Their head coach: Mike Sullivan, who took over the position midway through the season after Mike Johnston was underwhelming the front office and decided a change was needed. In came Sullivan, who upon coaching in the NHL as the lead man for the first time in a decade after the Bruins canned him after 2006, took the Penguins and their loaded offense to the promise land for the fourth time in franchise history.
Their captain: Sidney Crosby, who I'd be willing to bet is complaining about something as I write this. Crosby is a great player and phenomenal talent. I'd pee myself daily if he was an Avalanche. But I've never seen a player who seems as entitled and thus complains more than Crosby does. If Crosby gets touched, you can almost guarantee the first thing he'll do is look towards the nearest referee, lift up his arms and/or scream, "THAT'S A PENALTY!" See here for proof. I hope Alex Ovechkin fires a slap shot that redirects off of Crosby's jaw and into the net, giving the Capitals an overtime win one day. That might provide me more joy than Colorado winning its next Stanley Cup.
Their 15-16 season: They won the Stanley Cup, so by default they were better than every other team in the league. When Mike Johnston was fired in December, the Pens were right on the edge of the final wild card spot. Afterwards, Pittsburgh elevated to the league's 4th best record at the conclusion of the regular season. They then took out the Rangers in 5, the President's Trophy winning Capitals in 6, the Lightning in 7, and the Sharks in 6 to win their first Stanley Cup since 2009. It was well-deserved. They were hot and streaky throughout the spring, and it paid off.
How did they do against the Avs? At one point in each game, Colorado held a lead, but the Penguins came back to win both contests. The game in Pittsburgh is memorable for the Penguins going from trailing 1-0 to leading 3-1 in the span of 2 minutes and 8 seconds before winning 4-3. In similar fashion, Pittsburgh turned a 2-1 Avs lead into a 4-2 Pens lead in the span of 3 minutes and 24 seconds. So, I conclude that of the 120 minutes the Avs and Pens played against one another last season, 114 minutes and 28 seconds went pretty well for Colorado. The other 5 minutes and 32 seconds went very badly.
When do they play the Avs this season? At Pittsburgh on October 17th and in Denver on February 9th.
Will they be good? Yup. I don't believe they'll win the Stanley Cup again, but they have to be in the conversation. I referenced their elite offense in the first paragraph. Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessel as your offensive leaders sure must be fun. Throw Nick Bonino, Matt Cullen, Pascal Dupuis, Eric Fehr, Carl Hagelin, Patric Hornqvist, Chris Kunitz, Tom Kuhnhackl, and others into the mix, it's impressive just to look at this team, much less watch them in action. They do have one of the most interesting goaltending situations in the league. Marc-Andre Fleury is great in the regular season before his annual vanishing in the postseason, but usually that vanishing is figurative. This last postseason, it was literal. He vanished off the face of the Earth and no one knew why for the longest time. Rookie Matt Murray took his place and was as solid as a rock the entire process. Who the Penguins go with next month in their season opener against Washington will be very interesting.
3 Questions with their SB Nation blog, PensNation: PensNation must still be hung over from their Cup win, because I never heard back from them on questions. As a result, the Lesser 29 series is now officially complete. I hope you all enjoyed this diversion from the dead of the hockey offseason and learned, laughed, or cried while reading some of these 29 previews. Maybe I'll do something like this again next year, maybe I won't! We'll see. The good news is that the World Cup of Hockey starts this week, and soon me and the rest of the staff will be writing about actual hockey. Thank God, because even with hockey having the shortest offseason of the Big 4 North American sports, it is still far too long.