(Photo credit: Keith Allison)
In 2016 the Penguins won 24 of their final 39 games to cruise into the playoffs with 104 points. Last year the team won 37 of its final 48 games as they again built crucial momentum heading into the spring dance.
This year the team has won 23 of its last 36 games which must worry the rest of the league as this team starts playing well in January and does not stop until it has its Cup to take home.
Are the Penguins as dangerous this year?
Rumors were plenty during the early stages of the season when the Penguins stuttered out the gate to a 19-18-3 start to the season that GM Jim Rutherford would make bold moves - including trading star defenseman Kris Letang.
Whether this was him scaremongering his players into performing or the actual truth - Rutherford and coach Mike Sullivan turned the team's fortunes around and has the team looking like three-straight cup winners.
The scariest thing about the Penguins is their big three players who are all performing magnificently this season. Evgeni Malkin has 91 points, Phil Kessel has 83 points and Sidney Crosby has 81 points.
Added to that is their depth scoring as Jake Guentzel, Kris Letang and Patric Hornqvist all have over 40 points. Plus Riley Sheahan, Conor Sheary, and Bryan Rust all have over ten goals.
The team has three offensive dynamos and some depth scoring to pad out their dangerous offense.
Oh, and let’s not forget that the Penguins have the league's most dangerous power play operating at over 25%.Though that is not surprising since they have a power play unit that comprises Malkin, Kessel, and Crosby - those three have combined for 108 power play points!
“The Penguins have a poor defense that is nowhere near good enough to win the cup.” Okay now that is an understandable viewpoint - the Penguins have an average defense. The team has Oleksiak - Letang, Dumoulin - Schultz, and Matta - Ruhwedel.
In fact, the team has shipped the most goals of any side currently in a playoff position. But last year the team won the Cup with a defense that is far worse than the players they are icing at the moment. Here was their defense for game four against the Predators: Brian Dumoulin - Ron Hainsey, Olli Määttä - Trevor Daley and Ian Cole - Justin Schultz.
This defensive line up earned two shutouts against the Predators during last years final. Admittedly, the team can also rely on Matt Murray who is arguably the best playoff goalie in the league at the moment - he has yet to lose a playoff series in his young career.
So can they do it?
Well, history says winning three straight titles is possible but rare across all sports. The Penguins, though, have the experience and their main players still in their peak playing years to make a serious run at another Cup.
Realistically this team is arguably better than last years since they have Letang healthy. The question really is why shouldn’t they win a third cup?