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NHL Teams Deep Dive: Pittsburgh Penguins
- Updated: March 16, 2022
The Pittsburgh Penguins are one of the most successful hockey franchises that didn’t get a head start as one of the Original Six. Having qualified for six Stanley Cup Finals, they have won five of them and established themselves as one of the foremost hockey franchises on American soil.
Today we’re learning all about the Pittsburgh Penguins, their best players, and their Stanley Cup record. As part of the NHL, you can place bets on the Pens. If that’s the case, you should check out the relevant NHL betting odds.
Setting The Scene
The Pens weren’t the first hockey franchise to come from Pittsburgh – but they are certainly the most successful. Having been established in the 1967 NHL expansion, they had some early success with Michel Briere, a young center who played his rookie season and took the Pens to their first-ever playoffs. He would tragically die just days later. If you’ve ever wondered why the Pens’ #21 jersey has been retired – that’s why.
Later, after recording the NHL’s worst seasonal records in ’83 and ’84, the 1984 NHL Entry Draft gave the Pens a saving grace. They picked Mario Lemieux.
While talented, Lemieux needed a team, so the Pens acquired former Edmonton Oiler defenseman Paul Coffey and former Buffalo Sabres goaltender Tom Barrasso. Lemieux scored 85 goals, 114 assists, and 199 points in 1988-89. Unleashing Gretzky-type stats, he led the league and put the Pens on the map.
But that’s enough setting the scene, you want to get to the good stuff – Stanley Cup wins.
The 1990s Stanley Cups
Entering the ‘90s, the Pittsburgh Penguins had to prove they had Stanley Cup potential. The Pens’ brought in reinforcements. The most important of these was Jaromir Jagr from the 1990 draft, who was young (one of the NHL’s youngest) and provided Lemieux with offensive support.
Next season, in 1991, Lemieux and Jagr led the Pens to the Stanley Cup, taking on the Minnesota North Stars in 6 games. What’s more, the Pens won the last game 8-0. The next year, in 1992, they swept the Finals in just 4 games, knocking the Chicago Blackhawks aside and claiming a second, back-to-back Stanley Cup.
The rest of the ‘90s weren’t as eventful for the Pens. Coffey was traded away in 1992, Lemieux stepped down in 1997 after health issues including cancer and a herniated disc in his back, and Jagr moved in 2001. Coffey was the second defenseman to hit 1,000 points while Lemieux and Jagr were the first Penguins to surpass 1,000 points.
The 2009 Stanley Cup
As the Pens rebuilt their roster following a bit of mismanagement, they acquired goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury first overall in the 2003 draft. Along with Fleury, they added center Evgeni Malkin Evgeni Malkin in 2004, and a generational talent in Sidney Crosby in 2005. The three combined to help lead this transformation.
Having trained with Lemieux in the preceding summer, Sidney Crosby joined the team for his first season in 2005 along with defenseman Kris Letang. Crosby scored 102 points in his debut season, though they wouldn’t hit the Stanley Cup Finals again until 2008, where they lost to the Detroit Red Wings.
They did it again in 2009, where they faced the Red Wings again and this time brought home the franchise’s third cup. Malkin was given the Conn Smythe trophy for his performance.
The 50th Anniversary Stanley Cups
The next Stanley Cup wins came in 2016 and 2017, after a period where the Pens were plagued by injury.
With a star lineup, Crosby and the squad stormed the playoffs and beat the San Jose Sharks in 6 games to make their fourth Stanley Cup title. Crosby won the Conn Smythe trophy, though Phil Kessel performed well and was a close second.
2017 was a special year for the Penguins, being their 50th anniversary. They had no trouble making it to the Finals again. This time, it was the Nashville Predators in their way. The Pens became the first team to defend a Stanley Cup title since the ‘90s and one of the most successful non-Original Six hockey teams. Once again, Crosby swept the MVP award.
Those are the highlights from the 50+ year history of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Fleury transferred in 2017 while Kessel was traded in 2019. Crosby is still leading the team as one of modern ice hockey’s best talents, with Malkin and Letang as alternate captains. With stars like Crosby still at the helm, they are still in the running to seize more Stanley Cups in the future.