Pittsburgh Penguins: Three-peat Begins Tonight

NASHVILLE, TN - JUNE 11: Sidney Crosby
NASHVILLE, TN - JUNE 11: Sidney Crosby /

The Pittsburgh Penguins have made a habit of playing hockey late into the season since Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin came to town over a decade ago.

They took that next step in late season hockey the last two years, playing all the way into June and hoisting the Stanley Cup in each.

The Penguins journey to a three-peat begins tonight as they host the St. Louis Blues tonight (Wednesday) at 8 p.m. EST on NBCSN. WATCH LIVE

"“I think it should inspire us to watch ourselves with some of the highlight reels they watched (Monday) night and the banner raising,” coach Mike Sullivan told Penguins team reporter Michelle Crechiolo. “For me, it’s a real remembrance that it’s all worth it. All the sacrifice and the commitment that you make to try to achieve the ultimate goal is worth it. And we’ve got a group that’s capable.”"

Despite the main core of Crosby, Malkin and Letang remaining in place, the boys’ from the ‘burgh will have a handful of important players to replace.

What’s changed?

Gone are Nick Bonino, Chris Kunitz, Matt Cullen, Trevor Daley, Ron Hainsey, Mark Streit and of course, Marc-Andre Fleury. The latter, a long-time fan favorite, went to the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights.

None of that matters, though, when you have arguably two of the top five players in the world. Oh, and Kris Letang, Matt Murray and Phil Kessel; all of whom landed on the NHL Network’s top 50 players right now list.

Jim Rutherford went out in the offseason and added a backup goaltender in Antti Niemi while adding some muscle up front at the draft in trading for Ryan Reaves from the Penguins opponent tonight, the St. Louis Blues. He also added Matt Hunwick on the back end.

MORE: Want to write about Pittsburgh Pro Sports?

NASHVILLE, TN – JUNE 11: Sidney Crosby

NASHVILLE, TN – JUNE 11: Sidney Crosby

Question Marks

The biggest question mark for the Penguins begins at the center position. The odd thing about that being on the list of question marks is because of a pair of all-world centers in Malkin and Crosby. It goes beyond them. After losing Bonino and Cullen, the Penguins have not been able to add any centers to the roster.

Enter Carter Rowney. Rowney played some center for the Penguins last year, but mostly found his niche as a winger on Cullen’s fourth line in the Stanley Cup playoffs. He will step in as the third line center and look to fill Bonino’s role. Who steps in on the fourth line remains to be seen.

When push comes to shove, the Penguins have all the tools in place to win a third straight Stanley Cup. Winning a Stanley Cup is not easy in hockey, winning two in a row is even more difficult to do. Three? Well, that hasn’t been done since the 1980’s.

Can the Penguins do it? Time will only tell, but the journey to three-peat begins tonight.