The theory that the Penguins needed desperately to once and for all get past a first round because they hadn’t done so in a while hasn’t been lost on Brooks Orpik.
He just isn’t buying it.
The value of surviving and advancing to Orpik is surviving and advancing, period.
If anything beyond that was to be gleaned by the Penguins as a result of reaching the NHL’s second round for the first time since 2010, it was simply “finding out what stuff works and what stuff doesn’t,” Orpik maintained.
And that stuff wasn’t much of a revelation, Orpik insisted, but rather stuff that “should have been a little evident after the Philadelphia series last year.”
Orpik even downplayed the celebrations on Saturday night on Long Island _ Orpik, Tyler Kennedy and Chris Kunitz hugging at one end of the Nassau Veterans Memorial
Coliseum and Paul Martin and Tomas Vokoun ice-dancing at the other seconds after Orpik’s series-winning goal in OT_ as a matter of circumstance rather than significance.
“If you win the game 4-0 you probably wouldn’t have seen that,” he said.
But the Penguins nonetheless are feeling better about themselves while prepping for the Ottawa Senators than they had been prior to surviving the Islanders.
“We didn’t win a series in three years,” offered Pascal Dupuis, forgetting momentarily that the Penguins had actually beaten Ottawa in 2010 prior to losing to Montreal and commencing a three-series losing streak. “It feels great.”
To Dupuis that "great" feeling winning the Islanders series generated was destined to make for a “really good couple days here.”
The winning is still what matters most.
And the pressure to win remains in place and will as long as the Penguins continue playing this spring, even if the franchise’s frustrating first-round struggles are now suddenly a distant memory.
But for Penguins Cup veterans such as Orpik and Dupuis and for Penguins newcomers such as Vokoun and Brenden Morrow, there’s value to what was accomplished on Long Island _ it's either pragmatic or intangible but it's recognizable either way _ beyond earning a shot at Ottawa.
“It was great,” Vokoun gushed. “Obviously, I never experienced it in my life. Especially winning in overtime like that, it takes a lot of weight off your shoulders.”
Morrow talked of experiencing feelings that “I haven’t had in five years. Those butterflies you get in these games, the adrenalin that you get in these games, the atmosphere
that these fans have for playoff hockey; it had been a long time for me.
“As soon as that first national anthem started it was like the same feeling I got the first time I played. It’s something you can’t explain.”
That doesn’t mean it isn’t real.