The Pittsburgh Penguins have dominated the NHL in recent years. With their most modern Stanley Cup championships coming in 2009 and 2016, the Pens also represented the Eastern Conference in the finals in 2008. They have won their division three times since the 2007-08 season.
While their championships aren’t as impressive as other sports dynasties on paper, the Penguins are undoubtedly the best team in hockey. And, let’s face it; it’s much harder to win the Stanley Cup than any other trophy among the four most popular professional sports. The Penguins have appeared in the postseason every year since the 2006-07 season, rarely being stifled in the first round. Their dominance is equal to that of the New England Patriots in the NFL.
Meanwhile, the Senators haven’t seen much success in recent years. Since the 2006-07 season, Ottawa has failed to make the playoffs four times with a flurry of early exits. Therefore, their most recent postseason ventures may remind Boston sports fans of their beloved Celtics in the NBA.
Comparing the Teams
The Pens and Pats have been equally dominant in their respective leagues, resulting in a sports world that is overwhelmingly against them. Polls across all 50 states have shown that when the Patriots are in the Super Bowl, the only states rooting for them are those that reside in New England. The rest of the country jumps on the back of the opposing team, hoping to prevent another Patriots’ title.
Similarly, it feels as though the whole hockey world is out to get Pittsburgh. From the onset of the 2017 playoffs, they have constantly been rooted against on an international scale. Coming into Game 7, hockey fans resemble sharks that smell penguin blood in the water.
The overarching theme seems to be simple: When you’re the best, you’ll be treated the worst. The scenario certainly gives credibility to the statement “they hate us ‘cause they ain’t us.”
Meanwhile, the Senators resemble a Celtics team that has failed to gain any traction in recent years. The current edition of the Senators (1992-Present) has never won the Stanley Cup. Similarly, before their 2008 NBA Championship, the Celtics had not raised a championship banner since 1986.
Even more similar is the opponent they find themselves facing. Coming into the NHL series, fans’ attitudes were basically, “Alright, go Sens, but Pittsburgh is obviously going to win.” Likewise, the basketball universe is currently pulling for the Celtics to upset a more talented Cleveland Cavaliers team in the NBA playoffs, though it does not seem likely. Boston is currently down 3-1 in that series. The Senators are pinned up against stars like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, while the Celtics are face-to-face with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.
Sid the Kid vs. The G.O.A.T
If the Penguins and Patriots are alike, then their stars are even more so. Both players are arguably the best, and thus most hated, players in their respective leagues.
Both players consistently have their toughness, and even manliness, questioned on a daily basis. No, Crosby doesn’t throw hits and punches, and Tom Brady doesn’t run or take sacks very often, but these criticisms give way to both players’ greatest strength – mental toughness.
Brady is the most zoned-in player on the football field week in and week out. You can visibly see his determination during crunch time, like when the Pats came back to win Super Bowl LI after being down by 28 points. The 39-year-old quarterback is also not afraid to show his emotions, yelling at linemen and receivers when they miss assignments or catchable balls.
Crosby’s mental toughness comes in a different form (hockey is a different game, after all). Watch any game Crosby plays in and you will immediately notice that he is the most heavily targeted player on the ice. The 29-year-old centerman is constantly subject to sticks in his skates and groin, as well as bumps and bruises in front of the net. This unmatched attention from opposing defensemen rarely stops him from producing, however, as he consistently finds himself at the top of the NHL leaderboards.
You could go even further, comparing the two to James. As a Celtics fan, I am obligated to show some distaste toward one of the NBA’s best players. Did you see the dunk he missed in Game 4 Tuesday night? However, I recognize that it’s James’ ability to simply crush the opposition that causes me to hate his guts.
While watching the Celtics battle for their playoff lives on Thursday night, Boston sports fans may be interested in flipping over to the Sens-Pens series. Pittsburgh will be hosting a Game 7 that will vault one of the teams to the Stanley Cup Final. The winner of the series will face the Nashville Predators for a chance to solidify their playoff run in history.
I cover the Boston Bruins and NCAA Hockey here at The Hockey Writers. Born and raised 10 miles north of Boston, I developed a love for the game of ice hockey at a very young age. There’s really nothing better than this sport, though steak is a close second.