Big Byron Breakdown: Pittsburgh Penguins Securing the Three-peat
Earlier this year, the Penguins secured their second successive Stanley Cup triumph; here I’ll explain why they will three-peat in 2018.
Following a six game series, Sidney Crosby lifted the Stanley Cup aloft as the Penguins had won the Championship again (this was the first back-to-back Stanley Cup win since the Detroit Red Wings back in the 90s). The Pens had a difficult run before securing success and are quickly becoming the hockey equivalent to the New England Patriots or the Golden State Warriors: a team that combines consistency and dominance to win Championships.
Kicking off the 2016/17 season, a repeat seemed crazy enough, but here we are staring down the barrel at a solid possibility for a three-peat. The Pittsburgh natives are already listed as odds on with the bookmakers and while everyone tries to think of potential teams to tear down this dynasty, I’ll list here 5 reasons that they will go back to back to back.
5. The Penguins are well rounded and have kept their talent
One of the biggest reasons for the Penguins’ immense success this season and through the playoffs was how they kept their key pieces together from the last Stanley Cup run. Following victory, most teams struggle to keep the band together, as each contributing player quite fancies the idea of venturing off and being a lead singer elsewhere, usually for more money.
While they kept everyone together, the players obviously still needed to produce on the ice, and they did. Sidney Crosby kept up his play in his captain role and even scored his first goal in the Stanley Cup Final since 2009 to help push his team to the title. Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel remained as solid offensive performers, and Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury provided sublime play in net throughout the team’s run.
Crosby, Malkin, Kessel and plenty of their other stars all locked up for a considerable amount of time in Pittsburgh and if they can hold all of their players together before October rolls around then they should be in the money.
4. Winning with Kids
While keeping all of their star players together throughout their two Stanley Cup runs has obviously been impressive, the biggest part of their continued success is the ability to add in new pieces each year.
Matt Murray’s emergence in the first cup run was the biggest piece of their success and he hadn’t even completed his first rookie season. Then, in his true rookie season, he took over in net for the Stanley Cup Final and led the team to their repeat.
Outside of the performances in the net, Jake Guentel was phenomenal in the most recent success and embarked on a historical scoring spree; Guentzel led the team with 13 goals in the postseason and contributed 20 points, and was the first player to score in the first three games of the Stanley Cup Final since Steve Yzerman did it 20 years ago in 1997.
The biggest piece in in creating a dynasty is the ability to combine the impressive core of veteran superstars with the future young talents. This has been done to perfection by the boys in Black and Yellow as they’ve proved the rookies can compete with the best, and as Guentzel and Murray gain more experience, things can only get better.
3. Consistency through Turmoil
Just like their ability to keep their talent together through their two straight Stanley Cup wins, the way the Penguins handled their business in the midst of absolute chaos in the Eastern Conference showed how consistent their success will be.
The Eastern Conference contains some monstrous contenders in the shape of the Montreal Canadiens, the Washington Capitals and the New York Rangers. Looking ahead to next year’s postseason, the Canadiens will be looking to go further than the regular season form they consistently show, and actually take that into the playoffs, the Rangers will be praying they can keep hold of Lundqvist and Capitals will be dying to keep hold of Ovechkin. Pittsburgh looks to have found their route to success while their rivals crumble around them.
2. Winning despite Injuries
For the team’s postseason run, they had to overcome two of their biggest pieces falling out of their playoff roster, with defenseman Kris Letang out with a herniated disc in his neck before the playoffs even started, and then forward Nick Bonino getting injured in the Stanley Cup final itself.
The Penguins dealt with Bonino’s injury with relative ease, they already had momentum as a 2-0 lead had already been earned against the Nashville Predators. But it was the injury to Kris Letang before the playoffs began that was the real worry. It is near ridiculous that the Pens were still able to play to such a high level without a cog like Letang in the line-up. They survived without Letang through the whole postseason, which could have them evaluate how much they need to keep him around for the price they’re paying.
This will also instill a great deal of confidence into the team ahead of next season as they imagine how easy things could’ve been with a fully fit squadron.
1. Sidney Crosby
Obviously, the Penguins’ success is about their whole lineup performing to its fullest, but it always comes back to the captain. Sidney Crosby has led the Penguins for over a decade at this point, and he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
Crosby won the Conn Smythe trophy for the second straight year, and it looks like he could legitimately win his team a third straight Stanley Cup, along with a third straight Conn Smythe trophy. Not bad at all.
Those who doubted Crosby’s playoff scoring prowess were made to look foolish as he scored his first goal in a Stanley Cup Final since 2009, an eight-year streak, and was providing assists left and right for the Penguins throughout the run.