Last night saw the valiant end of the San Jose Sharks, downed in 6 by the new champions of the National Hockey League - the Pittsburgh Penguins. Here is a look back at how the Pens' season unfolded, as well as a look at what else is happening across the league:
A Poor Start and a Coaching Change:
Despite a roster full of talent, the Pens had a disappointing start to the season. 15-10-3 over the first 28 games - which to a Canucks fan sounds great, but to a Penguins team expected to challenge for post-season honors, not up to scratch. The Pens' PP was misfiring, Phil Kessel couldn't create chemistry with any of his linemates, and the D looked weak. The team was in such poor shape that some in the media even speculated whether the GM himself was secure. I assume he is secure for life now.
Playoff hockey and a new hero:
Needless to say, the Pens roared into the playoffs in style. Sidney Crosby finished third in scoring, his 85pts some 21 behind Patrick Kane. Kris Letang potted a career-high 67pts. Kessel, Malkin and Hornqvist all scored more than 50pts. Depth came from the likes of Matt Cullen, Bryan Rust, Nick Bonino and Carl Hagelin. This team may have begun the season poorly, but they were ready for the playoffs.
In winning their second Cup of the salary cap era, the Pens saw off the challenge of the New York Rangers (in 5), the much-fancied Washington Capitals (in 6), the Tampa Bay Lightning (in 7), and the Sharks (in 6). I'd say that if any team can get through that route, they deserve to win the Cup.
Sidney Crosby, Conn Smythe Winner:
The votes were counted and verified. While some would have preferred to see rookie goalie Matt Murray hoist the Conn Smythe, and others one of Kris Letang or Phil Kessel, it is perhaps only fitting that the Pens' captain, Sidney Crosby, has finally won the most important individual accolade in the NHL.
He put up 6 goals, 13 assists, 3 game winners (tops on the team, one ahead of a certain Mr Bonino), and went at more than 52% on faceoffs. He called their winning play in Game 2 of the Final. He scored a crucial OT goal in the Eastern Finals. He led this team from its poor start, put up stellar regular-season numbers once Mike Sullivan came in, and now has two Cups to Alex Ovechkin's zero, a Conn Smythe, and two Olympic gold medals to go alongside his Golden Goal. Not a bad resume for a 28 year old many still refer to as "Sid the Kid".
Elsewhere (click the links at the start of each sentence for more):
- Elliotte Friedman's latest 30 thoughts came out a couple of days ago - in it, he speculates as to the Canucks' draft and UFA options.
- TheScore reported on the Marc Savard trade this weekend - stating that the Panthers now have more than $20m in cap space. Considering that they traded Erik Gudbranson because of his contract demands, shouldn't they have made this move weeks ago?
- Jeff Gordon at the St Louis Post-Dispatch lists ten players linked to trades recently. Shattenkirk, Barrie, Vatanen...one can dream, right?
- Sportsnet looking at Edmonton picking at #4 - surely they can't fail to secure an elite D for another season, can they? Whether it's selecting Chychrun, Juolevi or Sergachev at #4, or trading RNH/Eberle for a D, this summer HAS to be the summer where Edmonton gets their stuff together.
With the Stanley Cup on its way to Pittsburgh, attention will now shift to the 2016 Entry Draft on 24 June. Only 11 days until we find out what that #5 pick will bring.