Penguins eager to make history with third straight championship (2024)

The Penguins are two different teams.

On the ice, they are must-see TV, a team so gifted that its head coach often explains that he prefers his players using their intuition instead of some semblance of structure. Good luck finding another NHL coach who will utter such words.

Off the ice, however, they are so different. With the exception of an occasional Phil Kessel Tweet or Evgeni Malkin explaining that he’s “busy,” this team is frighteningly dull. Their words are always measured, rarely controversial and never boastful. They won’t even utter a negative word about the Flyers.

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Finally, Bryan Rust said it: “Of course we talk about it.”

The Penguins begin the Stanley Cup playoffs Wednesday against the Flyers at PPG Paints Arena, and this spring represents an invitation to immortality. Winning the Stanley Cup is nice. Winning it in consecutive seasons is rare and makes a squad eligible for lifetime, civic royalty.

Winning it three straight times?

Mario Lemieux couldn’t do it. Neither could Wayne Gretzky. Neither could Bobby Orr.

Neither has any team in 36 years. In the salary cap era, in Gary Bettman’s world of a watered-down NHL product, dynasties don’t exist. This is the league where great teams do their damage and quickly fade away, where expansion teams nearly win the Presidents’ Trophy.

Winning three straight Cups? It’s unheard of. It’s also a deep source of motivation in the locker room of the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions.

“No doubt,” Rust said. “I think it crosses our minds. Sure, it does. I know it gives me a lot of motivation personally. It gives every guy in this room some motivation. We don’t talk about it all the time, but it’s been discussed. We know there aren’t many teams out there that have ever been a part of it.”

Some of the Penguins will tell you it’s never discussed, that the “next game” is all that matters. Rust cleared that up.

“Of course we talk about it,” he said. “Not all the time. But … we know.”

No NHL team has won three straight championships since the Islanders won four in a row in the early 1980s.

No Pittsburgh professional team has ever won three straight championships. Only three others teams — the 1974-75 Steelers, the 1978-79 Steelers and the 1991-92 Penguins — have won two straight championships.

History says the 2018 Penguins won’t win 16 games this spring. But then, this team’s history hasn’t been written just yet.

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“We have our chance,” Carl Hagelin said. “It’s all you can ask for. I mean, winning the Cup is everything. It’s a feeling that’s so great, you can’t even describe it. That’s the big thing, no matter how many times you’ve won it. But we realize the opportunity we have in front of us. We are aware.”

Reputations are made in the spring. Consider what the Penguins have going for them:

  • Sullivan has never lost a playoff series as the Penguins’ coach.
  • Matt Murray has never lost a series as the Penguins’ goaltender.
  • Kessel has never lost a series since being traded from the Maple Leafs to the Penguins.
  • Sidney Crosby and Malkin aren’t just all-time greats but have become postseason icons in the past two years.
  • Rust, Murray, Conor Sheary and Tom Kuhnhackl are part of the 2016 rookie class that has never tasted playoff defeat.

All of the streaks, all of the good vibes, all of the good memories will take a backseat starting on Wednesday night, as another playoff year is finally here.

Jim Rutherford, the man who constructed this team so brilliantly, was quietly confident on the eve of the playoffs.

“It hasn’t been an easy year for this team but I always knew what it was capable of doing,” he said. “We were very good in the second half of the season, and I’m not surprised.”

Rutherford wouldn’t be surprised if his team plays deep into the spring again. Something he saw in the past month gave him hope.

“There’s a determination there with this team,” he said. “When we needed to win a game late in the regular season, we did. They could turn it on when they needed to.”

The great teams are like that, of course. But can they survive through two more months?

“Of course we can,” Hagelin said. “We can 100 percent make it through. We know what we’re doing.”

Bryan Trottier knows a thing or two about winning multiple championships. He was a star on those great Islanders teams and a role player on the early 1990s Penguins teams.

He believes these Penguins have what it takes and offered insight.

“Every year we won with the Islanders was something different,” he said. “We won it in a different way every year. The Penguins will have to do the same.”

In 2016, the Penguins used an onslaught of speed that brought the league to its knees. In 2017, the wounded Penguins simply willed their way through a seemingly impossible draw.

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This spring’s script is about to be written.

The goalie who has never lost an NHL series doesn’t want to hear any talk of dynasties.

“I’m just trying to win, man,” Murray said.

Even he relents. The elephant in the room is difficult to ignore. These Penguins aren’t just trying to win, they’re trying to make history.

“Of course,” Murray acknowledged.

With such a daunting task comes great pressure. Rutherford wouldn’t be surprised if his team has something special to offer during the next two months.

“Of course I have a lot of respect for this group,” he said. “When you win once, it’s always the case. They’ve won it twice. But it’s not just that. It’s just a special group of guys, good people. And they’re all capable, you know. They’ve done it before. They know how to win and I know they’ll be ready.”

(Photo credit: Aaron Doster/USA TODAY Sports)

Penguins eager to make history with third straight championship (1)Penguins eager to make history with third straight championship (2)

Josh Yohe is a senior writer for The Athletic covering the Pittsburgh Penguins. Josh joined The Athletic in 2017 after covering the Penguins for a decade, first for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and then for DKPittsburghSports.com. Follow Josh on Twitter @JoshYohe_PGH

Penguins eager to make history with third straight championship (2024)

FAQs

How many times have the Penguins been to the Stanley Cup finals? ›

Founded during the 1967 expansion, the Penguins have qualified for six Stanley Cup Finals, winning the Stanley Cup five times – in 1991, 1992, 2009, 2016, and 2017.

Why are they called Pittsburgh Penguins? ›

Founded during the 1967 National Hockey League (NHL) expansion, the Penguins took their name from the igloolike appearance of Mellon Arena, where the team played from its inception through the 2009–10 season.

How many Stanley Cups have the Rangers won? ›

The team has won the Stanley Cup, the NHL's championship trophy, four times (1928, 1933, 1940, and 1994).

How many Stanley Cups has Sidney Crosby won? ›

Sidney Crosby (born August 7, 1987, Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, Canada) is a Canadian ice hockey player who in 2007 became the youngest captain of a National Hockey League (NHL) team and who led the Pittsburgh Penguins to three Stanley Cup championships (2009, 2016, and 2017).

Who has the most consecutive Stanley Cup titles? ›

The Canadiens made five straight Cup Finals from 1951 to 1955 but came away with just one championship. They more than made up for it over the next five seasons, though, by building the longest title streak in NHL history. The Habs started their run of five straight Stanley Cups by beating the Red Wings in 1956.

What team has the most Stanley Cup Finals appearances? ›

The Montreal Canadiens lead the pack with 34 Stanley Cup Final appearances. Second come the Detroit Red Wings with 24, and then the Toronto Maple Leafs (21), Boston Bruins (19) and Chicago Blackhawks (13). The team with the most Stanley Cup wins is Montreal, with a whopping 24.

Who is the richest man in hockey? ›

Estimated net worth: US$250 million

Known as “the Great One”, Canada's Wayne Gretzky has been called the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) by sportswriters, players and the NHL itself.

Does Mario Lemieux still own the Penguins? ›

There have been 11 ownership groups for the Penguins franchise since the team's founding in 1967. The Penguins' Mario Lemieux was a Penguins majority owner before his group sold ownership of the team to Fenway Sports Group in December of 2021.

Why did Pittsburgh Penguins change colors? ›

On Jan. 30, 1980, the Penguins wore black and gold for the first time. With the Steelers winning the Super Bowl and the Pirates capturing the World Series title in the same year, the struggling Penguins hoped to gain fan support by aligning their colors with the other teams in the "City of Champions".

How many Stanley Cups did Gretzky win? ›

As centre and team captain, Gretzky led the Oilers to four Stanley Cup victories (in the 1983–84, 1984–85, 1986–87, and 1987–88 seasons).

What player won the most Stanley Cups? ›

The most ever won by a single player was Henri Richard with 11 total championship rings.

Is Sidney Crosby the best hockey player? ›

Once again, Penguins Captain Sidney Crosby was voted the 'Most Complete Player' by his peers in a poll conducted this season of over 639 NHL players from all 32 clubs by the NHL Players Association. Crosby was named “the most complete player” on 38.37% of ballots.

Who is the highest paid NHL player now? ›

1. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche. No one is making more money this season than Nathan MacKinnon's $16.5 million. And, though you might get an argument from the Auston Matthews and David Pastrnak camps, there's a strong case to be made that no one's played better either.

Did Mario Lemieux play with Sidney Crosby? ›

Despite having registered two assists for a three-point night, the Penguins were defeated 7–6 in overtime. Crosby began his rookie season playing alongside Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux, though Lemieux was forced to retire due to an irregular heartbeat after having played just 26 games of the season.

How many times has Mario Lemieux won the Stanley Cup? ›

Drafted first overall by the Penguins in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft, Lemieux led Pittsburgh to consecutive Stanley Cup championships in 1991 and 1992. Under his ownership, the Penguins won additional titles in 2009, 2016, and 2017. He is the only man to have his name on the Cup both as a player and owner.

How many times did Claude Lemieux win the Stanley Cup? ›

Claude Lemieux's ferocious play style helped him make the playoffs in 15 straight seasons. Over that span, he won 4 Stanley Cups with the 3 different teams: the Canadiens, Devils, and Avalanche.

How many Stanley Cups does Montreal have? ›

Montreal Canadiens, Canadian professional ice hockey team based in Montreal. The oldest continually operating team in the National Hockey League (NHL), the Canadiens have won more Stanley Cup titles than any other team (24) and are the most successful franchise in league history.

Did the Penguins win the Stanley Cup in 2008? ›

The Finals ended on June 4, 2008, with the Detroit Red Wings defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins four games to two to win their eleventh championship and their fourth in eleven seasons. Red Wings winger Henrik Zetterberg was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs' Most Valuable Player.

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