PITTSBURGH — If the Pittsburgh Penguins need anything to rally around in this Stanley Cup final, they should look no further than Bill Guerin.
There wasn’t even the slightest hint of grey in his playoff beard the last time he had an opportunity as good as this one.
Guerin’s only Stanley Cup win came 14 years and seven NHL teams ago — a span that has included enough air miles and ups-and-downs for him to realize that he might be facing his last chance to win a championship.
It’s certainly crossed his mind now that the Penguins have fallen behind the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 heading into Game 6 of the Stanley Cup on Tuesday.
“You never know what the future holds for opportunities and chances to win the Cup,” Guerin said Sunday.
“But, yeah, I know where I’m at in my career. I know they’re going to have to kick me out of this league because I want to keep playing as long as I can. But the opportunity is now.
“You know, the opportunity is now for a 38-year-old, and it’s now for a 22-year-old, and for a 28-year-old. The opportunity is now, and you have to take it when you’ve got the opportunity because it could be 14 years before you get your next one.”
If you get it at all.
Guerin’s Stanley Cup win came in 1995 with an up-and-coming New Jersey Devils team that would go on to win more titles after he’d been shipped out of town.
Like any young player, he thought he’d be back again and again.
It’s a feeling a few young Penguins might have after consecutive appearances in the final — although Guerin provides a good reminder that it won’t necessarily be the case for Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Co.
“They’re lucky,” said Guerin, who arrived in Pittsburgh at the March trade deadline.
“They’re lucky that they’re good. I think this team’s going to be sniffing around for championships for a long time because of the way they’ve drafted the last some-odd years. But you can’t take opportunities for granted.
“You can’t think they’re going to come around every year because you can ask other older guys, they just don’t.”
That thought will certainly be driven home to the Penguins before they face a potential elimination game at Mellon Arena against the Red Wings for a second straight spring. The players were given Sunday off — save for Guerin, who agreed to come in for media interviews — and will have a practice on Monday morning.
The situation is pretty straightforward at this point. If they lose one more game, it’s going to be another tough summer. Crosby indicated after Saturday’s humbling 5-0 loss that the only thing his team needs to do to regroup is to look around the dressing room — focusing perhaps on a guy like Guerin.
“We’ve been through a lot that we’ve had to bounce back from,” said Crosby.
“Don’t get me wrong — this isn’t an easy loss but, you know what, a loss is a loss. It’s unfortunate that we didn’t have a better effort but the reality is we’ve got to go home and win one. I think we owe it to each other to be a lot better and hopefully we get a good result from that.”
The NHL featured Crosby in a memorable commercial at the start of this season, where he steps out of a still photo taken after last year’s Stanley Cup loss and says he never wants to be part of that kind of picture again. He’ll have to prove it now.
While this series has been closer than the one Detroit and Pittsburgh played last season, it could end in a similar fashion — with the Red Wings passing the Cup to each other on the ice at Mellon Arena.
None of the Penguins has spent much time talking about what happened a year ago.
“You know what, I haven’t heard one thing about it,” said Guerin. “Nobody’s even mentioned anything remotely close to that. I guess now that I think about it, it’s kind of odd. But I think that’s a good thing, though. Nobody’s focused on last year. I think everybody feels differently.
“I wasn’t here, but from what I’m told it’s a different feeling. It’s a different confidence that the team has.”