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Ranking the Penguins Stanley Cup Winning Teams

Which of the Pittsburgh Penguins championship teams is the best?

The Pittsburgh Penguins have won the Stanley Cup five times in the franchise's history. With all-time greats like Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and many more filling up their winning lineups, how do they stack up against each other? Here is the definitive ranking of the five Stanley Cup winning teams.

5. 2008-2009

Being at the bottom of this list is not meant to be a slight against this particular Penguins team but an acknowledgment of how incredible the cup winning teams have been.

The first Stanley Cup of Crosby and Malkin's career came after a grueling seven-game series against the seasoned Detroit Red Wings. A rematch of the previous year's finals matchup swung in the Penguin's favor as the Penguin's depth and star power overmatched Detroit.

Malkin was the standout of that Penguins squad, leading the team in scoring in the regular season and continuing his offensive dominance in the playoffs. He was voted MVP of the playoffs after scoring 36 points, highlighted by a hat-trick in the series clinching Eastern Conference Finals game against the Carolina Hurricanes.

This team was the youngest of the five championship teams, with all their core players under 23 years old. It looked like the beginning of a dynasty, but they needed more time and experience to repeat, and their youth is the same reason they rank fifth out of the cup-winning rosters.

4. 1990-1991

The 1991 Penguins team lifted the curse of mediocrity that plagued the organization since its inception in 1967. Led by one of the greatest of all time, Mario Lemieux, the Penguins emerged as the new powerhouse of the league.

Behind Lemieux, the Penguins made one of the biggest trades in the franchise and NHL history when they acquired Ron Francis and Ulf Samuelson from the Hartford Whalers. With an elite number two center, Paul Coffey leading the defense, and the emergence of an unknown 18-year-old named Jaromir Jagr, this team took the postseason by storm. They met a red-hot Minnesota North Stars team in the finals and won the pivotal game six by a score of 8-0. Lemieux won the Conn Smythe Award with 44 points in 23 games.

Perhaps the first team to win the Stanley Cup in Pittsburgh should be given more respect, but it's hard to look at the three other Championship teams and see how the '91 squad would be able to defeat them.

3. 2015-2016

After winning the first cup of the Crosby era, the Penguins struggled to return to the promised land. They reached the Eastern Conference Final just once between 2009 and 2016. The 2015-2016 season was different. After trading for Phil "the Thrill" Kessel, the Penguins hobbled out of the gate.

In December 2015, they fired coach Mike Johnston and elevated Mike Sullivan from their AHL staff. This move changed the course of the season. The Penguins went from a static and predictable team to the fastest and most persistent forecheck team in the NHL.

Another midseason trade brought in Carl Hagelin, and the last piece of the fabled HBK Line had arrived. Hagelin, Kessel, and center Nick Bonino shined brightly in the playoffs, giving the team a 1-2-3 punch on offense that left opposing defenses dazed and confused.

The team battled through a first and second round series against the Rangers and Capitals and then went the distance with a young Tampa Bay Lightning team in the conference finals.

They then met the San Jose Sharks in the finals and dispatched them over six spirited games. Crosby won the Conn Smythe Award after scoring 19 points in 24 games while playing the most shut-down defense of his career. From top to bottom, this was one of the most complete teams in Penguin's history.

2. 2016-2017

There's a theme with the top two teams on this list: they are the second of back-to-back championships. The Penguins walked into the 2016-17 season with an unmatched swagger. While many champions succumb to the "Stanley Cup hangover," this team was incredibly immune. There never seemed to be a doubt about this team's supremacy over the rest of the league.

The big guns of the Penguins were on full display again, as Crosby led the team in scoring in the regular season, and running mate Evgeni Malkin posted 28 points to lead the team in the playoffs. This team also featured the debut of another game-breaking rookie in Jake Guentzel. Guentzel broke the Penguin's record for goals scored by a rookie in the playoffs with 13.

One of the hallmarks of this particular Penguin's team was their patience. They put together several big comebacks and capitalized on every opportunity their opponents allowed. In game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals, the Penguins went nearly two full periods without registering a shot.

After 37 minutes, rookie Jake Guentzel broke the tie, and the Penguins took game 1. It didn't matter if you stifled the team for 40 minutes, as they needed only a couple minutes to take complete control of the game.

A second straight Stanley Cup Championship paired with a second consecutive Conn Smythe Award for Sidney Crosby. This team was undoubtedly the best of the Crosby and Malkin era.

1. 1991-1992

All five teams on this list achieved greatness, but only one stands out as the undisputed best of the best. The 1991-92 team struggled in the regular season after capturing the first title in team history. General manager Craig Patrick had to make extreme moves to get the team on the right path.

He traded premier scorer Mark Recchi and hall of fame defenseman Paul Coffey in separate deals and acquired rugged power forward Rick Tocchet to play alongside Mario Lemieux.

Despite finishing the regular season third in the division with 87 points, this team was an absolute juggernaut in the playoffs. After surviving the Washington Capitals in seven games in round one, the Penguins fought through a broken hand to Lemieux in round two against the New York Rangers.

Nothing was enough to stop this team, though. The Penguins rattled off 11 straight wins against the Rangers, Boston Bruins, and Chicago Blackhawks to secure their second Stanley Cup Championship in as many years.

Lemieux led playoff scoring with 34 points in only 15 games and collected his second straight Conn Smythe Award. Sophomore superstar Jaromir Jagr stepped up massively with Lemieux injured, and elite play from Ron Francis and Kevin Stevens pushed this squad over the top.

Watch this recap of their championship run and judge how complete and dominant they were. There may not have been a better championship team in the history of the NHL, let alone in Pittsburgh. 

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