For nearly two decades, the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the Pittsburgh Penguins have been synonymous — until now.
On Wednesday night, the Penguins were eliminated from contention for the playoffs and for the first time since 2006, Pittsburgh won’t be in the dance.
And with that, the Penguins 16-season playoff streak comes to an end.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 13, 2023
It’s been quite the run for the Penguins, experiencing the highest of highs in Stanley Cup victories and the lowest of lows when falling short of that goal.
Here’s to the memories over the years.
2007 - A group of kids growing up fast
The young, upstart Penguins led by new NHL superstars Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Jordan Staal made a name for themselves, but were quickly humbled by the veteran-led Ottawa Senators, quickly dispatched in five games.
You could get the sense, though, that the Penguins learned a lot from those five games and it would light a fire in the team moving forward.
2008 - A taste of playoff success
A year later, the Penguins were back in the postseason and they sure seemed like they were out for revenge. They swept the Senators and Gary Roberts became a legend.
They quickly dispatched the Rangers and Marian Hossa brought down the house at Mellon Arena.
They brushed aside the Flyers and Evgeni Malkin was featured in one of the funniest moments of this era of Penguins hockey.
But then the team ran into a buzzsaw in the Detroit Red Wings.
Yet again, the team sure seemed to learn a lot from the loss in the Cup Final, and by this point, the fanbase was so juiced over playoff success, there was no looking back.
2009 - Getting over the hump
The following year was about flipping the script and becoming champions. Kris Letang scored one of the biggest playoff goals in Penguins history en route to the Stanley Cup Final.
Once again it was the Red Wings. A battle of seven games.
And someone needing to become a hero. That someone was Max Talbot.
Champions live forever.
2010 - A disappointing first-round exit
It’s hard to defend a title in sports. It seems particularly hard in the NHL, where being a repeat champion is a rarity.
The Penguins proved that in 2010, when they were upset by the Canadiens, with an extra-poor showing in the final game at the Mellon Arena.
2011 - An injury-riddled season comes to an end
Between Sidney Crosby’s concussion issues and Evgeni Malkin blowing out his knee, the Penguins’ season felt borderline cursed, but the team still found a way to make the playoffs.
There was no lightning in a bottle to be found, however, as the team lost a Game 7 at home for the second year in a row.
2012 - The circus that made headlines
No words necessary here.
2013 - Expectations leading to a letdown
When you load up at the trade deadline and add players like Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow, and Douglas Murray to an already powerful roster, you hope for big things.
The Penguins steamrolled their way into the Eastern Conference Final — and then scored 3 goals in 4 games en route to being swept.
2014 - Letting a lead slip away
In 2012 and 2013, it felt the beginning of the end for Dan Bylsma.
The 2014 series against the Rangers sealed it with a come-from-behind series win after the Pens led 3-1, losing in Game 7 at home.
2015 - Stumbling into the postseason
It was Mike Johnston’s only full season as the Pens’ head coach, and it was a forgettable one. The Penguins lacked an identity and limped their way into the postseason before being quickly dispatched again by the Rangers, this time in 5 games.
2016 - Back at the top of the mountain
A coaching change. Lots of trades and shuffling. Kessel to Pittsburgh. The HBK Line.
2017 - Back-to-back champs
For the first time in nearly 20 years, the NHL has a back-to-back champion.
2018 - A threepeat wasn’t in the cards
Winning two Stanley Cup titles in a row is hard. Winning three in a row would’ve put the Penguins into even more exclusive company.
But it wasn’t meant to be. It felt like fate that the Capitals, who the Penguins needed to beat en route to both titles in 2016 and 2017, would be the ones to stop their rival.
2019 - Swept away
Back into the postseason looking to run it back after falling short in 2018, the Penguins did anything but run it back.
It was an utter disappointment, swept in 4 games.
2020 - The quarantine Cup
A weird season, obviously, for everyone. From the league shutting down due to the COVID-19 pandemic to restarting late in the summer and playing in the bubble in Toronto.
It was fitting, in a way, for the Penguins to lose on Crosby’s birthday, the only time the team will get a chance to play in August.
2021 - Another loss to the Islanders
Back on a normal schedule and again it’s the New York Islanders.
It felt like the Penguins continually got in their own way in this series, highlighted especially by the giveaway from Tristan Jarry in Game 5, when the Penguins had a chance to take a stranglehold on the series.
2022 - A series lead let slip away....again
A banged up Penguins team with low expectations against a very good Rangers team? We’ve seen this before.
Enter Louis Domingue with spicy pork and broccoli and a marathon overtime game.
Once again, the Penguins would take a 3-1 series lead, but just couldn’t get it done and close things out. 5 minutes away from closing out the series and moving onto the second round — but the Rangers had other ideas.
So, what’s next for the Penguins? Will there be a coaching change? A management change? Changes to the roster? None of the above? All of the above?
Questions will become answers soon enough, but for now, thanks for 16 years of memories.