| With the good, there comes the bad.
The Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Detroit Red Wings in seven games to win the Stanley Cup last June. That’s the good thing for the Penguins.
The bad thing was that they and the Wings had a much shorter off-season and weren’t able to lick their wounds and rest up like the other 28 teams in the NHL—a small price to pay for winning the Stanley Cup.
Winning the Cup is an arduous task and even if a team goes all the way, they could have trouble replicating that success in the early stages of the following season—suffering from the Stanley Cup hangover, as it is known.
After winning their franchise’s first Cup in the spring of 2007, the Anaheim Ducks struggled going 4–7–2 through the first month of the 2007–08 regular season. And it wasn’t until the middle of November before the team cracked the .500 mark.
Not only did the Carolina Hurricanes start the season with a record of 0–3–1 following their 2006 championship, they also missed the 2006–07 playoffs altogether.
Technically speaking, the Tampa Bay Lightning didn’t defend their 2004 Stanley Cup title at all thanks to the 2004–05 lockout, but when play resumed, they started off strongly going 7–3–2 through October. They began November with six straight losses though.
Not all recent Cup winners suffer the hangover.
The Detroit Red Wings, who defeated the Penguins in the 2008 final, jumped out to a 15–4–4 start last season and didn’t reach double-digit losses until near the end of January.
The Pens, for the most part, haven’t missed a beat either and are clearly not suffering from any kind of hangover.
Pittsburgh (10–2) not only owns the best record in its division and conference, they lead the NHL in wins, and are tied with the Colorado Avalanche for most points with 20.
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is tied for the league lead in wins with nine, and he is in the top five in goals against average.
While no one is going to complain about the Pens’ start, not everyone is firing on all cylinders through the first month of the season.
Pittsburgh’s 1-2 offensive punch of Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby finished last year first and third in league scoring with 113 and 103 points respectively—Malkin won the Art Ross Trophy for most points.
The dynamic duo is off to a slightly slow start, at least by its standards, at the outset of the 2009–10 season.
Malkin has four goals and 10 assists for 14 points through 12 games. Crosby had a big night against the Canadiens on Wednesday with a hat trick, but at the start of the week he had only 11 points and was in 25th place in the scoring race.
Support players are picking up the slack though.
Center Tyler Kennedy, who has averaged 7.5 goals in two seasons with the Penguins, is second behind Crosby in team goal scoring, bulging the mesh five times so far.
Young defenseman Alex Goligoski, who only played 45 games last year, has racked up 10 points and is a stellar +11 in plus/minus rating.
The Penguins don’t even seem to miss Max Talbot who became such a huge playoff performer last year.
Despite Crosby and Malkin’s “slow” starts, the team is still rolling like it did last playoff season and is not feeling the effects of the Stanley Cup hangover.
They’re still feeling the high from last season.