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Penguins Perspectives: Never take greatness for granted

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Welcome to Penguins Perspectives, a weekly column by KDKA-TV Digital Producer Patrick Damp. Each Monday, Patrick will talk about the week that was, the week to come, what to watch for, and more.

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – While I could take the time to go back and look at all of the Penguins Perspectives columns I've written this season, I'm going to likely repeat something in this one – we Penguins fans are spoiled rotten.

This isn't to say we shouldn't have high expectations and demand this team be in the conversation as Stanley Cup contenders, not as long as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang are playing at a level that requires that kind of discussion.

That's pretty much the crux of the inaugural Penguins Perspective I wrote way back in October. The big three are a lot closer to retirement than they are their rookie years.

This past weekend, those three completed history.

With Letang's 1,000th game coming against the rival Flyers at PPG Paints Arena, they became not only the only trio of Penguins players to win three Stanley Cup championships, but they also became the only trio of Penguins to each play 1,000 games all for the Penguins.

Since 2005, this franchise has done just about everything a franchise can in its history. They've won the Stanley Cup three times, including becoming the first team in the NHL since the inception of the salary cap to win it in back-to-back seasons, they've played outdoor games, games on other continents, and so, so much more.

There is one feat, however, I want to highlight right now.

A couple of weeks back Sidney Crosby did something that has only been done one other time in NHL history, he clinched his 18th season of scoring at a point-per-game pace.

Right now, he sits second in NHL history behind only Wayne Gretzky.

While his "rival" Alex Ovechkin is hot on Gretzky's goal-scoring record, to me (with obvious bias) this is more impressive.

That's not to diminish what Ovi is doing, he's the greatest goal-scorer to ever play the game and that's where we'll leave that.

But to consistently be able to put up a point-per-game scoring pace in a league like the NHL for 18 seasons is nothing short of elite. If you've watched hockey over the past 30 or so years, it's a league that has deferred to safety, both on the ice and off it. Defensive accountability is preached by more coaches than it isn't. Playing a two-way game is more important to many than playing to your strength.

Even with all of that, Sidney Crosby has not only developed into a great two-way player, but he still is able to put up 82 or more points in a season. Consistently.

As skill and speed continue to improve across the league and into the younger, developmental ranks, a change is certainly coming for the sport as a whole. Players now focus far more on their puck skills, their skating, and being able to put those two things together at top speed.

Just go look up a Connor McDavid highlight package – the man does not slow down. When most players would need to tap the brakes to do the magnificent things that they do, McDavid turns on the afterburners.

That's indicative of where the sport is heading.

That also means that Sidney Crosby was brought up and played in that era of safety. In fact, there are examples of it. Throughout his career he was criticized for not being good enough in the face-off circle, only to turn around and become one of the more reliable centers in the league. He was considered good enough in the defensive zone, and now he'd be a Selke candidate if it weren't for the deserved reign of Patrice Bergeron.

Putting all of them together is nothing short of brilliance.

Even so, we as Penguins fans have just come to expect it.

"There goes Sid, another 30-goal, 80-plus point season, ho-hum."

Greatness does not come often, but for those of us who have a rooting interest in the team that wears a skating penguin as its crest, it's been here since the 1980s.

In a season where this team has struggled to find any sort of consistency, the captain remains the most consistent.

We've been granted with greatness and taking it for granted would be foolish, especially if you're the management of this hockey team possessing three hall-of-fame-caliber players.

You didn't think I'd let you go with at least one shot at management, did you? 

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