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Stanley Cup Final

Why Penguins will win Stanley Cup

Pittsburgh continues to adjust, has shown resiliency throughout playoffs

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Losing defenseman Kris Letang to a season-ending injury before the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs didn't prevent the Pittsburgh Penguins from getting to the Stanley Cup Final.

It won't prevent the Penguins from repeating as Stanley Cup champions either.

 

[RELATED: Complete Predators vs. Penguins series coverage | Penguins stepping up without Letang]

 

If anything, losing Letang, who had neck surgery in April, has allowed the Penguins to have more of a by-committee, everybody-is-necessary philosophy through their run this postseason.

That was even tested before the puck dropped in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round.

Not only were the Penguins already without Letang, Matt Murray, their would-be starting goalie who led them to the Stanley Cup championship last season, sustained a lower-body injury in warmups before the playoff opener against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

In stepped Marc-Andre Fleury, who started to play like a Conn Smythe Trophy candidate and was as big a reason as any for the Penguins getting past the Blue Jackets in the first round and the top-seeded Washington Capitals in the second round.

Murray got back in against the Ottawa Senators in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final, after Fleury allowed four goals on nine shots in 12:52.

Video: OTT@PIT, Gm7: Murray denies Turris' wrist shot in OT

Fleury will be a big reason why the Penguins win the Stanley Cup, even if he doesn't see action in another game. Murray started the last four games of the conference final. Regardless, Fleury has been an incredible story, considering this could also be his swan song in Pittsburgh.

Fleury's future is in doubt with the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft looming and the likelihood that the Penguins will do whatever they can to protect Murray, who turned 23 on May 25.

And they'll do it without their do-everything, puck-rushing, 30-minute-per-game defenseman in Letang, who was instrumental in their championship success last season.

Losing him meant everybody on defense had to adjust and those roles had to expand. The Penguins' defensemen responded the way you'd expect champions to respond. They will continue to do that.

Justin Schultz stepped into a bigger role, specifically as the point man on the first power-play unit, and never looked out of place.

Schultz sustained an upper-body injury in Game 2 of the conference final, but that provided a chance for someone else to step up. He returned later in the series.

Video: OTT@PIT, Gm7: Schultz rings in wrist shot for PPG

Trevor Daley got back in after missing four games because of a lower-body injury and his skating caught up, making him a difference maker. Mark Streit moved into the lineup and onto the top power-play unit, and he also made a difference in getting the Penguins back to the Cup Final.

Sullivan has continued to push the right buttons and the Penguins have responded to adversity or rebounded from a poor game. Their resiliency is their best trait.

Doesn't it also say something that we've come this far down the reasons why the Penguins will win the Stanley Cup without even mentioning Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the two leading scorers in the postseason heading into the Final?

Yeah, they'll help too.

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