Saturday, May 27, 2017

The (Black and) Golden Age

It was late.  Exhaustion and tension, at home and in PPG Paints Arena, were high as eyes were peeled on the action.  And then it erupted.  Kunitz scored.  An unheralded cornerstone instantly rewrote his history.  The Penguins were back to the Cup Final.

A lot has been said about the Penguins place in the Salary Cap Era.  With four more wins it's easy to say they're the dynasty, the best team, of this era.  That debate can wait.  What's not up for debate is that this is truly the brightest days in Penguins history.

Take a step back and think on that.  A franchise that, before Crosby and Malkin, had two Cups.  A franchise that had Jaromir Jagr, Bryan Trottier, Ron Francis, Joe Mullen, Paul Coffey, and countless other Hall of Famers (including the Mario Lemieux guy) in their history is somehow, now, even better?  That when their history is looked back on in another 50 years this period will likely be their most prosperous?  That seems surreal to think but look at the numbers.

Even without the salary cap in place it's hard to replicate four Cup trips in 10 years.  In the expansion era, very few franchises have accomplished such a feat.  Only six times in 50 years have one team made that trip so often.  

Going back to the Salary Cap Era (2005-06-Present, for those of you keep track at home) no team has won more games in the playoffs.  None.  Only the Penguins sit perched atop the mountain.

(Let's hope Sid can be okay with that number no longer being 87)

For perspective, the Lemieux/Jagr Era Penguins (1991-92 through 2000-2001) won 81 playoff games.  The acknowledged asterisk of Mario's retirement is not lost, however that run (from the first Cup to losing to the Devils before the Jagr trade) was long considered the brightest beacon in the franchise's ocean.

With four more wins the Penguins can claim the title of the Salary Cap dynasty from the Penguins (and the NHL can put Evgeni Malkin in the Top 100 over Jonathan Toews).  With one more Cup the Penguins become, without debate, one of the best franchises of all time without exception.  Even without those four wins, however, this latest era of the Pittsburgh Penguins will go down as their greatest.

And we're here to witness it.

No matter what happens between now and the next team to win four games soak this in.  It's living history.  We're a part of it.
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