If you missed part one you can check it out here. Today we’ll carry on for the second half of last four opening round matchups, which are still open for voting.
#3 The Cup champion 2016 team vs. #14 the 2006-07 team
—Sullivan’s ultimate buzzsaw or the fresh-faced Crosby/Malkin/Staal team that didn’t know any better?
Once Mike Sullivan got setup, his team was basically unstoppable. In a short mid-season stretch, Jim Rutherford made three separate moves to turn Mike Johnston, Rob Scuderi and David Perron into Sullivan, Trevor Daley and Carl Hagelin, and just like that the magic came together.
The vaunted HBK line was formed and were a total third line mismatch against other depth. Crosby and Kris Letang possibly never played any better.
Strengths: Matt Murray was red hot, the three-headed monster of Crosby, Malkin and Phil Kessel happened. Maybe the team’s best center depth from top to bottom with Crosby-Malkin-Nick Bonino and 16 goal Matt Cullen all down the middle as a 1-2-3-4 punch.
Weaknesses: You really have to dig...The second line besides Malkin wasn’t very skilled, and younger pieces (Bryan Rust, Conor Sheary, Justin Schultz) would all be better versions of themselves later on
(It still stings, huh?)
The ‘07 team was one of preciousness with Crosby, Malkin, Fleury and Jordan Staal all very young. They did get Roberts via and still had Mark Recchi around as elder statesmen for the franchise’s first return to the playoffs in six years.
Strengths: Crosby’s 120 point season was his best year ever and first MVP season. Malkin and Staal were top rookies.
Weaknesses: Crippling inexperience for a team that just needed more time to grow
Pens best team ever, #3 vs #14
This poll is closed
#3: The Cup champion 2015-16 team
#14: the 2006-07 team
#6 The Cup champion 2017 team vs. #11 the 1974-75 team
—Another Cup champion team against an old-school team with a Century line
The 2017 Stanley Cup team was an over-achiever to be sure with Kris Letang out injured and Ron Hainsey chugging along on the first pair. But they also were a 50 win, 111 point team that had the confidence of returning most the same core that won the Cup the year before, and a calmly, confident team that epitomized the cliche of “knowing how to win”.
Strengths: Most of the good of the 2016 team, a great one-two goalie punch with Fleury and Murray, Jake Guentzel’s immediate emergence as a star
Weaknesses: Outplayed for large stretches by Washington and Nashville, needed 2OT to beat Ottawa, defense not as capable as the season prior
This 37 win, 89 point team in 1974-75 was the best regular season team in Pens’ history all the way up to 1992-93, a seemingly forgotten nugget that for a long time Pittsburgh’s best regular season team deep into the Lemieux-era occurred well before Lemieux.
Strengths: A very balanced team with eight players scoring 60+ points, one of the top offensive teams in the league (4th out of 18 teams with 326 goals), lots of great mustaches
Weaknesses: Blew a 3-0 series lead against the Islanders, not the best defensively (289 goals against ranked only 12 out of 18 teams)
Pens best team ever: #6 vs #11
This poll is closed
#6: the 2016-17 Stanley Cup team
#11: 1974-75 team
#7 The Cup champion 1991 team vs. #10 the 2011-12 team
—The franchise’s first champs against a team of promise unfulfilled
The first one is always the sweetest in some ways, and so it was for a charmed 1991 team. They had the coach in Badger Bob Johnson to build up confidence, the personnel finally in place around Lemieux with the trade add of Ron Francis and Ulf Samuelsson being the final pieces to fit into a championship mix.
Strengths: 8 Hall of Fame players (counting Jagr), Mario Lemieux at the top of his game with 44 points (16G+28A) in 23 playoff games, Badger Bob goodness to take what was a 5th place, non-playoff team the prior season all the way to the top
Weaknesses: 305 goals allowed were 18th most in a 21 team league, Lemieux only played 26 regular season games
As Sidney Crosby’s injury-filled season unfolded, the Pens turned to Evgeni Malkin who came through big time. Malkin had a career-high 50 goal season, also added 109 points and helped James Neal to a career-high 40 goal season as well.
Strengths: The Pens were top in the league in Goals For, and had an 87.8% PK that was really good as well, plus the last season of the Crosby-Malkin-Staal three-headed monster
Weaknesses: Emotionally unhinged team capped by assistant coach trying to fight the Flyers bench, peak bad playoff Marc-Andre Fleury, Crosby being out more than in
Pens best team ever: #7 vs #10
This poll is closed
#7: The Stanley Cup winning 1991 team
#10: the 2011-12 team
#2 The Presidents Trophy 1992-93 team vs. #15 the 2013-14 team
—The franchise’s best regular season ever against the last Dan Bylsma team
The franchise’s best and biggest juggernaut (before a stunning loss). The two-time defending champs were an absolute unit, scoring the third most goals in the league that season and, uncharacteristically being stingy defensively allowing the second least goals. There was a 17-game winning streak and the club’s only President’s Trophy won, and won in dominant fashion.
Strengths: Even cancer couldn’t slow Lemieux who famously won the scoring title and MVP this season scoring a whopping 160 points in just 60 games. Kevin Stevens and Rick Tocchet also were absolute monsters at the top of their game
Weaknesses: Game 7 overtime slap shots from the outside, apparently
The last Dan Bylsma team might feel a bit stale in hindsight, but the 2013-14 Pens were a pretty solid bunch. They won 51 games and a division championship, they were top-10 in both goals for and against with the league’s best power play and a top-five penalty kill too.
Strengths: Crosby won the scoring title and MVP, and helped Chris Kunitz to a 35-goal, 68 point season that was both his career-highs.
Weaknesses: Just never seemed to get in a groove (Crosby only had one goal in 13 playoff games); Malkin, Letang, Neal all missed large chunks of the season, and Pascal Dupuis’ season-ending injury was basically a career-ender with the resulting blood clots he would develop
Pens best team ever: #2 vs #15
This poll is closed
#2: The 1992-93 team
#15: the 2013-14 team