With the Penguins continuing to pile up wins down the final stretch of the regular season before battling for the Stanley Cup, suddenly, another trophy enters in mix.
The Presidents Trophy is awarded to the team with the most points in the NHL by the end of the season. Since its inception in 1985, 15 different teams have won the trophy with the Detroit Red Wings (6) winning it the most.
Currently with a game in hand, the Penguins are one point back from the New York Rangers to take the top spot in the Eastern Conference. It is obvious the Penguins have made a hard push to reach the number 1 seed which would guarantee them home ice throughout the first three rounds of the playoffs. But what about the fourth round?
The Penguins aren't far from attaining that goal either. The St. Louis Blues hold the top spot in the NHL with 101 points, placing the Penguins three points back. However, Pittsburgh has played two less games, opening the opportunity to take over the league-lead by the end of the season. Overtaking the Blues in April could potentially determine the outcome of the Stanley Cup finals in June. The Blues are 29-4-4 at home and 17-16-5 on the road. An extra home game would be extremely beneficial, just going by those numbers. At the same time, this is completely hypothetical, given the unpredictability of the playoffs.
That's not to say the Presidents' Trophy is an automatic bypass to Stanley Cup glory. In fact, that notion would be far off base. While the trophy does guarantee home-ice throughout the playoffs, history has shown that it does not guarantee playoff success. Of the 25 Presidents' Trophy winners, only 7 have gone on to lift Lord Stanley in the same year, while 5 trophy winners were eliminated in the first round. History has shown it only takes a hot goaltender or a tough defensive team to derail a Presidents' Trophy team. Montreal eliminated Washington in the first round two years ago because of the excellent play from Jaroslav Halak. The Bruins knocked off the Canucks in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals because of Tim Thomas.
The 1992-1993 Pittsburgh Penguins -believed to be the best team in franchise history- won the Presidents Trophy, finished the season with 17 consecutive wins (and a tie), only to fall to the New York Islanders in the second round of the playoffs. Penguins fans will never forget David Volek's game winning goal in overtime in Game 7 to send Pittsburgh packing.
Nevertheless, the Pittsburgh Penguins are going for home-ice advantage and why not? The Penguins have shown that, when healthy, they are nearly invincible. Evgeni Malkin is playing at an MVP level, Sidney Crosby is making his presence felt with third line centers, and Marc-Andre Fleury continues to shine. The Penguins have made it their mission to go after the top spot in the Eastern Conference and, as a result, they have put themselves in position to have a higher point total than everybody in the league.
Dan Bylsma appears to have put a target on the Rangers' back and the idea of getting home-ice secured is not lost on their Hall of Fame owner, Mario Lemieux. After all, it was Lemieux who said his biggest regret as a player was not being able to win the Stanley Cup at home. Could this be the year the Penguins raise Lord Stanley in Pittsburgh? On March 24th, it is impossible to be sure but, the Penguins wouldn't mind picking up a second Presidents' Trophy along the way to a potential fourth Stanley Cup.