Monday, June 12, 2017

Penguins vs. Blackhawks -- Who is the cap era's best team?

With Sunday night’s win over the Nashville Predators, the Pittsburgh Penguins captured their second-straight Stanley Cup, becoming the first team to repeat as champions since the 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings. That’s an impressive feat, especially in today’s parity-driven age.

But the Penguins also reached another important milestone: Three Stanley Cup wins since the 2005 lockout, which ties them with the Chicago Blackhawks for the most titles under the salary cap system.

Well, this is the NHL, and we’re not allowed to have ties. So today, let’s pit the last dozen years of the Blackhawks against the Penguins as we attempt to determine which team deserves to be called the best of its era.

Regular Season Success

While any comparison between the Penguins and Blackhawks will focus on their playoff success, the regular season matters too. In fact, because teams play so many more games during the season than in the playoffs, it can often tell us more about a team’s overall quality.

The case for the Penguins: Pittsburgh has racked up more regular-season points since 2005, out-pacing Chicago by an average of three points per season. It’s made the playoffs 11 times to Chicago’s nine, and also holds an edge in 100-point seasons, with nine to the Blackhawks’ eight.

The case for the Blackhawks: You could argue that the regular season gap between the two teams is more about timing than quality – the Blackhawks didn’t emerge as a true contender until 2008, giving the Penguins a two-year head start. Despite that disadvantage, the Hawks have matched the Penguins in division titles with three, and hold a 1-0 edge in Presidents’ Trophy seasons.

Edge: Penguins. We did say we were looking at the entire cap era, so those first few post-lockout years have to count – but only a little.

Playoff Success

The two teams may be tied in Cup wins, but that’s not the only way to measure post-season dominance.

The case for the Penguins: The Penguins have done more winning in the playoffs, and it’s not all that close. Pittsburgh has won 19 series in the cap era, well ahead of Chicago’s 13. The Penguins made it out of the first round seven times, while the Blackhawks have managed only five. They’ve been to one more Cup final and they hold a significant edge in playoff games won.

The case for the Blackhawks: They held the edge in this category in 2015, but that was a long time ago. There’s really no case to be made on the Chicago side here, unless you want to play the “Cups are all that matter” card.

Edge: Penguins. Pittsburgh jumps out to an early 2-0 lead, and this time it’s not even Pekka Rinne’s fault.

Peak Dominance

Consistency is nice. Long-term success is better. But when you’re evaluating a team, you also want to know what they could do when they were at their absolute best. We took a run at this question last week, when we ranked the ten best single-season teams of the cap era.

The case for the Penguins: This year’s Penguins took seventh spot on our ten-best list, and that was before they’d wrapped up the Cup. You could probably nudge them up a spot or two now that they’ve made it official. The other two Cup-winning teams were honorable mentions.

The case for the Blackhawks: The Blackhawks placed two teams on the list, including the team we called the best of the entire era. That was the 2012-13 Hawks, who started the year by going undefeated in 24 straight, won the Presidents’ Trophy and then took home the Cup. The 2009-10 team ranked fourth, while the 2014-15 team was an honorable mention.

Edge: Blackhawks. We’re looking at over a decade here, so the overall record is what should matter most, but there’s a good chance that the Hawks’ best team of the era could beat Pittsburgh’s, and that counts for something.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet

No comments:

Post a Comment