Penguins Roster Is Much Different From Last Cup-Winning Team

Most people had already counted out the Pittsburgh Penguins early in the season. However, once December rolled around, the Penguins hit a winning streak that lasted into early January, and suddenly, they were in playoff conversations. However, they have now lost two in a row against the Carolina Hurricanes and the Florida Panthers.

Related: Penguins and Canucks Trade Could Provide 2022 Deadline Blockbuster

Are they Stanley Cup contenders? If there is one thing history has taught us, it is to never count the Penguins out. The last roster to take home the Cup was from 2016-17. Pittsburgh fans are hoping this year’s team has the same winning formula, but is that the case?

2016-17 Penguins

Jake Guentzel, Sidney Crosby, and Bryan Rust were all a part of the Stanley Cup championship team in 2017, which is good news. Guentzel and Rust have earned their spot on the top line with Crosby, and they know what it takes to win. 

Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh Penguins
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Evgeni Malkin was also a part of the 2017 team. However, his line looks different today. Carl Hagelin played on the line with Malkin at left wing in 2017, and his speed and puck-handling skills were crucial to the team. Patric Hornqvist also played on that line. He played for the Penguins for six seasons, and during that time, he was one of the most consistent scorers, averaging 22 goals a season. Once the Hagelin-Malkin-Hornqvist line was born, they dominated both offense and defense. Hagelin had the speed, Hornqvist had the brawn, and Malkin was the scoring threat. 

2021-22 Penguins

Today, Malkin is joined by Danton Heinen and Kasperi Kapanen. Heinen plays left wing, and the jury is still out on whether or not he has filled Hagelin’s shoes. So far, the Penguins seem to be pleased with his production, and he does have playoff experience, but will that be enough?

Kapanen plays right wing, and his performance at the beginning of the season had left much to be desired. He is seventh on the team in points and has yet to find chemistry with Malkin. There have even been rumors that management will trade him by the March 21 deadline. However, it seems that in the last few weeks, Kapanen’s game has started to improve, but has it improved enough for the Penguins to justify his $3.2 million salary? With the deadline less than two weeks away, fans will be keeping an eye on the Penguins’ decision about Kapanen’s future. 

Brian Dumoulin was a part of Pittsburgh’s defense back in 2017, along with Kris Letang. However, Letang missed the playoffs that year due to a herniated disk in his neck. Dumoulin had an outstanding performance, finishing with six points and averaging 21:59 of ice time. He is a very physical player with a great understanding of the game, and his skating ability and puck-handling skills complement Letang perfectly. When both players are healthy, they are one of the best defensive pairs in the game.

Brian Dumoulin, Pittsburgh Penguins
Brian Dumoulin, Pittsburgh Penguins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Penguins are also hoping to have center Teddy Blueger back for the playoffs. Blueger suffered a broken jaw in January that knocked him out of the lineup for 16 games. He could be the piece that has been missing for the team.

Stanley Cup Contenders? 

At first glance, it may not appear that the Penguins’ roster measures up to the 2017 Stanley Cup winners. The blueprint may look different today, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t good enough to compete. With about a month and a half left in the regular season and the trade deadline fast approaching, things are about to get interesting in Pittsburgh.

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