Pittsburgh Penguins: 2017 Stanley Cup Champions

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They did it again.  I can’t say I don’t believe it since this was the expected result, yet I kinda don’t want to believe.  Two years in a row, the Pittsburgh Penguins are the Stanley Cup champions.  They are the first team to repeat since the 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings and the first to do so in the salary cap era.  Two years in a row they’ve faced an opponent in its first Cup Final appearance after years and years of playoff struggles, and both times they won the Cup in six games in said opponents’ buildings.

Nashville put up a fight though.  After two games, both of which were won by Pittsburgh after a brief flurry of goals surrounded by an extended period of Predator domination, this series could have been over.  Instead the Preds stormed back to take the next two by a combined score of 9-2.  But, unfortunately, the offensive injuries came back to haunt Nashville and they went scoreless during their last two games.  And how about that, Matt Murray?  Two shutouts to win the Cup, the second Cup of his as a rookie.  How weird.

Playoff Series
2017-05-29; NSH 3, PIT 5
2017-05-31; NSH 1, PIT 4
2017-06-03; PIT 1, NSH 5
2017-06-05; PIT 1, NSH 4
2017-06-08; NSH 0, PIT 6
2017-06-11; PIT 2, NSH 0
PIT defeats NSH: 4-2
Prediction: Penguins in 6 ✓✓

You know, I haven’t seen much talk about these Penguins as a dynasty.  Since bringing the core of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and Marc-Andre Fleury together, they’d been contenders every year and since their first Cup appearance in 2008, it seemed like they could win the Cup each time.  Well, it took until 2015-16 to get a second, but it almost looks like this team will never lose again.

Speaking of pseudo-dynasties, a curious thing has happened, one which I even had an inkling of last year.  Let’s look at the Stanley Cup champion teams between 1994 and 2004 and also those of the last nine seasons:

1995 New Jersey Devils 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins
1996 Colorado Avalanche 2010 Chicago Blackhawks
1997 Detroit Red Wings 2011 Boston Bruins
1998 Detroit Red Wings 2012 Los Angeles Kings
1999 Dallas Stars 2013 Chicago Blackhawks
2000 New Jersey Devils 2014 Los Angeles Kings
2001 Colorado Avalanche 2015 Chicago Blackhawks
2002 Detroit Red Wings 2016 Pittsburgh Penguins
2003 New Jersey Devils 2017 Pittsburgh Penguins

During each eight year span, four teams won the Cup.  Two of them won thrice, one won twice, and one oddball won once.  One team won back to back.  Of the teams that won thrice, one pair was from the east, one pair was from the west.  The teams that won twice were both from the west and both won their first two Cups.

If you want to get weirder, the Cup champions before these years were both Original six.  Even weirder, the Cup Finals before that was Canada versus California.  But yeah, this is pretty strange.  After the parity of the first few years of the salary cap era, we’re seemingly back to where we started.  Hopefully history continues to repeat and somebody wins their first Cup next year, and hopefully they do it without controversy.

Speaking of controversy, I can’t help but think that this series might have ended differently if Colton Sissons’ opening goal wasn’t waved off.  There’s not a lot to be done now, of course, but who knows what might have been.  With the home team winning every game until then, this series was shaping up to be a lot like Vancouver/Boston.  It was a bitterly contested matchup with blowouts, on-ice antics, simultaneously stellar and porous goaltending, a team with a rabid fanbase chasing its first Cup, and a team winning it all on the road while wearing black and yellow.

And like that 2011 series, the ending was anticlimactic as hell.  This is the Cup winning goal.  The dagger with 95 seconds left was hardly even a shot.

It wasn’t just that though.  I feel like, since most of these guys just won last year, this wasn’t special.  The celebrations seemed less enthusiastic.  Maybe it was the lack of a home crowd that did it, I’m not sure.  Maybe I projected my own personal feelings of being let down on the Penguins.  I don’t know.  I was really into this year’s playoffs, shockingly so without a true rooting interest, but this ending just doesn’t do anything for me.

I must salute you, Nashville.  There were many who didn’t realize how great of a fanbase you were, and during the home game broadcasts were we told this fact over and over.  It’s true that it’d always been like this, and luckily for the league as a whole, it will continue.  Your contention window is wide open, so I have no doubt that the Predators are now firmly one of the most marketable teams in the NHL; likely we’ll see much more of them in the spotlight next year.  How about an outdoor game in Tennessee?

I say this every year it seems, but I am excited for this offseason.  The Vegas Golden Knights are finally here — their expansion draft roster will be revealed just 9 days from today.  Also, every NHL team is getting new jerseys, some of which involve rumored overhauls and/or jersey promotions, and each of them will also be revealed on the 21st 20th.  Oh yeah, this Penguins team?  They were built in large part by the man who now runs the Buffalo Sabres.  As if I needed another reason to be hyped about my hometown team’s never-ending rebuild.  I can only hope that what he helped to accomplish in Pittsburgh can be done up north as well.

It’s going to be a fun rest of June.  Time to relax and enjoy the show.

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