The Pittsburgh Penguins
are trying to do something no team has done in 25 years.
No team has lost in the Stanley Cup Final and won it the next year since the Edmonton Oilers
lost the 1983 Final to the New York Islanders
and then came back a year later to beat those same Isles to win the first Cup of their dynasty.
So what makes this season's Penguins worthy of being in the same conversation as those legendary Oilers? There are a few similarities, starting with a pair of superstar centers entering the prime of their careers.
Where the Oilers had Wayne Gretzky
and Mark Messier
leading them, the Penguins have 21-year-old Sidney Crosby
and 22-year-old Evgeni Malkin
The Penguins' pair finished the first round 1-2 in League scoring; Malkin's nine points were one more than Crosby's total, and both finished tied for the League lead with four goals.
The Oilers also featured a goaltender in Grant Fuhr
who was capable of stealing games when needed, but mostly was capable of making every important save. For the Pens, they have the same confidence in Marc-Andre Fleury
. In Game 4 against the Flyers, when the Penguins needed him to stay ahead in the series, Fleury stopped 45 of 46 shots. His play after the Flyers took a 3-0 lead in Game 6 allowed the Pens to rally and close the series with a 5-3 victory.
And while the Penguins don't have the Hall-of-Fame caliber secondary scoring that made those Oilers so great -- Glenn Anderson
, Paul Coffey
, Esa Tikkanen
-- the Penguins' scoring goes deeper than the big two centers.
is improving with each game. Chris Kunitz
and Ruslan Fedotenko
have won Stanley Cups and are capable of scoring big goals. Sergei Gonchar
is an offensive force from the blue line. And 18-year veteran Bill Guerin
is capable of taking over a game like the way he did in Game 2 against Philadelphia.
The Penguins still need to find consistency in their power play and tighten their defense, but they have the rare ability to outscore their mistakes, which makes them a legitimate threat to repeat the Oilers' feat of 25 years ago and win the Stanley Cup.
Why the Capitals can win the Stanley Cup
With a true superstar, a lightning-hot goalie and some valuable lessons learned from the '08 postseason, the Capitals have the ingredients to take it all in '09.