In battle of Cup champions, Penguins have chance to prove they're best
This isn't just about the Cup. It's a matter of legacy.
With an opportunity to win a second championship and make a third appearance in the Stanley Cup Final in six seasons, the Penguins have a chance to be remembered as the finest team of their time.
But they aren't alone.
The remaining teams in the NHL playoffs are the four most recent Stanley Cup champions. By winning another title, each could put its stamp on the past decade.
“I'm not big on history or records,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “But I do like the idea of our team being the team that does do that out of the final four.”
Conference championships often are hotly contested, but rarely do they showcase such an elite group.
One of the final four teams will become the first team to win two or more championships in a five-year span since the New Jersey Devils a decade ago.
“We know someone's going to get another one,” right wing Craig Adams said. “I think that's an accomplishment, especially in this era.”
In the early years of the Sidney Crosby era, the Penguins were a precocious team that won a Stanley Cup before most imagined.
The next three seasons were plagued by injuries to Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and playoff flameouts.
A third chapter seemingly is about to begin.
“I feel like we've been a good team, an elite team, since winning the Cup,” Adams said. “But we haven't gotten it done in the playoffs since then. There aren't dynasties anymore, but if you can't win in the playoffs, you aren't going to be remembered the same.”
Right wing Pascal Dupuis was more blunt.
“We haven't passed the second round in three years,” he said. “So we obviously haven't played the best teams. We are the reason we haven't faced Boston.”
The Penguins are excited about this matchup and the ramifications of the past four Cup winners meeting.
“I don't think it's too often that the four best teams in the league have actually made it to the final four,” defenseman Mark Eaton said. “But I think that's the case this season.”
Bylsma acknowledged that, through the regular season, the Penguins and Bruins were the finest teams in the Eastern Conference. Whichever emerges as East champion will have an invitation to immortality awaiting in the Stanley Cup Final.
“All four organizations have been building something that has lasted for more than a year,” Adams said.
One of them will have built something even more.
“We want to be remembered,” right wing Tyler Kennedy said, “as the team that got it done when it counted.”