Thursday, July 6, 2017

3-PEAT on the Horizon?

Why the Penguins are destined to 3-peat…
We can talk about Pittsburgh's forward depth, with studs littering the line-up, but more importantly to win a championship you need defense. When the Penguins were up 2-1 vs. the Washington Capitals in their 2016 Stanley Cup run, star defense-man Kris Letang had to sit for Game 4 due to suspension, and everyone counted the Penguins out. Fast forward to Patric Hornqvist’s OT goal that gave Pittsburgh the commanding 3-1 series lead, and all but wrapped up the Caps season. Now in their 2017 Stanley Cup run, the Pens defense took a HUGE hit losing Letang for the entirety of the Playoffs to a neck injury that required surgery, and again, everyone counted them out, but the team rallied around the 6 D-Men that were available. “Just play” is head coach Mike Sullivan's team mantra, and that’s what his team did for him. Getting Letang back for the 2018 playoffs not only boosts their blue-line, but improves their power-play percentage, and all over offensive effectiveness.
Also, if the Penguins young talent plays the way they are capable of in their junior and sophomore seasons, they might be preparing another parade in the Steel City. 3rd year players Sheary and Rust hit a bit of a sophomore slump this postseason after bursting onto the scene and playing major roles in the Penguins 1st of their back to back championships, Sheary being benched in favor of an injured Carl Hagelin for the majority of the Eastern Conference Finals. Bryan Rust put up the same postseason points(9) in both cup runs, but didn't have nearly the same impact this past postseason, nothing like two Game 7 Eastern Conference Final goals to secure a spot in the 2016 Finals. But losing some forward depth in the off-season, Bonino and Kunitz leaving in free agency, these kids will get more than their share of ice time to improve and refine their game in the ‘17-’18 season. Rookie forward Jake Guentzel did something Penguins fans have seen before, scoring on his first shot in the NHL, much like hockey legend Mario Lemieux, and put up record breaking, and tying, rookie post-season numbers, even gaining one 1st place Conn Smythe Award vote for the NHL Playoffs MVP. Another rookie, or technical rookie, Matt Murray shined in the postseason again, and secured his spot as the team's franchise goalie, adding 22 postseason wins, a .928 save percentage, and 2 Stanley Cups to his extended rookie season résumé.

Although a common problem for the Penguins through their past several seasons, racking up the 2nd most injuries since their ‘09-’10 cup win, if this team can stay relatively healthy, they could be the first since the Islanders historical 4-peat to win three Stanley Cups in as many years.

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