Monday, June 12, 2017

Penguins have become NHL's newest dynasty

, USA TODAY Sports

June 11, 2017

Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with the Stanley Cup Trophy after they defeated the Nashville Predators 2-0 to win the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the Bridgestone Arena on June 11, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

NASHVILLE — When Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby raised the Stanley Cup on Sunday night, he undoubtedly did it the right way.

The Penguins embraced coach Mike Sullivan’s “play the right way” motto and conquered the Nashville Predators in six games to win the fifth Stanley Cup championship in franchise history. They won 2-0 on Sunday night as Patric Hornqvist scored the winner with 1:35 remaining in regulation.

With Crosby, the Conn Smythe winner in back-to-back playoffs, leading the way, the Penguins survived the loss of No. 1 defenseman Kris Letang, a mid-playoff goalie switch and two Game 7s against Washington and Ottawa. The Penguins became the first NHL champion to repeat since 1998 when the Detroit Red Wings made it two in a row with a sweep of the Washington Capitals.

When the Chicago Blackhawks won their third title in six seasons in 2015, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman referred to them as a dynasty.

With three titles since 2009 and four trips to the Stanley Cup Final since 2008, the Penguins deserve that distinction as well, especially when you factor in their repeat.

As strong as the Blackhawks have been in recent years, they couldn’t win two in a row. The Los Angeles Kings, with their stingy defensive play, could only win two in three years (2012 and 2014).

Given the loss of Letang before the playoffs, this year’s Stanley Cup run seemed much more difficult than last year’s. The Penguins needed 24 games to win the Cup last year and 25 this year.

The 49 games represent the most playoff games an NHL team has ever played over two seasons.

What didn’t change this season is that Crosby led the way and goalie Matt Murray’s poised style was a stabilizing factor. He made 27 saves in the clinching win.

Patric Hornqvist #72 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against Pekka Rinne #35 of the Nashville Predators during the third period in Game Six of the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the Bridgestone Arena on June 11, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Last playoff run, Murray was the star in net, but this season he was injured right before the playoffs and then Marc-Andre Fleury became the starter. But since Murray returned in the conference final, the Penguins have been a stronger team. Murray didn't allow a goal since 16:37 of the third period in Game 4.

Crosby had 27 points in the playoffs, and seemed to be at his best in every big game. He only totaled 19 points last season when he was the Conn Smythe Trophy winner for the first time.

Another Stanley Cup just adds to Crosby’s legacy as a superstar who knows how to win. He now owns three Stanley Cup championships, two Olympic gold medals, a world championship, a World Cup championship and a world junior championship.

Evgeni Malkin also stepped up as well, leading the team with 28 points. The Crosby-Malkin one-two punch at center is what defines the Penguins’ dynasty.

No team the Penguins faced had centers who matched up comfortably against these two, particularly the Predators who played without No. 1 center Ryan Johansen.

The play of Jake Guentzel (13 goals) was the biggest surprise of this playoff run. Nobody could have foreseen the impact he would have.

The forgotten man in this Penguins dynasty is Mario Lemieux. He won two Stanley Cups as a player and now he has three Stanley Cups as an owner.

Where would this franchise be if Lemieux had not bought it and pulled it out of bankruptcy in 1999? Maybe not even in the city, but certainly with three fewer Stanley Cups.

Pittsburgh Penguins owner Mario Lemieux lifts the Stanley Cup after Game Six of the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the Bridgestone Arena on June 11, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Penguins defeated the Predators 2-0. The Pittsburgh Penguins win the Stanley Cup Final series against the Nashville Predators 4-2. (Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images)


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