The Pittsburgh Penguins led by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin just captured their third Stanley Cup championship, something that not even the Lemieux and Jagr-led Penguins of the 1990 ?s was able to accomplish. This begs the question, are the Penguins of the Crosby-Malkin era already more successful than the Lemieux-Jagr era Penguins? Not many franchises can make these kind of gaudy comparisons. In fact, outside of the Original Six, the Penguins are the only franchise to have this kind of success in two different eras.
Before we begin, I ?d like to make the disclaimer that this comparison is, in no way, meant to diminish the accomplishments of either era. It is merely a fun comparison of some of great accomplishments of one of the NHL ?s elite franchises. That being said, let the comparison begin.
If measuring in terms of championships, the Crosby-Malkin era Penguins obviously have the edge, three Stanley Cups to two. In fact, this era of the Penguins has played in four Stanley Cup Finals, compared to two in the Lemieux-Jagr era. Further, the current era Penguins have made it to five Eastern Conference Finals (2008, 2009, 2013, 2016, 2017), compared to four in the Lemieux-Jagr era (1991, 1992, 1996, 2001). Also consider that from a pure percentage standpoint, it is more difficult to repeat as champions in today ?s NHL. In the 1992 season, there were only 22 teams in the league, which meant each team had a roughly 5% chance to win the Stanley Cup. With there now being 31 teams in the league, each team only has a little over 3% chance.
So, from a team perspective, the current era Penguins are better by comparison, but what about on an individual player level? For comparison sake, we will only use playoff numbers. Lemieux and Jagr played 96 playoff games together, winning 62 for a 65% winning percentage. Crosby and Malkin have played 149 playoff games together, 53 more than Lemieux and Jagr, winning 91 for a winning percentage of 61%. The numbers do not take into consideration the 1995 or 1998-2000 playoffs when Lemieux did not participate, but Jagr did.
When taking a look at each players ? playoff numbers, there are some rather lofty comparisons. Lemieux played in 107 total playoff games, recording 76 goals and 96 assists for 172 total points or an astounding average of 1.61 points per career playoff game. In fact, Lemieux ranks second all-time in average playoff points per game to only Wayne Gretzky ?s 1.84. Meanwhile, Crosby, in 148 career playoff games, has recorded 57 goals and 107 assists for 164 total points and, for this era, an unheard of 1.11 post-season points per game average. The 1.11 post-season average points per game ranks Crosby 12th all-time in NHL playoff history.
Jagr and Malkin are very comparable when looking at their numbers. Jagr played in 140 career playoff games for the Penguins, recording 65 goals and 82 assists, good for 147 career playoff points as a Penguin or an average of 1.05 points per game during his Penguins career. Interestingly, in nine more playoff games than Jagr, Malkin has the same exact average of 1.05 points per playoff game with 58 goals and 99 assists for 157 career playoff points.
Next season the Penguins will be looking to three-peat as Stanley Cup Champions. The 1993 Penguins captured the Presidents ? Trophy as the team with the NHL ?s best record and finished out the season by winning 17 consecutive games and going undefeated in their last 18. However, that team failed at its attempt to three-peat as Stanley Cup champions, losing to the Islanders in overtime of Game 7 of the second round.
Will the current era Penguins capture an elusive third consecutive Stanley Cup championship? While the numbers seem to show that the Crosby-Malkin led Penguins have already surpassed the success of their predecessors, a third straight championship in the salary cap era would, undoubtedly, solidify the Crosby-Malkin era as the golden age of Pittsburgh Penguins hockey.