NHL - METROPOLITAN
Stadium: PPG Paints Arena
Coach: Mike Sullivan
2021-2022 TEAM LEADERS
The Pittsburgh Penguins are an NHL hockey team playing in the Metropolitan Division based out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Pens are one of 2 teams in the state, the other being their rivals on the east side the Philadelphia Flyers. As part of the 1967 NHL expansion, the Penguins have been one of the most successful teams of recent history with 5 Stanley Cup wins and the longest-running current postseason streak with 15 straight appearances at the time of publication.
The Penguins have enjoyed not one but two Hall of Fame tandems in their history that have led to the domination of the league, the first of which being a combination of Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr from 1984-1997 resulting in the cup wins in 1991 and 1992. After a brief period of rebuilding, the Penguins again enjoyed one of the league’s best duos in Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, being the first team in the salary cap era to ever win back-to-back titles in 2016 and 2017.
The Pittsburgh Penguins entered the league back in 1967 as part of the NHL’s major expansion of 1967. Despite the undeniable success of the franchise, we might be accustomed to today, the Penguins actually struggled significantly in their initial years in the league, failing both to gather a dedicated fanbase and find any sort of success in the postseason.
This all changed in 1984 after deliberately tanking for franchise forward Mario Lemieux- though the Pens wouldn’t make the playoffs for another 4 years, Lemieux would be instrumental in their 1991-1992 cup wins alongside 1990 5th overall draft pick Jaromir Jagr. The duo helped establish the Pens as one of the best franchises in the league, setting several franchise records in the process.
The Penguins would again go through a rough patch after the pair’s departure, setting the longest losing streak in the salary cap era in the 2003-2004 season at 18. Again impossible to imagine today, the Pens were once again on the verge of financial failure and failing to gather a fanbase, with talks of potentially relocating to Kansas City.
This changed drastically after drafting back-to-back franchise centers in Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby in 2004 and 2005. Combined with a star goaltender in Marc-Andre Fleury and franchise defenseman Kris Letang, the Penguins once again rose to hockey dominance as the perennial contender of the Eastern Conference throughout the 2010s, often at odds with the eastern dynasty of the Chicago Blackhawks.
The resulting core helped surge Pittsburgh to cup wins in 2009, 2016, and 2017. In recent years, the Penguins have seen three consecutive first-round exits. The Crosby and Malkin era is slowly coming to an end, though Pittsburgh has remained a dominant regular-season team with a 1st place division finish as recently as the 2020-2021 season.
2022 Key Stats
The Penguins were off to a bit of a rocky start this season, but are right back into the mix after an impressive 10 game win streak in December of 2021. With their impressive comeback, the Penguins are now 4th place in the Metropolitan, just 5 points out of the first-place Carolina Hurricanes. The Penguins faced a comical amount of injuries during the first half of 2021, the most notable being Evgeni Malkin out with surgery this past offseason. Malkin is slated to return soon, giving the Penguins a major boost down the middle as they continue to climb back up in the standings.
In the wake of all the injuries faced by Pittsburgh this season, several surprising players have stepped up to contribute to the offense. Jake Guentzel is the leading scorer, with 34 points in 28 games played. Evan Rodrigues is one of this year’s big surprises, with the second-highest point total on the team at 15 goals and 15 assists. Defenseman Kris Letang is having a fantastic season as well, playing at a near point-per-game pace with 28 points in 30 games. Tristan Jarry has had an excellent season behind the net as well, going 17-6-4 with a .931 SV% as the go-to netminder. It’s been an interesting season for the Pens, facing tons of adversity and proving that they’re still worthy of being considered one of the best teams in the league.
Championships Won by the Team
Pittsburgh has been one of the most successful 1967 expansion teams, with 5 Stanley Cup wins in 6 final appearances. The Penguins are tied for most cup wins from an expansion team, the other being the Edmonton Oilers and their legendary teams from the 80s. There are two distinct eras of dominant Pittsburgh hockey- the early 1990s, and 2010s.
The first cup win came in 1991 after defeating the Minnesota North Stars, ending their Cinderella run with a 4-2 series victory. The 6-0 final score of game 6 remains the largest margin of goals scored in an elimination game, emphasizing the Penguins’ raw talent during the win. Unsurprisingly, Mario Lemieux torched the playoffs during their run, scoring a whopping 44 points in 23 total games. The Pens had 3 other players at a point per game or higher in Mark Recci (34), Kevin Stevens (33), and defenseman Larry Murphy (23).
Tom Barrasso was the main goaltender during the run, earning a .919 SV% in 19 total games. The team would win again the next year, this time with 5 point per game players or more with Mario Lemieux (34), Kevin Stevens (28), Ron Francis (27), Jaromir Jagr (24), and Rick Tocchet (19). Tom Barrasso once again was the starter behind the net, with a .907 SV% and a record of 16-5.
The next cup came in 2009 under the new regime of Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, who each scored 36 and 31 points in 24 games played, respectively. Marc-Andre Fleury won his first cup at 24 years old with a .908 SV%- though the numbers weren’t spectacular, it was a phenomenal achievement for a goaltender his age. The Penguins would win again in back-to-back runs in 2016 and 2017, with Crosby, Malkin, and new acquisition Phil Kessel placing in the top 3 of team scoring each year. Marc-Andre Fleury shared the net with 21-year-old Matt Murray, adding another Stanley Cup winning goaltender to the Penguins’ tandem.
Important Team Events
The Penguins were nearly relocated on several different occasions throughout franchise history, with the worst stretch running from the early 1980s- in fact, the PEnguins had a league-worst record of 18-53-9 and 16-58-6 in 1983 and 1984. Knowing that Mario Lemieux was going to be available in the 1984 draft, the Penguins proceeded to intentionally make the team worse, passing the New Jersey Devils to the bottom of the league and securing the first overall pick.
The drafting of Mario Lemieux completely changed the course of history for the franchise, as Lemieux would go on to own the team in the early 2000s- had the Penguins not made the decision to the tank to close out the 1984 season, it is likely that they would have been moved to a different city and been synonymous with financial woes rather than hockey success. It’s a perfect example of how a single superstar player can completely change the history of a franchise!
Unsurprisingly, the franchise leader in most categories is Mario Lemieux. Lemieux currently holds the franchise record in points (1723), goals (690), assists (1033), and powerplay goals (236). Surprisingly, Lemieux was never able to stay healthy for a full season- in fact, the franchise record for games played has been set by the still active Sidney Crosby at 1061. It’s difficult to imagine how many more points he might have scored had he stayed healthy during his 17-year long career in Pittsburgh!
Jaromir Jagr is also a notable name forever etched in Penguins history, holding the franchise record for plus/minus with 207. Though Lemieux holds the majority of the franchise records, Jagr was right behind him during the cup runs of the 90s.
Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin may not have reached the franchise records set during Lemieux’s tenure, but there is little doubt that the duo will both be entered into the Hall of Fame after they retire. The two have a combined number of 50 different individual awards received during their hockey careers, not including 3 different Stanley Cup rings.
Scotty Bowman was the head coach from 1991-1993, leading the team to the President’s Trophy in 1993. Though the team fell to the Islanders in the second round, Bowman still led the team to the Stanley Cup in 1992. The 1991 Stanley Cup win came from head coach Bob Johnson, who coached the team from 1990-1991 before tragically passing away prematurely from brain cancer.
Dan Bylsma won the team’s third cup in 2009 and finished with a 252-117-32 regular-season record. Bylsma also won the Jack Adams award for best coach two years later in 2011. The most prominent coach for the Penguins in recent history, however, is without a doubt, Mike Sullivan. Sullivan has been the coach since 2015 and has been in for 405 games and counting. Sullivan was behind the bench during the back-to-back cup wins in 2016-2017- the only American coach to date to win consecutive NHL championships.
Frequently Asked Questions
The Penguins were one of the teams that entered the league in the NHL expansion of 1967.
Rod Francis, though some of his career was carried over from the Hartford Whalers.
The Penguins have won the Stanley Cup 5 times, tying the Edmonton Oilers for most Stanley Cups won by an expansion team. The Pens took the cup home in 1991, 1992, 2009, 2016, and 2017.
Crosby joined the team in 2005 as the first overall pick, joining 2004 1st overall pick Evgeni Malkin.
The Penguins have notable rivals in both the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals. The Penguins share the state of Pennsylvania with their eastern rivals, and though the Penguins have been the more successful franchise, the two have had some of the fiercest clashes both in the regular and postseason in heated games. The Washington Capitals and the Penguins met in the playoffs numerous times in the postseason, and with the Capitals drafting franchise sniper Alex Ovechkin 1st overall in 2004, the matchup of Crosby-Ovechkin is considered to be one of the best rivalries of the generation.