The strategy has worked perfectly in the championship runs of 2009 and 2017 where the superstars combined for 67 and 55 points respectively. Both runs saw the duo outscore their next teammate by wide margins and ultimately will their team to the cup.
But depending on only two players to score the Penguins out of trouble has proven to be far more ineffective than positive.
Through the 7 years between championships in Pittsburgh, the team was plagued with abysmal secondary scoring that would be the downfall of the team each spring. No outburst from Crosby or Malkin could ever save the Penguins from the sluggish grinders that filled out their line-up and the incompetent coach that had no clue how to deploy them.
In 2016, Jim Rutherford finally addressed these issues by acquiring 2 complementary centers in Nick Bonino and Matt Cullen to fill out the bottom six. Along with trading for Phil Kessel, the team was able to roll four contributing lines all the way to the Stanley Cup.
Once again though, the Penguins’ depth has escaped them.
Through a round and a half of the 2018 playoffs, the team has only one line able to score. While that line is utterly unstoppable at the moment, that just will not be the case for much longer.
As it stands before tonight’s game, Jake Guentzel has 17 points and Crosby is right behind him with 15. That’s good for second and third in the entire league in these playoffs.
The Penguins as a whole have scored 32 goals. One of Crosby, Guentzel, or Patric Hornqvist have factored in on 24 of those.
This line may be playing some of the greatest hockey of all of their careers, but it’s impossible for the team to succeed if only one line is outplaying the other team while the other 9 forwards hop over the boards just hanging on for dear life.
Injuries obviously haven’t helped as Malkin and Carl Hagelin have both missed all of or parts of the past three games, but the rest of the supporting cast has no excuse for being as irrelevant as they have been.
Kessel has become a folk hero in his three seasons in Pittsburgh scoring big goals at opportune times, but has only scored 1 time in 8 games in these playoffs. It’s rumored he may also be injured and in that case, you really hope he didn’t extend his iron man streak in spite of being 100 percent for these playoffs.
Derick Brassard was traded for picks, prospects, and even an NHL defenseman to perform in these playoffs for the Penguins, yet he’s been mostly invisible outside of a power-play goal against Philadelphia.
Player by player, the rest of the team just has not been good enough.
Sidney Crosby is one of the greatest hockey players to grace this world and right now he’s as dominant as ever.
But if your best players have to score over 2 points a game for the team to succeed, maybe it finally is the Caps’ year.