In the beginning of the NHL’s 2015-16 season, the Pittsburgh Penguins were referred to as a “disgrace” for their one Conference Final appearance since 2010 and changing their strategy year in and year out. The 2015-16 Penguins jumped off to a horrific start just after signing one of the league’s top scorers Phil Kessel just before the season began. After a 12-8 start, hockey analysts started to point fingers at guys like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Coach & General Manager Mike Johnston and Jim Rutherford. Things weren’t looking up for the Penguins until December 12th, when 2015 a coaching change was made where GM Rutherford announced that Coach Johnston had been fired and the Coach of the Penguins’ AHL team Mike Sullivan will be filling the vacated role.
Their season quickly turned around with Captain Sidney Crosby scoring a point eleven consecutive games then with the team going on to clinching home ice advantage in the first round, finishing the season on an eight game win streak, and owning the best record in the league since February (18-4). The Penguins faced off against the New York Rangers in round one of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs where they would make quick work of them, defeating the Rangers in five games in the best of seven. Round two welcomed a familiar foe with Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals. Before this matchup, the Penguins and Capitals had only faced each other once in the playoffs during the Crosby-Ovechkin era when in 2009 the Penguins defeated Washington in seven games where they would later go on and win the Stanley Cup the same year. After losing game one in overtime this time around, Pittsburgh would go on to win three consecutive and end up winning the series in six thanks to center Nick Bonino’s overtime goal which earned them a win and a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Tampa Bay Lightning awaited Pittsburgh to see who would play in the Stanley Cup. The series was going Pittsburgh’s way up until game three when top defenseman Trevor Daley went down after blocking a slap shot which would make them short a key player. Fast forward to game seven when an unlikely hero would arise, this time it was Bryan Rust. Rust (a rookie) scored both of the Penguins goals to earn them a 2-1 win and mark their spot in the Stanley Cup where they’d battle the San Jose Sharks.
The Penguins would start the series at home winning game one 3-2 and game two 2-1 off of Conor Sheary’s overtime goal giving them a 2-0 series lead heading to San Jose where games three and four would be played, just a couple wins away from their first Championship since 2009. After splitting games three and four, the Penguins found themselves with one win remaining, and with the opportunity to clinch a Stanley Cup at home which hasn’t ever been accomplished in the franchise’s 50 year history. Unfortunately that would have to wait, but a team that has caused skepticism in the past was finally able to bring a championship home to Pittsburgh. The Penguins would win the Stanley Cup once again just a year later, this time in Nashville. This makes them the first back to back champions since the 1998 Redwings, which has to put them on the list of the NHL’s Dynasties.