The Ice Sheet: Sid, Geno and the Pens Break Down Door to Finals

Every day from Monday to Saturday, The Ice Sheet will take a look at the biggest stories in the league that happened on the ice and elsewhere the night before.

Well that was rather emphatic.

For the second series in a row, the young and incredibly talented Pittsburgh Penguins had failed to sweep an opponent out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And now, for the second series in a row, those same young Penguins refused to let their opponent up off the mat, and put an exclamation point on a five-game series victory. Now all that's left to do is win the Cup. Easier said than done, I know.

For somebody who was alive and ambulatory in the mid-1980s when the Edmonton Oilers rose out of the Canadian prairie to slay the New York Islanders and take their place on top of the National Hockey League for the better part of a decade, this is all starting to look a little familiar -- something that was reinforced for me last night when ESPN's John Buccigross narrated a video roll of teams with young superstars early in their careers that manage to play for a title.

Though I'm not sure Buccigross meant for it, I couldn't help but come away with what's become a common complaint from Baby Boomers about Generation Y, or whatever marketers are calling the 18-25 year old set these days -- that success has come all too easy to a certain generation, and that somehow there's something wrong with all of it.

To borrow a line from more hockey bloggers than I care to remember, I'll just write this: Meh.

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The fact is, the Penguins have actually broken through to the Finals faster than many of those other teams. Gretzky was all of 22 when he led the Oilers into the Islanders buzz saw in the 1983 Finals. Mario Lemieux was almost 26 when the first Stanley Cup edition of the Penguins broke into the Finals against the North Stars in 1991.

But now, Crosby is just 20. Evgeni Malkin is just 21. Even better, this Penguins team has broken into the Finals along a pretty steep learning curve. Both Gretzky and Lemieux had to learn how to lose before they really learned how to win, sometimes in awfully painful fashion. But this is a different kind of league, and can these kids really be blamed for being young, talented and perhaps not appreciating the fact that trips to the Stanley Cup Finals don't necessarily come every season?

I know I don't think so. If anything, we ought to be excited at the prospect of seeing this team together at least for a couple of seasons before the Tampa Bay Effect comes into full force, and GM Ray Shero is forced to shed some talent in order to stay under the salary cap. In the meantime, sit back, relax and think about the prospect of watching a team this powerful in the Finals as they wait for a battered and exhausted Detroit or Dallas squad to finish up out West.

Meanwhile, back in the Western Conference ... The series has headed back to Dallas for Game Five -- please be sure to stop by tonight for Bruce Ciskie's live blog -- where things have to be seen as all the more urgent now that the Penguins have already punched their ticket to the Finals.

It's funny how the complexion of a series that began with three straight Detroit wins can change so suddenly. Before, Dallas was on the respirator. But now, when you look at things from the vantage point of 3-2, all of a sudden the gap between the two teams doesn't seem all that pronounced -- with the difference really being Detroit's 2-1 win in Game Two on home ice. A few bounces here and there, and we could very well be talking about Dallas being on the brink of its first trip to the Finals in eight seasons.

Just in Case You Missed It ... Here's a list of everything that happened at NHL FanHouse over a very busy weekend:

And When They're Not at FanHouse: My colleagues do toil elsewhere. Please take a moment to stop by their home blogs and say hello.

Obligatory YouTube Video: Here's a real find -- a clip of a newsreel from the 1950 Stanley Cup Finals between the Rangers and the Red Wings. That's the same season the NHL started adding white paint to the ice surface in order to make it easier to see the puck -- sort of a low-tech version of the Fox glow puck:

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