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Perhaps the most dominant team of the past decade, the Pittsburgh Penguins are winners of five Stanley Cups, including three since 2009. Their monumental run has survived coaching changes and major injuries to star players. This team seems to find a way to keep the momentum rolling and win games when it matters most.
Starting out as an expansion franchise in 1967, the Penguins reached playoffs in their third season. Struggling to distinguish themselves among the stiff competition, the Penguins made the playoffs nine times in their first 15 seasons, but had only three playoff series victories to show for it. The mid-1980s were a particularly rough time for the Pittsburgh franchise on paper, but those who paid attention to the team knew that big things were on the horizon once Mario Lemieux made his debut in the famous black and gold uniform.
A consummate hall of famer with a dazzling combination of speed, skill, and toughness, Lemieux quickly found himself in the conversation alongside Wayne Gretzky as one of the best players to ever touch the ice. Under his leadership, and with the help of star players in Tom Barrasso, Mark Recchi, Kevin Stevens, Larry Murphy, Ron Francis, Paul Coffey, and Jaromir Jagr, the Pens won back to back Stanley Cups in 1990-91 and 1991-92.
A strong competitor throughout the rest of the 1990s, many wonder how many more Cups the Penguins would have secured if Lemieux had not fallen ill. His career was plagued with injuries and a cancer diagnosis which sidelined him for a significant stretch of time. Ever the star player, Lemieux led the league in scoring upon his return from a yearlong hiatus to recover from cancer treatment and back surgery. He played in his first game back in the NHL on the same day as his last radiation treatment. He retired at the end of the 1997 season, but came back in the year 2000 to play again until 2006.
It was in his final year lacing up the skates for Pittsburgh that he passed the torch along to a new generation of Penguins hockey with Sidney Crosby. “Sid the Kid” quickly made a name for himself and earned the captain’s C on his jersey in 2007. Leading the next great wave of Penguins players, Crosby brought the Penguins to the brink of a Stanley Cup in 2008 before taking home the trophy in 2009 in a dramatic seven game series against the Detroit Red Wings.
Most recently, with Lemieux as an owner of the team, the Penguins won another set of back to back titles following the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons. A supporting cast that includes Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Chris Kunitz, and the goaltending duo of Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray.
Under head coach Mike Sullivan, Crosby and company enjoyed their summer break but could not wait to get back on the ice to defend their title and take a shot at a third consecutive Stanley Cup Championship. Unable to complete the three-peat, Pittsburgh was dethroned in second round by the rival Washington Capitals. To recapture the title, they will need to make up for some of the talent that has left town. Nick Bonino, Matt Cullen, Trevor Daley, and Marc-Andre Fleury. There is still a wealth of great role players on the roster including Jake Guentzel, Patric Hornqvist, Derick Brassard, Bryan Rust, Conor Sheary, Brian Dumoulin, and Kris Letang. Matt Murray solidified his starter status with his electrifying performances in net.
Pittsburgh made heads turn in the offseason by bringing aboard veteran defenseman Jack Johnson. Signing on for five years and $16.25 million, Johnson will do all that he can in the hopes of raising Lord Stanley’s Cup while with his new team.
An incredible amount of talented hockey players have skated for the Pittsburgh crowd. Among those most revered by the fan base are Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Paul Coffey, Ron Francis, Kris Letang, Kevin Stevens, Rick Kehoe, Jean Pronovost, and Tom Barrasso. Click here for more information about the Pittsburgh Penguins.