Back in mid April the NHL went from 30 teams competing for the Stanley Cup to just 16. By may 30th only Pittsburg and San Jose remained from the marginal 16 that qualified for the playoffs. Two weeks later Pittsburg captured their 4th Stanley Cup, ironically it came 7 years to the day from their last Cup in 2009.
Unfortunately for San Jose and more specifically Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau this may have been the first and final time they get this close. “It sucks. That’s the bottom line. It sucks. We thought we had the team, going through the teams we did in the West. It’s just tough right now” a somber Thornton told reporters post game 6. Marleau was a man of fewer words, but made them count “it’s like being hit by a truck” via Kevin Kurz’s twitter account.
San Jose was surprised in the way Pittsburg elevated their game for the Finals. Overwhelming San Jose with their speed and drive to get sticks in the passing lanes. Simply not allowing the Sharks to get comfortable in their own game at any point in the Finals.
Had it not been for how spectacular Martin Jones performed, Pittsburg could have easy won this in five games. Jones, who capped off his Cinderella run with a superb individual performance last night. Remaining one of the most exciting players to watch throughout the playoffs. I’m still waiting for the San Jose Police Department to further investigate the larceny Jones performed on Kessel in the third period.
But I digress.
Despite the melancholy atmosphere in the Sharks locker room the overall consensus was unanimous, Pittsburg was the better team.
Whether you are a Penguins fan or not, you get chills anytime someone gets to raise the Stanley Cup. A tremendous accomplishment for Crosby who now has two championships under his belt, a much needed boost to his super star status. While he won the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP many firmly believe it deserved to be Matt Murray’s. Speaking of getting lost in nostalgia it was truly tear jerking witnessing Pascal Dupuis suit up to celebrate with his teammates after being forced into retirement with nagging injuries. Mario Lemieux, long since retired played a significant role in reshaping this team, he enjoyed the opportunity to raise his fourth Cup, two as a player, two as a manager.
So, congratulations to Pittsburg who proved to anyone who doubted them they still remain amongst the NHL elite.
What is impossible to ignore is the overwhelming contrast of narratives. In regards to the Stanley Cup Finals how will this be remembered? Was it San Jose’s inability to play their game? Or was Pittsburg so good that they just didn’t allow San Jose to feel comfortable in 6 complete games. Between Thornton and Marleau are they super stars with dwindling stardom or did we witness the rebirth for the next dynasty. Did a coaches relationship disrupt the flow of momentum for San Jose? I am of course referencing Peter Deboer’s relationship with Dainius Zubrus. Zubrus is a long time veteran of the league but he took two less than ideal penalties in two less than ideal moments of critical games against Pittsburg. Not only did it destroy positive momentum for San Jose but Pittsburg scored on the ensuing power plays further disrupting San Jose’s confidence to win.
Now, its not fair to blame a series loss on one player, but it definitely didn’t help.
One thing is for sure, we best keep a close eye on the Penguins who just a few months ago were flirting with the idea of trading Malkin. Its safe to say that is no longer an option.
Congratulations to the 2016 Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburg Penguins, also great job to the fans at San Jose for showering Gary Bettman in boos during his presentation of the Cup.