The ’12 Days of Christmas’ is a classic holiday song first published in its current form in 1908. In a nod to the classic carol, join The Hockey Writers as we count down the 12 Days of Hockeymas. Each day, we will provide you with a piece of hockey history as we eagerly await the start of the 2020-21 NHL season.
The Pittsburgh Penguins were undoubtedly at the top of their game in the early 1990s, capturing back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992. Yet, their best statistical season came the year after the second Cup, during the 1992-93 season.
The record of 56-21-7, to go along with 119 points, is the highest win and point total in team history, and a 17-game win streak during the season is still an NHL record.
Four 100-Point Scorers
The 1992-93 team was loaded with talent. Led by Mario Lemieux and Ron Francis, the Penguins sported four players that reached the 100-point plateau, while having five players eclipse 30 goals or more.
Lemieux, winner of the Art Ross and Hart Trophy, beat incredible odds that season — not only did he come back from an injury-hindered year in 1991-92, in which he played just 26 regular season games, but what followed after a shocking announcement in January made his season that much more impressive.
On Jan. 12, Lemieux announced he had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and would have to step away from the game for three to four weeks for treatment. Despite playing just 60 games, Lemieux notched an outstanding 69 goals and 160 points.
Behind Lemieux, 26-year-old Kevin Stevens, coming off a 1991-92 campaign in which he totaled 123 points, netted 55 goals en route to 111 points in 72 games. Rick Tocchet piled up 48 goals and 109 points while Francis finished with an even 100 points and 24 goals.
17-Game Win Streak
After a 3-1 loss to the New York Rangers on March 5, the Penguins were already in a prime position in the standings with a 39-21-6 record. Four days later, Pittsburgh topped the Boston Bruins, 3-2 — a win that seemed miniscule at the time, but the Pens would not lose for the rest of the season. The team rattled off 10 more wins in the month of March, six of which they scored more than five goals.
After a 10-2 win over Hartford on April 1, Pittsburgh cruised to five more wins until a 6-6 tie in the season finale against the New Jersey Devils ended the streak.
During the streak, Pittsburgh outscored opponents 96-48, while Lemieux totaled a team-high 27 points. Goaltender Tom Barrasso won 14 of the games and stopped 410 of the 444 shots he faced.
Pittsburgh entered the 1993 Stanley Cup Playoffs carrying an 11-game playoff win streak before winning the first three games of the series against New Jersey to extend the streak to 14. The Penguins eventually took care of the Devils in five games and would meet the New York Islanders in the next round.
The two teams traded wins throughout the series setting up a decisive Game 7 in Pittsburgh. The Islanders led 3-1 with less than four minutes to go in the third period before goals from Francis and Tocchet tied things up in the waning minutes to send the game to overtime. The Penguins’ historic season came to an end on David Volek’s overtime winner.
Penguins fans from far and wide hesitate to commemorate the 1992-93 team to this day, considering the lofty expectations compared to the result. Many say the new uniforms that featured the ‘pigeon’ or ‘robo-penguin’ logo were some sort of a curse, but what is for certain is that the team never really reached these heights again.
The 1992-93 Presidents’ Trophy remains the only one the Penguins have won.