The Penguins are having short summers and piling up the games

 Seth at Empty Netters continued his great work, noting that the Stanley Cup run will mean the Penguins will again have the shortest summer in the league.

Which got me thinking, more than just a brief off-season for the second year in a row, Pittsburgh has played a lot more games (and a lot more important games) than anyone in the Eastern Conference over the past two seasons.  Here’s a brief look at the most regular season + playoff games since 2007-08:

 

Pittsburgh 208
Philadelphia 187
Washington 185
Boston 182
Carolina 182
NY Rangers 181

 

Keep in mind the difference in these games are the latter rounds of the playoffs, where there’s even more at stake in terms of intensity, competitiveness and physical play.  Consider that the Penguins have played 13 Stanley Cup finals games in the past two seasons, that’s as many as Washington, Philadelphia and Boston have combined to play in the past 22 seasons (their combined record: 1-12).

Deep playoff runs are quickly giving this organization and its players a lot of miles.  And while that may be a negative thing to have a short turnaround time to the next season, it’s also quite positive.  Other than just the natural reward of playing a while and racking up playoff wins, Pittsburgh has acquired tons of experience for their core players. 

Would you believe a guy like Jarome Iginla, who’s got 820 regular season games and a full 10 years of age on Tyler Kennedy, only has appeared in ten more NHL playoff games? 

Thirty year old goalie Roberto Luongo has 544 regular season games, but has only won 11 NHL playoff games.  Marc-Andre Fleury, six and a half years his junior, has twenty more wins in the spring.  Of course, was team you play for has a lot to do with it --stick Fleury in Florida and he wouldn’t be where he is today – but the fact remains, the Penguins players are getting a whole lot of experience.  Still, Fleury is 5th among active goals in career playoff wins (behind Martin Brodeur, Chris Osgood, JS Giguere and Evgeni Nabokov).

This could keep going on down the list.  Pittsburgh has had seven key core players under the age of 25 (Fleury, Kennedy, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, Max Talbot, Kris Letang).  That's a lot of youth to rely on, and hopefully the young legs will be able to make up for the lack of recuperation time.  Also, you'd have to think playing and competing for weeks-months longer than your contemporaries has to keep you in better shape and gives you more experience and time playing for individual improvement.  Is there any doubt a guy like Staal or Letang has improved leaps and bounds over the past 12, 18, 24 months?

More than just compiling games played, Penguins players are making some serious paper out of these runs.  Ryan Malone, Brooks Orpik and Rob Scuderi doubled, tripled even quadrupled their salaries on the strength of their excellent play.  All of them signed for 4 or 6 year guaranteed contracts too.  Even trickle down players like Jarkko Ruutu, Hal Gill and Adam Hall saw increases in their salaries on multi-year deals.

The Penguins have been racking up, on and off the ice.  Awards, money, recognition, it’s busy a business winning.  But it sure beats the alternative.

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