Dunlap: The Penguins’ Future Looks Outstanding

PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) – This Penguins series against the Blue Jackets is over. It’s just a formality — convention and procedure for the Penguins to see how many games they will win it in, not if they will win it.

For me, when Pittsburgh took a 2-0 series advantage, John Tortorella and his men from a little to the West headed South for good.

Moving forward in this dance through the playoffs, I haven’t any idea what will happen, or even if they will face Washington or Toronto.

No one knows if Matt Murray will be back.

Will Fleury continue to sparkle?

How will Sid and Geno keep managing?

Will Mike Sullivan remain as that pillar of wisdom behind the bench, seemingly making every correct decision?

There are a ton of questions that need to be answered as the Penguins move forward both in the short and long term.

But, Sunday night as the Penguins fought back from that early deficit against the Blue Jackets to take what is an insurmountable lead, one thing hit me really hard — there is no question about what this organization can become in the form of an offensive presence over the next few seasons.

It is scary.

It is downright alarming (in a good way) if you’re a Penguins fan.

I don’t need to bore you with the fine details of the merits of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, both among the top players in the game at this point, who have been atop that mantelpiece for more than a few seasons.

But, as we always visited the primary questions in the past, weren’t a few of the main ones this: Where is the supplemental offense going to come from with the Penguins? How are they going to complement Sid and Geno? Where’s that winger for Sid? Can this offense be more than their top-heavy stars?

It seems like the Penguins’ organization went a long way toward definitively answering all those questions, and who is to think this isn’t just a small glimpse of something enormous to come in the next few seasons?

Jake Guentzel became the first Penguins rookie in franchise history to record a playoff hat trick with his stellar play in Game 3 against the Blue Jackets. He’s found a home on one side of Crosby with the other side occupied by Conor Sheary, who at 24 is just starting to show what he can do in the NHL. That line has 11 points in three playoff games and since being pieced together there has been no better line in the league. And to think Crosby, at 29, is the eldest of the three is a scary thought looking into the future.

On that second line with Malkin and Phil Kessel is Bryan Rust who is just 24 and has a penchant for coming through when the games grow in consequence. Rust scores on average every 5.7 games in the regular season. In the playoffs, he has scored every 2.9 games. That’s a young player who knows how to get it done in crunch time.

Scott Wilson is just 24 and has performed admirably down the stretch and Tom Kuhnhackl is one year older (25) and has blended into the mix quite well, filling the void stylewise in a Chris Kunitz role.

When he’s played this season, have you thought that 24-year-old Josh Archibald has looked out of place at all? I know I haven’t.

And that’s not even seeing an infusion of lightning-quick 20-year-old Daniel Sprong, who has the potential to be as good as any of the forwards.

So, with the Blue Jackets series on the cusp of ending and the Stanley Cup Playoffs destined to continue for the Penguins, there is a lot to look forward to in the near future. No question. I’m looking forward to this playoff run.

Today, for some reason though, I also can’t get my mind away from just how electric this group has the potential to be on offense for years to come. It really is something.

Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weekdays from 5:40 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at colin.dunlap@cbsradio.com. Check out his bio here.

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