Eight ounces are a cup, but eight victories are merely half a Cup.
For further information, contact Lord Stanley's Office of Weights and Measures, but do not, in the meantime, dismiss the significance of eight wins in this or any postseason.
The commanding Penguins audience has no use for half a Cup, certainly, but it's worth pointing out this is a franchise that hasn't enjoyed so much as a quarter Cup since 2010.
To be sure, just getting to eight wins, as the Penguins did Friday night in a 6-2 indictment of the Ottawa Senators, is a playoff accomplishment that has long since lost its cache in an all-or-nothing world. There was a time when eight wins were actually all that were necessary to win the Stanley Cup, but that was so long ago fans were somehow capable of finding symbolic linkage between a championship hockey run and an octopus, at least in Detroit.
You wouldn't be terribly surprised right now if this postseason finds its way to an Octopus's garden, would you?
In any event, the Penguins have officially reached the playoffs' deep end. That's what an imminent third-round series signifies, that you've made a so-called deep playoff run, and there's no arguing that the Penguins have done it with the one thing you need to go deep, which is, uh, depth.
"Every night, we have great players," defenseman Douglas Murray said without so much as a dramatic pause, "sitting out."
When a team is so talented that talented players can't get on the ice, you might be talking about depth.
So let's go back to standard measurements. How deep is this Penguins ocean?
In the club's eight postseason wins to date, the winning goals have been scored by eight different players, none of whom are named Sidney Crosby. In order, the winners came from Beau Bennett, Chris Kunitz, Tyler Kennedy, Brooks Orpik, Evgeni Malkin, Brenden Morrow, James Neal and Kris Letang.
And yet, Crosby's expected excellence has remained the Penguins' foundational principle, even if someone had to ask coach Dan Bylsma the other day to estimate where Crosby's game is, exactly.
"I love getting this question," Bylsma said, "[because] it means it's at a high level. Everyone always wants to seem to try and determine if he's back to where he was before and before and before. It's not something I really spend a lot of time on.
"He's playing good hockey. He's in a lot of big situations for us, from faceoff circle to defensive situations to power-play situations for our team, and he's come up really big in a lot of those situations. He continues to, so I'm not really interested in looking back to compare; I just love getting the question because it means he's at a high level."
Crosby's 1.5 points per game average this postseason is a career high (he averaged 1.46 in the 2010 playoffs), but expectations for the captain remain doggedly unattainable. From 87, still just 25 years old, people expect a minimum of two game-winning goals per game, and the balance of this Penguins season will pivot in large part on how not just Sid but all of his talented teammates function in the long shadow of unlimited potential.
No one outside of Marc-Andre Fleury has exactly cowered in that shadow.
Halfway to the Cup, Letang is the top scoring defenseman in the playoffs with 16 points, and similar accomplishments up and down the roster have left empirical evidence all over the ice. The Penguins power play is an NHL playoffs-best 13 for 46. The Penguins penalty-killers are 35 for 39. Even for a player such as goaltender Tomas Vokoun, of whom expectations might be more modest, the playoffs have been a platform for unprecedented excellence. Vokoun is 16-2 since March 2, unbeaten in regulation in the postseason, and has stopped 114 of 120 shots on home ice, where the Eastern Conference final will begin sometime this week, television willing.
But while the Penguins' hallmarks are plainly talent and depth, their plans are more commonly focus and patience.
"We've stuck to the game plan," said Murray, who arrived with general manager Ray Shero's boatload of trade-deadline reinforcements. "What's impressed me the most is that it hasn't been smooth sailing the last couple of games. The last game [in Ottawa] was 7-3 by the end of the night, but we were down [2-1] in that game. A lot of times, that can deflate a team and you can deviate from the plan if things don't go your way, if there are weird bounces and so on and so forth. The most impressive thing about this team is that we've been staying the course and doing the things that make us successful.
"And we've been rewarded."
Or at least half-rewarded.
Gene Collier: email@example.com. First Published May 26, 2013 4:00 AM