It is all still vivid in my mind as the Penguins get set to begin the 2014-15 season against the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday at the CONSOL Energy Center.

As we move it forward, I can’t help but shake the memories of the past.

There he was, Sidney Crosby, in the playoffs last Spring.

He was pushed.

He was pulled.

He was punched, pierced and pasted all over the ice in the postseason.

It was Dominic Moore, it was Brandon Dubinsky. It was downright assault.

It also led to one goal in 13 playoff games.

That’s why, no matter your opinion on fighting in the NHL, it has to be tough to not like the Penguins’ acquisition of power forward Steve Downie as this season is set to start.

Not very often do my eyes make a point to drift to the non-top-of-the-line guys, but on Thursday they will. And it spawns from words Downie said on 93.7 The Fan on Tuesday when he was asked about his role in protecting superstars.

“You definitely got to push back against anybody,” Downie said. “Intimidation goes a long way in this game.”

I like this guy already.

But give me more, Steve …

“I believe if you try to take runs at your star players, that you got to stand up for it,” Downie continued. “It’s a tough line. I can’t sit here and say I’m going to go after guys because I have to focus on winning games, and helping this team win first.

“But if something needs to be done, there’s a couple guys in the room that will not shy away from that.”

One can go ahead and connect dots that Downie was putting himself into the “couple guys” category, making it known that one of his primary responsibilities is to stay on patrol for Crosby.

A 27-year-old with a mean streak who understands his role — which seems to be precisely what Downie is — is something that gets me excited about this Penguins season.

This isn’t a guy mistakenly thinking he’s going to walk in here and score 25 goals, dangle the puck through the neutral zone or make these highlight passes that go tape-to-tape over wide areas.

Nope.

Downie is what he is and he knows what he is — to a large degree an obstruction to those who want to do it the rough way with Sid.

It isn’t just Crosby, though.

How many times in his Penguins career have we seen Evgeni Malkin get assaulted and assailed, struck and punched until he couldn’t take it anymore? Seems like a hundred or so, doesn’t it?

Right or wrong, the Russian most likely then elects for vigilante justice, getting even — in his mind, at least — but taking a penalty in the process.

Perhaps that’s now where Downie comes in — at least if he follows the words he spoke on radio with action.

In a sense, you take liberties with my guy, you face me. Especially in the early-portion of the season as Malkin enters less than 100 percent.

The Penguins needed to get tougher; they needed to protect their top-end talent.

That seems like a decent sized portion of why Steve Downie is here.
And, you know what? I like him already.

Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weeknights from 6 p.m. to 10 p.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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