As the 2019-20 Pittsburgh Penguins close out the first week of March, most fans are nervous, eager, and excited to see how the final stretch of the NHL regular season will play out. So PHN took a look at how the previous Stanley Cup champion Penguins teams fared at this point in the year. It seems the first week of March is usually the starting point for something bigger. The Marches of the Penguins have been a real thing.
The context makes the Penguins weekend divisional games against the Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes even bigger.
1990-91 Pittsburgh Penguins
Record after first week of March: 34-30-4
On March 7, the Penguins were in a playoff spot by eight points and eight points out of first in the Patrick Division. Two days prior, the Penguins traded for Ron Francis, who instantly became a crucial piece of the franchise. The Penguins put it together and won 7 of the final 12 games, in part because of the return of Mario Lemieux, who was sidelined with an injury until late January. Lemieux only played in 10 of those 12, but he tallied 14 points and even put up a hat-trick in Philadelphia on March 26. Super Mario continued his dominance in the playoffs, as he led the Penguins with 44 points, which is still 2nd all-time in a single postseason. Francis added 4 game-winning goals in the playoffs and helped the Penguins capture their first win of Lord Stanley’s Cup.
1991-92 Pittsburgh Penguins
Record after first week of March: 30-28-8
Unlike the Penguins of the year prior, this team was in a tight spot on March 7. These Penguins were 20 points out of the Patrick Division lead, and only 6 points separated them from the 5th place New York Islanders. However, this team came to play in March just like the previous year. They won 9 of 14 to close out the season and took 3rd in the division. In mid-February, the Penguins acquired Rick Tocchet in a trade with the Philadelphia Flyers. Tocchet scored more points in 19 games with the Penguins (30) than he did in 42 games with Philadelphia (29). Mario Lemieux and Kevin Stevens, who were the top two point scorers in the NHL that season, each did their part in the final stretch, as well. Lemieux had 32 points (11 G, 21A) in the 12 of those final 14 that he played, and Stevens put up 22 points (11 G, 11 A) in the last 14 contests. The New York Rangers, who were the only NHL team to finish above 100 points in 91’-92’, were no match for the Penguins in the Patrick Division finals and Pittsburgh was the NHL’s champion for the second straight year.
2008-09 Pittsburgh Penguins
Record after first week of March: 34-26-6
The Pittsburgh Penguins of 08’-09’ were in an interesting spot on March 7. On the one hand, they were in the middle of what would become a seven-game win streak. However, they were the only Penguins championship team that wasn’t already alone in a playoff spot. These Penguins were tied with the New York Rangers for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. After they acquired depth forwards Bill Guerin and Chris Kunitz at the deadline, the Penguins went on a tear. In their final 16 games, the Penguins won 25 of the possible 32 points and finished with the first wild card spot. However, the Penguins won the franchise’s third Stanley Cup, when they beat the Detroit Red Wings in a rematch of the previous year’s final.
2015-16 Pittsburgh Penguins
Record after first week of March: 34-23-8
The March of the Penguins began with a loss to the Washington Capitals on March 1. The other Penguins Cup runs had some pretty good streaks in mid-March and early April, but none were as good the 2015-16 Penguins. They won six in a row from March 11-20, lost one to the New Jersey Devils, and then immediately won another eight in a row. During the eight-game win streak, the Penguins scored 5+ goals six times. They surpassed both New York clubs and finished in second place with 104 points and continued their tear through the postseason. The Penguins took out the New York Rangers in five games, the Washington Capitals in six, and eventually took the Stanley Cup over the San Jose Sharks in six, too.
2016-17 Pittsburgh Penguins
Record after first week of March: 40-16-8
The Penguins of 2016-17 were definitely the best of the champs on March 7, yet they were only in a wild-card spot. With 88 points and in 4th place in the Metro, the Penguins actually had more points than the Montreal Canadiens, who were in 1st place of the Atlantic Division. Then, the Penguins streaked hard both ways in March. They won five starting on March 3, then lost two. They won three more, lost four, won four, then lost two to end the year. Nevertheless, these streaky Penguins finished with their third 50-win season in six years and 111 points, which is 2nd best in franchise history. They continued their streaky ways in the playoffs and won three to start the opening series, and eventually won their second-straight Stanley Cup.
*Orion Moses is an undergraduate assistant from Duquesne University. PHN is happy to welcome him to the team.