A lot can happen in seven years. For the Pittsburgh Penguins, it can be described as one of triumph and disappointment with a rebirth of optimism during these playoffs. The Washington Capitals have been consistent.
“Consistent” for Washington in this example is not a positive thing.
During the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs, these two teams met in what could be described as one of the greatest playoff series in the history of the game. It featured hat tricks by Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby in Game 2, and a comeback by the Penguins after going down 2-0 in the series. Games 5 and 6 featured overtimes, with Pittsburgh winning the first, and the Capitals forcing Game 7 back at the Verizon Center, which, in Capitals fashion, resulted in a 6-2 blowout by the Penguins to take the series in seven games.
The Penguins went on to sweep the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Finals and got revenge on the Detroit Red Wings, winning their third Stanley Cup in franchise history in an exciting seven-game series.
As previously noted, both teams have not met personal expectations over the last five years.
Pittsburgh’s inability to return to the Final and having first round exits in three of the last six postseasons has left some in the fanbase discouraged and feeling as though a dynasty has been wasted, while the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings can boast multiple Stanley Cups over the last six seasons.
On the other side, the Capitals have stayed consistent with their playoff history. Since Alexander Ovechkin’s first season in 2005, Washington has never advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. The Ovechkin Era consists of two President’s Trophies, but not the hardware players really want to win in June. They don't even have a Prince of Wales trophy to show for it. The Capitals have made the second round in three of the last six playoffs following their loss to the Penguins in 2009, but could never meet expectations. One of the most disappointing moments of this span has to be the 2010 playoffs, when the Capitals boasted hockey’s best record, but fell to the eight-seeded Canadiens in the first round.
The two now come together for the first time in seven years in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They have become division foes one again with realignment in 2013, so they see more of each other than they used to. The same big names like Ovechkin, Crosby, Malkin, Backstrom and Letang will be there, but with different supporting casts and coaches.
Washington once again won the President’s Trophy this season and were Stanley Cup favorites to many throughout most of the regular season, and held off a feisty Flyers team that won two-straight after going down 3-0 in the series, giving some fans that sick feeling that a monumental collapse was about to happen, but never did, as the Capitals won Game 6 in Philadelphia. The Penguins have been at a different level since early March, surging up the Metropolitan Division standings to take the second seed, making Henrik Lundqvist and his New York Rangers teammates look one-dimensional, scoring five or more goals in three of their four wins to take the series in five games.
When this series finally gets underway, it will be the ratings-grabber the NHL needs after a poor showing in round one, and the two favorites in Vegas will play a series that many wish could determine the Eastern Conference’s representative in the Stanley Cup Final, but must settle on this being a second round match, where the winner plays the Islanders or the Lightning for the conference title.
Fans will expect the Penguins to overcome their shortcomings in the playoffs since their Stanley Cup title in 2009, while the Capitals, who may have their best chance to advance since that series against Pittsburgh seven years ago, might be expected to lose this series, and nobody, including some of their fans, would be surprised.
The minute the Pittsburgh Penguins announced their new third jersey for the 2014-15 season, I knew it was the beginning of the end for the Penguins "Las Vegas gold" look.
The 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs will do just that.
The jersey on the left below will be worn for all home games for as long as the Penguins are in the playoffs. If you follow the team, you know that the "Pittsburgh gold" third jersey is the old road jersey from when the team went from blue and white to black and gold in 1980. It was the look until the 1992-93 season, when the team went with a different look that lasted a decade.
Since Monday morning, the Penguins have been promoting the jersey and that "Pittsburgh gold" for the playoffs.
Even the teams official website has turned Pittsburgh gold.
"Pittsburgh gold" which you can't find in any box of crayola, does look amazing, especially on the updated jersey. Also, keep in mind that Pittsburgh is the only sports city in America where all its professional teams have the same color scheme. Well... from 1980 to 2002.
The Penguins kept the "Pittsburgh gold" in their color scheme until 2002, when the popularity of their then third jersey, which has been the teams home jersey for the last 14 seasons, led to the Penguins adopting the "Las Vegas gold" look as their main home and road uniform.
LEFT: The Penguins first rendition of the "Las Vegas gold" from 2003-2007.
RIGHT: 2007-Present: Same jersey with the Reebok design.
The Las Vegas gold was popular when it became permanent. The Penguins were looking for a new persona (remember the "X Generation") and seeing the skating Penguin logo again caught the eyes of fans young and old, so changing the gold scheme a little bit would add an edge (and more profits with people having to buy new apparel, which will continue to happen as they go back to the old gold).
From 1992-2002, the Penguins wore these jerseys. If most franchises regret one thing from the 1990s, it would be their jersey designs.
There was "Pittsburgh gold", but it fell flat with the updated logo, and the road jersey on the far right could have been better. Like I said, 90s uniforms. Take a look, and realize how lucky you are to live in this current age of hockey jerseys.
LEFT: Home jersey (1992-2002) MIDDLE: Road Jersey (1992-1997) RIGHT: Third Jersey (1996-1997) Road Jersey (1997-2002)
While the Penguins have not officially announced that they are ditching "Las Vegas gold" for 2016-17, they are slowly phasing it out by incorporating more "Pittsburgh gold" in their team store and promotions.
When the Penguins unveiled their 50th Anniversary logo, it probably made many think that "Pittsburgh gold" was coming back permanently.
When the Penguins qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, here was their official playoff logo.
Yeah. It's over for "Las Vegas gold". It was a good run.
I do have one question. Will the Penguins rip out the "Vegas gold" seats at Consol Energy Center and replace them with "Pittsburgh gold" seats?