postseason.
That's a pretty good core for GM Ray Shero to play around with for the better part of the next decade. He has also proven adept at surrounding his main group with the types of players necessary to win regularly.
Support pieces like Bill Guerin, Chris Kunitz, Jay McKee, Craig Adams and Alex Ponikarovsky have been melded into the unit almost seamlessly to address the areas left unfilled by the core group and make the Penguins a tough out in the second season.
Plus, this is also a group that has already tasted success and sipped from the Stanley Cup. The hunger -- backed up by the requisite skill -- is there for this team to put together a championship run to rival those of the Edmonton Oilers and the New York Islanders.
What better time to start that run than during the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs as they begin their journey to defend the Cup won last June?