Pittsburgh Penguins @ Boston Bruins
Bruins lead series 3-0
NBCSN, CBC, RDS - 8:00 pm/et
TD Garden - Boston, MA
Through drafts and trades and free agent signings, the core of this Pittsburgh Penguins team has been building for several years. For the early part of the 2000s, things weren't pretty. But the Penguins drafted some excellent talent and that talent became the base of the team that we currently know and love.
It all started coming together around 2007, when the Penguins made the playoffs for the first time since 2001. They lost in the first round against Ottawa, but they were back the next year, older and wiser. That year players like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Pascal Dupuis, Tyler Kennedy, Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik and Marc-Andre Fleury came within two wins of the Stanley Cup. The next year, those players were joined by Chris Kunitz, Mark Eaton, Craig Adams, Matt Cooke and others. The players mentioned here are all with the team today. Dan Bylsma joined the team during that season as well. He's obviously still the coach.
When you think of the Pittsburgh Penguins, those names are some of the first players you think of. A lot of them make up the core of a team that has had a great deal of success over the last five or six years.
Along the way, some of the faces in the Penguins' locker room changed. That happens in hockey. Players like Jordan Staal and Max Talbot and Rob Scuderi, players who won the Cup for Pittsburgh, found themselves playing in other cities. Players like Gary Roberts and Ryan Malone and Colby Armstong, players who never got to the Cup but who were often still loved nonetheless, moved on as well.
And players were added. James Neal, Paul Martin, Brandon Sutter and others joined the team between the 2009 Stanley Cup and the start of this season. Then, during the season, the Penguins added Brenden Morrow and Douglas Murrary and Jussi Jokinen and Jarome Iginla.
A large portion of the core of this Penguins team has been with the team since the Cup run of 2009. We love those players and they've been here for quite a while. But that might not be the case for much longer.
Everybody knew that when the Pens added Iginla and Morrow and Murrary, that there was no way for this team to remain intact after this season. The salary cap is going down next year. The Penguins have a lot of free agents on their roster. The team that takes the ice next year will be very different from the team that takes the ice tonight.
Currently, only four players have contracts that extend past 2014: Sidney Crosby, James Neal, Paul Martin and Marc-Andre Fleury. Iginla, Morrow, Cooke, Dupuis, Adams, Murrary and Eaton are UFAs at the end of this season. Kennedy, Jeffrey and Bortuzzo are RFAs.
A lot of the players who suit up tonight won't be wearing a skating penguin next season. Whether they leave the team via free agency or trade, they won't be here. This means that, if the Penguins lose tonight, this team is over. Not only would it be the end of the "stacked, all-star, favored to win the Cup" Pens, but we could find ourselves with a very different Penguins team next season.
If they lose tonight, the last game that a lot of these players will play in Pittsburgh will be an embarrassing 6-1 loss to the Bruins.
In game three, these Penguins showed everyone that they can compete. But is it too late? Is this the end of the Pittsburgh Penguins as we currently know them? At this point a series win seems nearly impossible. But the Pens can't think about a series win right now. They can only think about tonight.
Will this team live to fight another day? Will they get this series back to Pittsburgh? Will they show that they aren't quite ready to take that logo off of their chests quite yet? Or is this goodbye?
We don't think we're quite ready for goodbye. Are they?