Barely a week ago, the logical inferences drawn from the Stanley Cup final were doubling as an antibiotic for Penguins fans still wounded by the club's widely unexpected postseason exit.
Obviously, your results may vary, but the active ingredients in that balm were the continuing excellence of Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask, and the evident frustration on the faces of Chicago Blackhawks superstars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, who found themselves not at all up to the Rask task. That is why Boston was leading the series, 2-1, and had been solved for exactly one goal in the previous six-plus periods of hockey.
Exactly as it had represented against the Penguins, Boston was apparently too superior on defense, most particularly between the pipes, for any team to take its Stanley Cup away.
Now, history will show that Boston lost that Cup in 17 seconds of raging Blackhawks defiance, the 17 seconds in which Chicago flipped a one-goal deficit onto its wallet, and that those very 17 seconds occurred in the final 76 seconds of a Cup-clinching Game 6.
Yes, 1776; ooh, that has gotta hurt.
But that's the highly abridged, ultimately faulty version. Boston never won again after shutting out the Blackhawks June 17, and now the distance between Pittsburgh and Chicago in actual NHL mileage has gone from hardly-worth-measuring to something that ought to be, generally, the primary obsession of the whole Lemieux-Burkle organ-I-zation.
Here were two clubs with the kind of gifted and crafted pedigrees necessary to dominate the NHL's contemporary era, but now one has commandeered two Stanley Cup titles in four years, the concurrent term in which the other has not survived a conference final.
Before Monday night, nine different franchises had won the past nine titles, but it was the Blackhawks who so boldly validated their curriculum vitae, not the Penguins.
What do the Blackhawks have that the Penguins don't, other than, of course, the Stanley Cup?
What can the Blackhawks do that the Penguins can't, other than, of course, put as many pucks past Rask in 17 seconds as the Penguins did in a week?
These kinds of questions can have long, meandering answers depending on the oracle, but many agree that the essential differences are Chicago's superior top-to-bottom speed, superior bottom-to-top depth and a generally more mobile and effective defense.
Were Blackhawks management so inclined, it could oversimplify that last distinction simply by saying: "You have Douglas Murray; we have Johnny Oduya."
And you would try not to respond: "Oh, do ya?"
The speed difference wasn't terribly evident in the final until the Blackhawks decided there was no future in simply banging the Bruins into overtime all the time and that they would be better served using that speed to get to the net, something the Penguins never got around to in the Eastern final.
It was after Boston's 2-0 shutout that Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville put the Kane-Toews-Bryan Bickell line back together with instructions to go directly at Boston defensive monster Zdeno Chara rather than just let him anchor a packed-in Bruins defense.
Chara soon began to wear down, and was ultimately on the ice for 11 of Chicago's final 13 goals.
No kind of similar adjustment was forthcoming from Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, who essentially put his faith in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to find a way. They did not.
Two weeks later, Kane and Toews, facing the exact same obstacle, found a way. Again.
Kane, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in these playoffs, could not help but blurt out a rather ominous observation in the charged atmosphere after Game 6:
"We seem to be getting better and better."
In a truncated hockey season that didn't begin until Jan. 19, the Blackhawks didn't lose in regulation until March 8, so it was pretty evident halfway through the schedule that the Blackhawks were the best team out there.
If they're only getting better, the Penguins' challenge is truly daunting. More so if their default position is going to be intransigence. General manager Ray Shero already has indicated he's not giving away failed playoff goaltender Marc-Andre Frantic, not making a coaching change and not breaking up the non-dynastic duo of Crosby and Malkin.
All of that is fine, so long as other significant changes are welcomed in other areas, and not just those dictated by the tightening salary cap.
The trade for Harry Zolnierczyk? What else ya got?
With an odd bit of slapstick timing then, the odds to win the 2014 Stanley Cup were posted midday Tuesday by Bovada.
The Penguins are the early favorite, followed closely by the Blackhawks.
You know what that's worth.
Gene Collier: email@example.com.