Led by Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins Repeat as Stanley Cup Champs
During the first week of April, before the playoffs even began, the Pittsburgh Penguins announced that star defenseman Kris Letang would miss the entire postseason due to a herniated disk. After the announcement, many pundits assumed that the chances of a repeat Stanley Cup win were out of the question.
Clearly, the Penguins and captain Sidney Crosby didn’t get the memo.
All season long, the Penguins dealt with injuries to top players: losing Evgeni Malkin, Bryan Rust, Trevor Daley, Jake Guentzel, and Olli Maatta for extended stretches. Yet, the team still finished 2nd in the absurdly tough Metropolitan Division, solidifying a first-round matchup with the fellow Metropolitan Columbus Blue Jackets.
Pittsburgh didn’t waste much time in making people eat their words about the team’s chances, dominating Columbus and taking the series in five games.
The playoffs got tougher from there, as both the second-round series against the Washington Capitals and the Eastern Conference Finals against the Ottawa Senators were pushed to seven games. The all-around play of the Penguins saw positive outcomes in both of those game sevens, and the wire-to-wire finishes in games five and six of the Stanley Cup Finals ensured that Pittsburgh wouldn’t have to win a third game seven in 2017.
Just getting to the Finals was a wild, unexpected ride for Pittsburgh. A Stanley Cup Finals appearance without a number one defenseman isn’t something that happens too often, regardless of how stacked an offense is.
But a repeat Stanley Cup Championship? Well, that hadn’t been done by any team in the salary cap era until this year.
Against the odds, for the second straight season, captain and future Hall-of-Famer Sidney Crosby hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup, solidifying his legacy as one of the greatest to ever play the game. Despite the occasional storyline about Crosby’s immaturity and temperament, there was never any denying his skill and drive. His team got behind him and played as hard as he did.
Sid finished the playoffs with eight goals and 19 assists, including a goal and six assists in the Finals. Even while dealing with a concussion for part of the postseason, Crosby’s 24 points were good enough for second on the playoff leaderboards, just behind teammate Evgeni Malkin.
Crosby became the first captain to win back-to-back Stanley Cups with the same team in the salary cap era, and he also grabbed his second straight Conn Smythe Trophy. He helped lead his team to victory without his top defenseman. His leadership helped garner the successful play of two goaltenders in Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray, along with the unexpected heroism of skaters like Chris Kunitz. And he clearly influenced the play of Nashville’s P.K. Subban, who recorded just two assists in the Finals and sparred multiple times with the Captain. Even without the puck, Crosby was a difference-maker.
Game six was the best possible way to finish the season and, despite the arguably terrible no-goal call against Nashville in the second period, showed why this Pittsburgh Penguins team deserved to be repeat champions. It also showed why the Captain is one of the best to take the ice.
There’s no doubt that Sidney Crosby is one of the greatest offensive players in history, but he might just be one of the best ever leaders as well.