Photo: Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
By Eric Seiverling
The signs of spring are becoming apparent in Pittsburgh.
But this playoff appearance has a different feel to it.
After winning the Stanley Cup in 2016 and 2017, the Penguins have their sights on becoming the first NHL team to three-peat since the 1982 New York Islanders.
The Penguins begin their quest against cross-state rivals the Philadelphia Flyers on Wed., April 11 in a round one best-of-seven matchup, and games can be seen on NBC, NBCSN, and AT&T Sportsnet in Pittsburgh.
Other teams in the NHL 2018 playoffs include the New Jersey Devils, Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitals, Columbus Blue Jackets, Nashville Predators, Colorado Avalanche, Winnipeg Jets, Minnesota Wild, Vegas Golden Knights, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, and San Jose Sharks.
“The Penguins have put themselves in as good a chance as any team to win it all,” said Chris Bradford, Penguins beat writer for DKPittsburghsports.com, while on his way to the team’s practice prior to game one of the Philadelphia series. “I give them a pretty good chance. They’re a top-heavy team with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessel. If the Pens can roll all four lines, they will be as difficult as any team in the playoffs to face. They need players like Bryan Rust, Jake Guentzel, and Conor Sheary to step it up. And don’t discount Derick Brassard. That’s one guy I’m looking forward to seeing play in these playoffs.”
The Penguins acquired Brassard in a trade with the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 23rd.
“Anybody would be a fool to count out the Penguins to three-peat,” said Bob Grove, vice president of communications for Comcast’s Keystone Region and Penguins historian. “A three-peat is very difficult to do, but this team seems to have embraced a sense of history. They’re capable of doing it.”
Winning back-to-back Stanley Cups has put the team in the national spotlight, but the players on the ice aren’t the only ones gaining national recognition.
The poll also has Penguins fans as the fourth best fan base in all of professional sports.
The poll ranks the best fan bases in the world of sports, entertainment, technology, and lifestyle. The poll’s editors gathered information and assigned points to a fan base’s longevity, worth, size, social interaction, buzz factor, and passion.
“Pittsburgh fans go beyond loyal, loving the athletes they cheer for,” Fandom wrote.
According to the NHL, in 2016-2017, Pittsburgh was the highest-rated local market for NHL games on NBC and NBCSN. Pittsburgh led the country in three ratings categories: NBC games, NBCSN games, and NBC and NBCSN games combined.
“There’s a ton of excitement around the city,” Grove said. “People around here are smart enough to know how difficult it is to three-peat.”
To help fans stay up to date with all Penguins games and the rest of the NHL post-season, Comcast now features the X1 Sports App, which allows viewers access to live games, scores of all games currently in progress, additional coverage of games, and upcoming league schedules.
The app can be accessed with voice remote, and can be opened while watching live TV.
“There’s definitely an excitement building and you can sense it around the city,” Bradford said. “People are aware of what’s at stake. It’s incredible what the Penguins have already accomplished. I can’t even imagine what it would be like if they win the Stanley Cup three times in a row.”
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April 25, 2018