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VIDEO: Penguins Win Fourth Stanley Cup, Down Sharks In 6
By Jameson Bradley
The Sam Jose Sharks made for an interesting series on Thursday night when they pushed for a Game 6, keeping the Pittsburgh Penguins at bay and from winning the Stanley Cup at home. Everything seemed to be tilted in their favor to push for a Game 7. They had the home crowd going. They knew where to strike. They had the momentum. All they needed to do was pull the trigger and make things happen. With the way that Martin Jones played on Thursday and the goal-less monkey finally off Joe Pavelski‘s back, it seemed like the stars had aligned for a truly miraculous come back on Sunday night.
As usual in these games the Penguins came out skating and the Sharks came out swimming. For the first couple minutes it was all Penguins. You would think they were the ones fighting for their lives in the finals, not the Sharks. They controlled the zones fairly well, but something that they did amazingly well was board play. They didn’t need to pass the puck in because they always seemed to get to the puck before any Sharks were even close when they chipped it. This allowed them to set up some pretty miraculous plays. A nifty play by Sidney Crosby with a behind the back through the legs pass almost led to a goal. While the Penguins were showing off, the Sharks could barely get the puck out of the zone. Things paid off for the Penguins when the Sharks were called for a tripping play and they went on the PP. They had a PP goal in Games 4 and 5 and they looked to make it three straight. A pass on the blue line led to Brian Dumoulin controlling the puck. He went for a shot, but the Melker Karlsson went for the shot block. Brian Dumoulin held on to the puck, which took Melker Karlsson out of position and got Jones to bite just a bit. Dumoulin let one go, and Penguins were up 1-0. The Penguins would end the period with that score, but not without a wealth of opportunities to make it more. The Sharks had some chances, but they were lucky to make it out 0-1. The shots would be in favor of the Penguins 9-4.
The Sharks showed up in the 2nd and the Penguins stayed in the locker room. It was shot after shot after shot against Murray and he was making some incredible saves. What looked like a no brainer goal was broken up by Crosby as the Sharks came within inches of tying it up early. They would tie it about 6 minutes in. After an extremely long shift for the Penguins they tried to get it out and started changing too early. Brent Burns kept the puck around the line and shifted it to Logan Couture who was on the opposite side of the change that was happening. With all the open ice an Eskimo could want, Couture caught the Penguins flat footed. He did a slight toe drag and shot the puck right under Murray’s left pad. 1-1 Sharks and boy was the Shark tank on fire. It would only last about a minute though before the Penguins would respond. A great pass by Crosby behind the net to an open Kris Letang below the circles would make the game 2-1. The second would finish with shots in favor of the Sharks 13-11.
After a couple minutes in the 3rd period you got the feeling the Sharks were going to have to pull something different to tie it up. A couple plays in and the Penguins already had 4 shots on goal and the Sharks had 0. They would get a PP to try and make a difference, but the Penguins just seemed to be reading everything a couple seconds before the Sharks could do it. The Penguins picked the best period in the series to play well with the lead. Rookie goaltender Matt Murray did a fantastic job. He would end the game with 18 saves and only allowing 1 goal. The Penguins would seal the deal with an empty net goal by Patric Hornqvist.
The Penguins earned every single second of this. They played an amazing series against every team they faced. Remember how they took out the Capitals a couple rounds ago? The Capitals, who were supposed to win it all? They played a different game every series, and showed they were the best team in the league. That isn’t to say the Sharks didn’t play an amazing post season. They went further than they ever had, and they did it in style. But the thing that set the Penguins apart from the Sharks was that they were able to change their game. Both teams relied heavily on their big guns in the first round. But once Crosby and Evgeni Malkin started cooling off, other names began to step up for the Penguins. That didn’t happen with the Sharks. Their stars didn’t cool off until the last round, but when they did they had a problem.
I 100% agree with Crosby getting the Conn Smythe Trophy for playoff MVP. His numbers might not have been what they could have been (6G 13A), but anyone who watched those games saw the difference he made every shift. In my opinion, he truly is the greatest to play the game. I think we can expect more from him in the seasons to come. It was nice to see Phil Kessel finally win the Cup after being traded from the Maple Leafs in the off season. Once presented with the Cup, Crosby handed it to Trevor Daley, who was acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks mid-season. He played a pivotal role on the Penguins blue-line until a broken bone led to being side-lined for the rest of the playoffs. He would then pass it to Pascal Dupuis. Dupuis played 9 seasons with the Penguins, often playing on the same line as Crosby. He announced back in December that he was no longer able to play hockey because of problems with blood clots. It was amazing to see him out there on the ice one last time, but this time as a Stanley Cup Champion.
After a long season, the wait is finally over. The Pittsburgh Penguins are your 2016 Stanley Cup Champions. They deserve it in every sense of the way, and I think this team can produce great things in the next couple of years. It was a fairy tale ending, to a perfect story. This was a team that started with some of the biggest names in the NHL back in October and couldn’t seem to string a win together. They had injuries all year with their blue line. They fired their coach mid season, and back in December were out of the playoffs completely. They came back and defied all of that.
Congratulations to the organization, their fans, and their players. See you in October.