If you are curious just how successful the Sidney Crosby era of the Pittsburgh Penguins has been, the NHL chart measuring playoff games played will provide just a little reminder.
The Penguins missed the playoffs in Crosby’s rookie year, as the fresh-faced Crosby scored 100 points but lost the Calder Trophy to some kid named Alex Ovechkin (he went by Alexander Ovechkin back then). Those 2005-06 Penguins were brutally bad as they grabbed aging veteran free agents in a wild offseason spending spree. Well-known NHL names like Ziggy Palffy and Jocelyn Thibault filled headlines but not the stat sheet.
Mario Lemieux retired at midseason with a heart issue, and Crosby was left to carry the franchise alone. The team missed the playoffs and finished with the worst record in the NHL. It was a prize for which they received the second overall pick and drafted Jordan Staal over Jonathan Toews, Niklas Backstrom, and, wait for it, Phil Kessel.
Many around hockey considered Kessel to be the most talented player in the draft, but questions about his attitude dropped his draft stock.
That was 15 years ago.
The Pittsburgh Penguins haven’t missed the playoffs since. Despite some angst and anxiousness in the Penguins fanbase to begin rebuilding, the Penguins management team, including general manager Ron Hextall indicated they expect Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang back next season.
It will be a crowded Metropolitan Division, but the Penguins won the East Division this season despite significant injuries to a majority of their top-nine forwards, and a few injuries on defense, too.
Which team has played the most games in the #StanleyCup Playoffs over the past 15 years?
— NHL (@NHL) May 22, 2021
The NHL released the chart during Round One, so Boston has since leapfrogged over San Jose by a few games for second place. However, to give you an idea of just how successful the Penguins have been, Boston or San Jose would have to go on a Stanley Cup run next season, and the Penguins would need to miss the playoffs entirely for either to catch the Penguins for playoffs games in the Crosby era.
The Washington Capitals have played 40 fewer playoff games. The three-time Stanley Cup-winning Chicago Blackhawks have played 43 fewer games, and the Detroit Red Wings, to whom the Penguins lost the Stanley Cup in 2008 but defeated for the Cup in 2009, have played 52 fewer playoff games.
Tampa Bay will have to go on a few more Cup runs to catch the Penguins. That’s how many playoff games the Pittsburgh Penguins have played in the last 15 years.
What is your favorite Penguins playoff game? 2009 Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final? Patric Hornqvist’s Game 6 bank shot off Pekka Rinne? Maybe it is Nick Bonino, Bonino, Boninoooooooooooo’s 2016 winner to beat the Washington Capitals?