The Pittsburgh Penguins road to the Stanley Cup has traditionally gone through Washington. When the Penguins have won the Cup, they’ve had an early-round war with the red, white, and blue star-dotted rivals just southeast of Pittsburgh. From Dino Cicerelli and Rod Langway to Nick Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin, the series are almost exclusively long, grinding battles.
COVID-19 isn’t going to change that, should the Penguins advance past the 12th seeded Montreal Canadiens in the upcoming Qualifying Round.
There is a genuine dislike between the locker rooms. More than a few Penguins have remarked on feeling like extra-legal physical nature of the rivalry, and the Penguins have typically squashed the greatest Washington teams.
And if you don’t players from both sides remember Evgeny Kuznetsov doing the dirty bird on Pittsburgh ice, you would be mistaken.
If the intensity is a little skewed by a lack of rabid, raw-meat eating fans in the seats, and by a four-month layoff, it shouldn’t take long to re-establish that. But the intensity is only one actor between these teams.