Last year, the Penguins returned to the final four for the first time since their back-to-back runs to the Cup finals in 2008 and 2009. While that was an accomplishment in and of itself, the fact that they were swept by the Boston Bruins in the conference finals and scored only two goals in four games left a singular stain on the fabric of the talented team.
Veteran forward Craig Adams won a Stanley Cup in Carolina in 2006 before coming to Pittsburgh in March of 2009 in time for the team's run to a Game 7 victory over Detroit in the Stanley Cup finals. He believes teams that aren't used to playoff success might find it easier to truly narrow their focus when the playoffs begin.
"I think if maybe it's your first year in the playoffs in a long, long time and you feel like you're an underdog and ... I've been in those situations; you don't look ahead to four series down the road," Adams said in an interview. "The good news there is you're really, really focused on Game 1. You don't worry about tomorrow or how tough it's going to be to win 16 games, you just worry about winning one game and go on from there.
"Not that good teams shouldn't be focused on one game, but I think when you've been lucky enough to go through it and win, you know how hard it is and you know how long it takes, and so even though you're focused on the now, you're hoping that's in your future, I guess."
Whether a team is considered a favorite or not when you're one of 16 teams looking to be the last one standing, the odds aren't in your favor.
"To not win it in four years is not unheard of, but certainly our seasons have ended in different ways over those times," Adams said.
"Ultimately, we want to win just like everybody else. The expectations are high, so it's disappointing for sure. Obviously all 16 teams have a chance. Some teams probably feel like they have a better chance than others. We've felt every year that we had a chance, a legitimate chance."
Defenseman Rob Scuderi grew up in the Penguins organization and was part of the team that won a Cup in 2009 before signing a contract as a free agent in Los Angeles, where he helped the Kings to their first-ever championship in 2012. He re-signed with Pittsburgh in the offseason and conceded that it's easy to be surprised that the team hasn't enjoyed more playoff success.
"Yeah. Given the guys that I played with on the '09 team, you'd think that they're going to be a perennial Cup candidate, but sometimes it doesn't work out that way," Scuderi said.
"It's not easy to win the Stanley Cup playoffs. Just because you have a team on paper that looks like it's going to blow the doors off the Stanley Cup playoffs doesn't mean it's going to happen. It's not easy to win. It's hard. You've got to come together at the right time and you've got to come together for a long time. As much as you'd think that this team would have had more wins, it's not shocking. It's a hard time of year to win."
Sometimes it's harder to win when the belief is that it's going to happen.