The Pittsburgh Penguins have a chance to become the first time in 19 years to win back-to-back Stanley Cup champions.
This used to happen all the time in the dynasty years – four straight form the Montreal Canadiens begot four years of the New York Islanders begot four Cups in five years for the Edmonton Oilers begot back-to-back Cups from the Mario Lemieux Penguins. But it’s never happened in the salary cap era, which would mean the Penguins will have accomplished something the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings could not.
Speaking of Mario: This would give Sidney Crosby three Stanley Cup rings, one more than his former landlord. And in the eyes of some, another championship would elevate him over rival Jonathan Toews, even though Crosby is so far beyond Toews as an individual player that he’d need to go to an observatory and use its deep space telescope to look over his shoulder and find him.
But more than anything, the narrative for the Penguins is resiliency. Making the Stanley Cup Final without Kris Letang was unlikely. Making the Stanley Cup Final without Matt Murray for over two rounds was unlikely, as well as making it through all of their other postseason injuries. They had to win two Games 7 to get here. They’ve shown the tenacity of a champion.
Any time you have a franchise poised to win its first Stanley Cup, that’s an undeniable storyline. When it’s a “non-traditional market” that some thought didn’t deserve an NHL team, that storyline gets turned into a true underdog story, no matter how good the team is. When it’s backed by the most raucous, intoxicating (and intoxicated) fan base in the NHL today, it’s downright addictive.
Maybe you’re into that. Or maybe you just want to see P.K. Subban hoist the Stanley Cup one year after the Montreal Canadiens decided they couldn’t win one with him.
GM David Poile’s bold construction of this team – trading away Shea Weber and Seth Jones for Subban and Ryan Johansen, and his deals for James Neal and Filip Forsberg before them – would be validated. Coach Peter Laviolette will have won his second Stanley Cup with a different team, too.
And Nashville has its own resiliency test: Winning the Final without Johansen, their star center, was was lost to leg surgery in the previous round.
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