-- To think that winning a Stanley Cup is as easy as 1-2-3 would be pure folly -- even when you start with Marc-Andre Fleury
, Evgeni Malkin
and Sidney Crosby
General Manager Ray Shero
said it's a comfort to know he has such skilled and talented stars who are willing to work hard and set an example. But it still takes 18 players and two goaltenders each night to make it through a marathon like the Stanley Cup Playoffs because of injuries and slumps.
"You're right," Shero said after his Penguins defeated the defending champion Red Wings 2-1 in Game 7 Friday night -- Pittsburgh first Stanley Cup title since 1992 and its third overall. "It's not as easy as 1-2-3 to win a Stanley Cup. It's incredibly difficult. You have to be good. You have to be lucky.
"This Red Wings team, they are incredible champions. We've got so much respect for them. To beat them -- and to beat them in their building -- was especially satisfying."
Only 13 players -- Crosby, Malkin, Fleury, Sergei Gonchar
, Petr Sykora
, Maxime Talbot
, Jordan Staal
, Pascal Dupuis
, Tyler Kennedy
, Rob Scuderi
, Kris Letang
, Brooks Orpik
and Hal Gill
-- returned from the club that lost to Detroit in last year's Stanley Cup Final.
For Shero, it was an especially difficult journey. His team was out of the playoff race in February when he fired Michel Therrien
and named Dan Bylsma
as interim coach. The 18-3-4 run under Bylsma proved magical en route to the Pens' first Stanley Cup since 1992. But ...
"It wasn't a great feeling," Shero said of firing Therrien. "He led us to the Final a year ago. He did a good job. But I had to go with my gut feeling ... I knew something was not right."
Shero has good bloodlines to draw from for this championship run. His father, Fred Shero
, coached the Philadelphia Flyers
to Stanley Cups in 1974 and '75. Ray will never let one of his dad's sayings die.
"Win today and we'll always walk together," Shero said was his father's favorite adage. "It was true in 1974, and it's just as true today."
Shero talked about bringing in Marian Hossa
and Pascal Dupuis
before the trading deadline a year ago to get the Pens to the Final. This year, he brought in Chris Kunitz
, Bill Guerin
and Craig Adams
at the deadline. That underscores that you can't stand pat in this salary-cap era. You always have to be on your toes. Most important, you have to find the right pieces to the puzzle -- the guys who win the battles in the trenches and play with heart and soul every night.
Max Talbot underscored that by scoring both goals in the Game 7 victory.
"I walked into a great situation in 2006 with all of these superstars in place," Shero said. "But any team, if you have aspirations of getting this far, has to have role players who create the energy you need to fight on. The Rob Scuderis, the Mark Eatons, the Matt Cookes, the Tyler Kennedys -- and, God bless him, Max Talbot.
"To win, you've got to have their contributions in the trenches. Detroit has proved for so many years you have to have the role players and secondary scoring to get to your goal. Those are the heart-and-soul players you have to have to win."