Were you a time traveler from the early part of the 2015-16 National Hockey League season, there is no way you would believe the words I am about to type. The Pittsburgh Penguins have won the Stanley Cup.
If you think back to the lackluster start the team got off to and all of the hand-wringing about Sidney Crosby being “washed up,” then their 3-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks tonight at the SAP Center would not even seem plausible.
But the Penguins prevailed. They spent a good deal of the start of the year out of a playoff position, shooting up the Eastern Conference standings around the time the Devils began to drop down, and are now champions.
Brian Dumoulin got the Pens on the board 8:16 into game six, taking a 1-0 lead. Logan Couture tied things up 6:27 into the second period, but Pittsburgh would strike just 1:19 later when Kris Letang scored the eventual game winner for the Pens. Patric Hornqvist added an empty net goal late in the third to ice the game for the Penguins.
The championship is the fourth in the history of the Penguins and their first since 2009 when they defeated the Detroit Red Wings.
This year’s Cup Final eerily mirrored Pete DeBoer’s last trip to the Finals, which was with the Devils in 2012. DeBoer’s teams fell behind early both times (two games to none), made a series of it, then ultimately fell in six games. The games were all pretty close for the most part, as well, both in 2012 and 2016.
And like the 2012 Kings, the 2016 Penguins rode a hot goalie through the playoffs. Matt Murray was a relatively unknown commodity before he burst on the scene and now the rookie, who played only 13 games in the regular season, has helped get the Penguins the 16 wins necessary to win the Stanley Cup.
The Conn Smythe Trophy, given to the playoff MVP, went to Sidney Crosby. Again, this is an amazing turnaround considering what some fans (and even some analysts) were muttering amongst themselves early in the season. But Crosby got the best revenge of all on everyone by winning.
Congratulations to the Pittsburgh Penguins on a job well done in 2016. Next up, the Draft and then, before we know it, the World Cup of Hockey in September and the 2016-17 hockey season will be here.