The Penguins took the ice minus Sidney Crosby for the first time this season on Tuesday night against Buffalo.
That was an inconvenience, yes.
But it wasn’t a test to determine how a streaking juggernaut would fare now that a little adversity has finally been thrown into the equation.
These Penguins have been dealing with that all season, both the self-inflicted and the will-of-the-hockey-gods variety.
And for much of this season they’ve been flying.
The 15 consecutive wins that had been collected prior to the puck drop against the Sabres had been achieved despite Kris Letang missing five of those games and Evgeni Malkin missing 10 of them.
The Penguins had also already overcome, in no particular order of importance:
--Skating a small village on Malkin’s left wing one by one until the arrivals of Beau Bennett and, finally, Jarome Iginla.
--Their insistence upon confirming, as the left wing search continued, that Zach Boychuk was horribly miscast by Carolina as worthy of a No. 1 pick.
--A power play that featured James Neal at the point/flanker position rather than the sniper spots he’s occupied ever since the Penguins came to their senses. That power play was momentum-sucking bad until the Penguins adjusted.
--Penalty killing that killed the Penguins’ chances as regularly as the power play in the season’s early going.
--The “Philly Pflu” or whatever it was that caused the Pens to temporarily lose their minds for four periods or so against the Flyers.
--The incorporation of a tricky goaltending rotation that was threatened when Tomas Vokoun went out to lunch and stayed there for several games.
--An initial refusal to accept and embrace the individual and collective responsibilities of playing the way they need to play to become a tough team to score against, something that was being stressed by the coaching staff as a reaction to the debacle against Philadelphia in last season’s playoffs.
The Pens have taken all of that on, figured it all out and continued to find and hone their game.
Yes, they lost to Buffalo on Tuesday night and looked bad doing it.
Their winning streak is history, literally.
But don’t look for all the rest to fall apart now that Crosby has joined Paul Martin on the shelf.