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16 Wins for the Stanley Cup: a reflection on the best 16 playoff games of this Penguins era

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Remembering some of the memories made along the way during this fantastic and beautiful journey with the Penguins

Ottawa Senators v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game Seven Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Penguins will be playing in the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night, kicking off their fourth appearance in the salary-cap era, an era that coincides with that of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin’s time with the team.

During this era, the Penguins have won 87 playoff games. 87.

It can be easy, at times, to get lost in the spin of everything going on around us at the time, and we can forget some of the memories that we’ve gotten to experience along the way.

It takes 16 wins to win the Stanley Cup. As part of remembering these past 11 playoff runs and seasons, lets look back at what can be considered the 16 best Penguins playoff games we’ve seen, in no particular order aside from chronological.

2007 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal

Ottawa Senators - Game 1

It’d be easy to gloss over this game, and I myself did so at first.

It was far from a memorable game, in any good ways, but it was symbolic, especially in retrospect. It represented the Penguins resurgence, their reappearance in the playoffs after a several-year layoff, and it was about learning a lesson.

Game 5: Pittsburgh Penguins v Ottawa Senators Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images

This game was a microcosm of the whole series, in which the young, upstart Penguins would be humbled in 5 games by the veteran Senators, who would come a game short of forcing a 7th game in the Stanley Cup Final, falling to the Anaheim Ducks.

The Penguins weren’t ready yet, and it took learning a lesson against a team like those Senators to show it.

2008 Eastern Conference Semifinal

New York Rangers - Game 5

A year later, the Penguins stormed the gates against the Senators in a rematch-series, sweeping them in 4 games backed by Gary Roberts. The next opponent would be the New York Rangers, led by Double J himself, Jaromir Jagr. The Pens would come close to sweeping the Rangers as well, but it didn’t come easy in Game 4. Back to the Igloo they would go for Game 5, and sixty minutes weren't enough to decide it.

To overtime it went, and the Penguins big trade deadline acquisition himself, Marian Hossa, had himself a moment.

There’s just something special about seeing a playoff series won in OT in front of it’s own crowd. What mayhem.

2008 Stanley Cup Final

Detroit Red Wings - Game 5

The Penguins magical run in the spring and summer of 2008 kept going all the way into the Stanley Cup Final, where the Penguins were squaring off with the vaunted Detroit Red Wings. They struggled early in the series, and struggled in general. Heading back to Detroit with a 3-1 series lead, the Wings were looking to party all night with Lord Stanley at the Joe.

Marc-Andre Fleury and Petr Sykora had other ideas.

The Cup went back in its case for another night, and even though Detroit would go on to win the series in Game 6 at the Igloo, the night Petr Sykora called his own shot is a night we will never forget.

2009 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal

Philadelphia Flyers - Game 6

After taking an early 2-0 series lead and then holding a 3-1 series lead, the Flyers clawed their way back into the series with a big win on the road in Game 5 and headed back to Philadelphia for Game 6.

They took an early 3-0 lead in the game, and things weren’t looking great for the Pens.

Enter Max Talbot.

Enter the comeback. Crosby sucks.

Little did we know at the time, Max Talbot’s heroics would not be done and over with in the summer of 2009.

2009 Eastern Conference Semifinal

Washington Capitals - Game 2

Honestly, on this one, I’m just gonna get out of the way and sit back and let the video speak for itself.

I mean, dueling hat tricks in the playoffs. You’re kidding me right?

Washington Capitals - Game 3

Trailing 2-0 to the Caps, the Pens were desperate for a win. You can’t afford to go down 3-0 in a series, obviously.

The Penguins pepper the Capitals, take a lead late in the third, and of course the Capitals come back to tie it even later, so it goes to overtime. A series for the ages could’ve been cut pretty short if not for a little bounce.

You need some bounces and luck to go your way en route to a Stanley Cup, and this bounce off of a player and then the post were in the Penguins favor that night.

Washington Capitals - Game 7

A seventh and final game between these two teams, in what had been a crazy and insane series to that point. Five games decided by one goal, three games decided in overtime. It was always going to a Game 7. Another close game, right?

Not so fast, my friends.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Washington Capitals - Game Seven Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

For the second year in a row, the Penguins were going back to the Eastern Conference Final. The Caps really made them reach back to get to that point.

2009 Stanley Cup Final

Detroit Red Wings - Game 7

Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final — it’s what we all live for and why we do what we do and fan the way we fan. After getting blown out in Game 5, the Penguins held the fort in Game 6 to force this final game, back at Joe Louis Arena. Who was going to be the hero of the night?

Max Talbot was going to be the hero. What a performance when it counted for everything.

It was only fitting for the game to end the way it did, the puck on Nicklas Lidstrom’s stick, Marc-Andre Fleury with the diving save to win the Cup. What a night.

Champions.

2011 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal

Tampa Bay Lightning - Game 4

This season and this series certainly didn’t end with any type of fond memories, but there’s always something special about games that go beyond overtime and into a 2nd or 3rd overtime.

The night that James Neal’s presence in Pittsburgh came to life happened in Tampa was a fun one. “It just takes one.”

2016 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal

New York Rangers - Game 1

The night that Jeff Zatkoff became Mr. Game One.

He played his ass off. Nobody knew who was going to be in net for the Pens to start the playoffs, and it turned out it was gonna be Jeff Zatkoff, and what a night he had. It’s hard to ever say how differently things could have gone, but the potential for differences if the Pens go down 1-0 in the series could have been monumental.

New York Rangers v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game One Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

2016 Eastern Conference Semifinal

Washington Capitals - Game 6

This game had everything.

3-0 lead. Phil Kessel scoring some sweet goals. THREE PENALTIES IN A ROW FOR DELAY OF GAME AFTER PUTTING THE PUCK OVER THE GLASS. Overtime.

Washington Capitals v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game Six Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Washington Capitals eternal sadness. What more could we ask for?

2016 Stanley Cup Final

San Jose Sharks - Game 1

Back in the Stanley Cup Final, and what a game it was to kick off the series. This game will forever be memorable for me, as I was there in person, paying off a debt.

What a night, though.

The Penguins taking the lead, the Sharks clawing back, Overtime looming, and then one word (repeated a bunch of times) — BONINO

San Jose Sharks - Game 2

Another great home game in the Final, another night of Partying Hard. Little Conor Sheary had himself a night, putting an overtime game-winner past Martin Jones.

What a damn shot.

His reaction to this goal still makes me laugh. I think he was literally the last person in the building to realize that the puck actually went in the net.

San Jose Sharks - Game 6

After the Sharks played a tough game to stay alive on the road in Game 5, the series shifted back to San Jose for Game 6 and the Pens played the game of their lives.

An early Brian Dumoulin power-play goal gave the Penguins the lead before Logan Couture tied the game in the second period.

Enter Kris Letang and his Beast-Mode like shift.

The Penguins played their asses off in the third period, protecting their lead, and limiting in the San Jose Sharks to two shots in the final frame.

Champions again.

2017 Eastern Conference Semifinal

Washington Capitals - Game 7

And now, the present. Flash back to just a few weeks ago (my God, it feels like a lot longer than that) when the Penguins squandered a 3-1 series lead against the yet-again Presidents’ Trophy winning Washington Capitals. We head back to the Verizon Center for another Game 7. Again, when they needed to, the Penguins played the game of their lives and sent the Capitals packing.

BIG GAME BRYAN RUST, HAVE YOURSELF A NIGHT.

Just like that, the Penguins are back in the Eastern Conference Final for the 5th time in 10 years. Wild.

2017 Eastern Conference Final

Ottawa Senators - Game 7

Two nights ago, we watched a game for the ages. It may not have been the prettiest game, or the most formidable opponent, or a trumped-up rivalry, but it was one of those nights when you’re going to remember where you were when Chris Kunitz sent the Penguins back to the Final in double overtime with the clock almost ready to hit midnight.

A back-and-forth game where each Penguins lead was quickly countered with an Ottawa goal, and we go to overtime. No one scores, so we go to a second. The kind of night where someone is going to be a hero and you hope it’s one of the ones on your side.

Chris Kunitz says hello.

We’re going dancing with Lord Stanley again. Can you believe it?

Memories for a Lifetime

Regardless of whatever happens in this Stanley Cup Final against the Nashville Predators, I feel like it’s safe to say and easy to say that looking back on some of these memories, our book of memoirs is filling up.

We’ve been blessed and spoiled over the years, and I’m ready to enjoy this series and hopefully make some more memories that stack up just as well as some of these. Let’s have some fun, my friends.

Drop the puck.