GAME PLAN FOR ’17-18: REST THE STARS

No team has won a third straight Stanley Cup since 1982, when the New York Islanders hit the trifecta en route to four in a row in ’83.

Next season, the Penguins try.

I don’t think they can do it.

If any team can, it’s the Penguins. If any player can, it’s Sidney Crosby.

But hockey isn’t that kind of sport, and the NHL isn’t that kind of league. The physical demands are too much. The Penguins have played 213 games since October, 2015.

For the Penguins to have a chance, Coach Mike Sullivan has to take a page from what Golden State and Cleveland do in the NBA.

Key Penguins (Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, etc.) need to be healthy scratches 10-12 times (at least) next season. Rest must be imposed in preparation for the post-season grind.

Do it on the road. Do it in situations where a loss seems likely regardless of who plays, like the second game of two games in two nights where game No. 2 is on the road against a tough foe that didn’t play the evening before.

The NHL won’t like it. The media won’t like it. Fans in other rinks won’t like it. “OH MY GOD, THIS WAS MY KID’S ONLY CHANCE TO SEE CROSBY!”

Too bad. Do you want to three-peat, or cater to opinions that don’t matter?

The Penguins are a lock for the playoffs. Seeding and home ice don’t matter. Maximize your chances.

Sullivan won’t do that. If he tried, the star players wouldn’t let him. Hockey players want to play every game. That’s how they’re wired.

That’s a shame. Because if the Penguins’ best players battle a non-stop grind that begins in October, a third straight Cup isn’t possible.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Mark Madden

Mark Madden

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