Posts Tagged Pittsburgh Penguins
Because of my work schedule this upcoming week, I won’t have time to post the Metropolitan Division preview on Saturday. So here’s my predictions on the Metropolitan Division for this upcoming season.
Key Additions: Justin Williams, Marcus Kruger, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Scott Darling
Key Losses: None
The Hurricanes just might be the most improved team in the Metropolitan Division, for the fact that they have one of the most up-and-coming defense cores in the NHL. Add that Scott Darling will have his chance of being the #1 goaltender, and the Canes just might be knocking on the doorstep of the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Key Addition: Artemi Panarin
Key Losses: Brandon Saad, Sam Gagner
The Blue Jackets had the best season ever for a franchise. They capped the 2016 calendar year by winning 16 in a row. The only thing that stopped them was a first-round matchup against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Now, the Jackets need to build off of last season, and they did it with a blockbuster trade, sending Brandon Saad back to Chicago in exchange for Artemi Panarin. Panarin will be that first-line playmaker the Jackets need to get through the likes of the Penguins and the Capitals in the first round the playoffs. Either way, expectations will be elevated in the Buckeye State this season.
New Jersey Devils
Key Additions: Marcus Johansson, Brian Boyle
Key Losses: None
Thanks to a couple of bouncing balls, the New Jersey Devils ended up picking #1 overall at the NHL Draft last June, and selected Nico Hischier. Hischier, who models his game after Pavel Datsyuk, gives the Devils a top center they’ve been looking for for a while. It may not lead to a playoff spot this season, but the Devils will be vastly improved from last season.
New York Islanders
Key Additions: Jordan Eberle, Kristers Gudlevskis
Key Losses: Mikhail Grabovski, Ryan Strome, Travis Hamonic
Let’s face the facts: the New York Islanders are officially a team in limbo. It all depends whether or not John Tavares wants to stay with the Islanders for the rest of his career. If the Isles say no, they can begin the painful process of rebuilding. If the Isles can get Tavares to re-sign, they can continue to contend, but the Islanders need to build around Tavares, starting with rebuilding the defense. Either way, this season doesn’t look good for the Isles.
New York Rangers
Key Additions: Kevin Shattenkirk, Anthony DeAngelo, David Desharnais, Ondrej Pavelec
Key Losses: Dan Girardi, Derek Stepan, Antti Raanta
The Rangers started to retool by signing the biggest name in free agency in the offseason. Kevin Shattenkirk, who began last season in St. Louis, then traded to Washington as a rental player, now calls his hometown team as his own. Along with captain Ryan McDonagh, the Rangers still look to keep the championship window open with a more skilled defense.
Key Additions: Brian Elliott, Jori Lehtera
Key Losses: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Brayden Schenn
One of the most obvious problems last year for the Flyers was having a #1 goaltender. That problem should be fixed after the Flyers signed veteran goaltender Brian Elliott from free agency. Even with the addition of #2 pick Nolan Patrick, I don’t see the Flyers improving nor regressing this season. Still, the Flyers are a work in progress.
Key Addition: Matt Hunwick, Antti Niemi, Ryan Reaves
Key Losses: Marc-Andre Fleury, Trevor Daley, Nick Bonino, Chris Kunitz, Ron Hainsey, Mark Streit
The Penguins did what no team has done in the last 20 years last year: repeat as Stanley Cup Champions. Now they are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Stanley Cup Championships since the New York Islanders dynasty of the early 1980s. And this team is primed to do so, even without Marc-Andre Fleury in net. Matt Murray will officially take helm as the Penguins #1 goalie, and when you have Sidney Crosby, the best player of this generation, as a Penguins fan you’ve got to like your chances of pulling off a threepeat and cementing themselves as the Dynasty of the 2010s.
Prediction: Metropolitan Division Champions
Key Addition: Devante Smith-Pelly
Key Losses: Marcus Johansson, Kevin Shattenkirk, Karl Alzner
The Capitals won the Presidents’ Trophy for the second straight season last season. They were ousted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round for the second straight season. After a Cup-or-bust season, the Caps look to this season once again facing the reality that their championship window might be closed after this season. Alex Ovechkin scored a measly 33 goals last season, which wasn’t up to “Ovi standards”. The Caps are still good, but this is a contract year for head coach Barry Trotz. Is he willing to lead the course for the Capitals moving forward, or do they need a new leader that can get them over the hump that is the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs?
When I started this blog before the 2011-12 NHL season, the one question that hadn’t been answered was can an NHL team repeat as Stanley Cup champions? Here’s the results of defending Stanley Cup Champions the year after they won in the post-lockout era:
- 2006: Tampa Bay Lightning — finished 8th in the Eastern Conference; lost to the Ottawa Senators in five games in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
- 2007: Carolina Hurricanes — finished 11th in the Eastern Conference; failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
- 2008: Anaheim Ducks — finished 4th in the Western Conference; lost to the Dallas Stars in six games in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.
- 2009: Detroit Red Wings — finished 2nd in the Western Conference; lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games in the Stanley Cup Final.
- 2010: Pittsburgh Penguins — finished 4th in the Eastern Conference; lost to the Montreal Canadiens in seven games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
- 2011: Chicago Blackhawks — finished 8th in the Western Conference; lost to the Vancouver Canucks in seven games in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.
- 2012: Boston Bruins — finished 2nd in the Eastern Conference; lost to the Washington Capitals in seven games in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
- 2013: Los Angeles Kings — finished 5th in the Western Conference; lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in five games in the Western Conference Final.
- 2014: Chicago Blackhawks — finished 3rd in the Central Division; lost to the Los Angeles Kings in seven games in the Western Conference Final.
- 2015: Los Angeles Kings— finished 4th in the Pacific Division; failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
- 2016: Chicago Blackhawks — finished 3rd in the Central Division; lost to the St. Louis Blues in seven games in the First Round.
In the last four years, both the Los Angeles Kings and the Chicago Blackhawks both had multiple chances to repeat, but didn’t. The Detroit Red Wings came the closest to repeating, but lost in seven games to the Penguins. So what made the 2016-17 Pittsburgh Penguins the first repeat Stanley Cup champions in nineteen seasons, and the first to do so in the salary cap era? Despite being riddled with injuries all season long, players stepped up, whether it be from Wilkes-Barre (Jake Guentzel), or from somewhere else (Ron Hainsey), and battled their way through the NHL’s toughest division, the Metropolitan Division — where all four playoff-qualified teams had a 100+ point season. They began the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a tough First Round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets. They went past the Jackets, who were led by the best regular-season goaltender (Sergei Bobrovsky) and best regular-season head coach (John Tortorella), in six games. In the Second Round, they once again faced the Presidents’ Trophy winners — the team with the best regular-season record, the Washington Capitals. It was a very difficult Second Round series that went the distance, but once again, the Penguins prevailed. In the Eastern Conference Final, they faced the Ottawa Senators — a defensive-minded team that dispatched the Atlantic Division champion Montreal Canadiens in the First Round six games, and then went on to beat the New York Rangers in the Second Round in six games. The Penguins looked to be in trouble when Marc-Andre Fleury was pulled in Game 3. But Matt Murray, the goaltender who led the Penguins to the Stanley Cup last year, took the reins behind the pipes, and helped the Penguins in this back-and-forth series that went the distance. That series ended in epic fashion when Chris Kunitz buried the winning goal in the second overtime of Game 7. In the Stanley Cup Final, they took on the Western Conference champion Nashville Predators, who made it to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history by upsetting the Central Division champion Chicago Blackhawks in the First Round in four straight games, then dispatched the St. Louis Blues in six games the Second Round, and then dispatched the Pacific Division champion Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference in six games. Both teams held serve throughout the first five games, the last one was a 6-0 thrashing that saw Pekka Rinne being pulled from the net for the second straight game in Pittsburgh. And just like in 1991 in Bloomington, Minnesota, 1992 in Chicago,, 2009 in Detroit, and last year in San Jose, the Penguins became the first team in the salary-cap era to repeat as Stanley Cup champions when former Predator Patric Hornqvist buried the game-winning goal past Rinne with 1:35 left in regulation time. Carl Hagelin’s empty-net goal sealed the deal for the Pens. With seven points (one goal and six assists) in the Stanley Cup Final, Sidney Crosby joined Bobby Orr, Bernie Parent, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, and Patrick Roy to win the Conn Smythe Trophy multiple times, with Parent, Lemieux, and himself winning it in consecutive years.
Two years ago, I wrote why the Chicago Blackhawks could be a modern-day dynasty. After what happened last night, the Pittsburgh Penguins just supplanted the Blackhawks as the standard in the NHL. They did something what the Hawks, the Kings, Red Wings, and to a further extent, the 2001 New Jersey Devils, and the 2000 Stars didn’t do: successfully repeat as Stanley Cup champions, and to do it where a budget is enforced is a rare feat. Not to take away what the Blackhawks have done by winning three Stanley Cup championships in a six-year span, but repeating as champions always — ALWAYS — trumps winning a x-amount of championships in a specific time-span. And they’re not going to be done in the future. Las Vegas sports books have the Penguins as a early favorite to win the Stanley Cup in 2018, and hopefully become the first team to win three consecutive Stanley Cup Championships since the New York Islanders of the early 1980s. You might love them, or you may hate them, but you better give the 2016-17 Pittsburgh Penguins the respect it deserves after what they’ve done to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. Repeating as champions is a very rare feat in sports, so I want you to soak it all in really good, because this is a feat that might never, ever happen again.
This is a historic Stanley Cup Final for a couple of reasons.
- The Nashville Predators are looking to become the 24th team to win the Stanley Cup in the 124-year history of North America’s oldest major Professional Sports Championship Trophy.
- The Pittsburgh Penguins are looking to become the first repeat Stanley Cup Champion in 19 years, and the first to do so in the Salary Cap era.
- This will be the first Stanley Cup Final to feature two American-born Head Coaches (Peter Laviolette was born in Franklin, Massachusetts; Mike Sullivan was born in Marshfield, Massachusetts)
The Nashville Predators earned their way here by sweeping the Chicago Blackhawks in four straight games, beating the St. Louis Blues in six games, and then beating the Anaheim Ducks in six games in the Western Conference Final. If you take a look at the Preds, they are the most balanced team in the NHL. They have the best defensive core; their goaltender, Pekka Rinne, has been the best goaltender in the playoffs;, and despite losing Ryan Johansen to injury, a team that has been historically defense-first, is actually offensively balanced, thanks to forwards Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, and Pontus Aberg.
The Pittsburgh Penguins got here by beating the three toughest teams in the Eastern Conference: the Columbus Blue Jackets in six games; the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington Capitals in seven games, and the stingy Ottawa Senators in seven games. Despite having numerous injuries sustained in the playoffs, headlined by defenseman Kris Letang, the Pens’ resiliency, along with their best players coming up big when it mattered the most, have brought them back to the Stanley Cup Final, with a chance to become the first team in 19 years to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions.
Now there are a couple of things I’m looking for throughout the series. For Nashville, can they contain the Penguins’ two centers, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin? Can they shut down the Penguins’ Power Play? Can Pekka Rinne keep his performance up for one more best-of-7 playoff series? For Pittsburgh, can they slow down the Predators top line? Can they find a way to put a chink in the Predators defense? Can Matt Murray do it again after playing the last four games of the Eastern Conference Final? Can the Penguins take advantage of a Predators that haven’t played in a week? If you take a look at experience, only one person on the Predators has had Stanley Cup Final experience: Mike Fisher was playing for the Ottawa Senators when they lost to the Anaheim Ducks ten years ago. This will be the fourth time the Penguins have made it to the Stanley Cup Final in the last ten years. They’ve been here before. They’ve experienced a lot. They know what it takes to win. They have what it takes to win. The potential of repeating as Stanley Cup Champions in the salary-cap era will be be a huge achievement. It could be the potential start of a legit dynasty. Either way, this series is gonna be a great one, unlike that other league where they have the same Finals matchup for the third straight year.
Prediction: PIT in 6
Here’s my predictions on the Metropolitan Division this season.
Key Additions: Bryan Bickell, Teuvo Teravainen, Viktor Stalberg, Lee Stempniak
Key Loss: Riley Nash
Don’t call the Carolina Hurricanes the Blackhawks Rejects this season. They were the beneficiary of a team that needed to shed cap space. This team is in the middle on not a rebuild, but a retool. Thanks to the emergence of their young defense core, and young stars like Victor Rask and Phil Di Giuseppe, there should be a sense of optimism for Caniacs. Heck, they almost made a playoff push, but they’re still a long ways to go in the second-most competitive division in the NHL.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Key Additions: Sam Gagner
Key Loss: Fedor Tyutin
Not a lot of turnover happened in Columbus, but the Blue Jackets are gonna have a full season under John Tortorella. Whether this leads to a successful season or not depends on the health of Sergei Bobrovsky. If Bob remains healthy, maybe the Jackets have a shot.
New Jersey Devils
Key Additions: Taylor Hall, Ben Lovejoy, Vernon Fiddler, Kyle Quincey
Key Loss: Adam Larsson
This, by far, should be the most improved team in the Eastern Conference. The Devils finally have a top-line forward that could play with Kyle Palmieri. Add in a rising star netminder like Cory Schneider, and maybe the Devils will have a chance to contend for a playoff spot this season.
New York Islanders
Key Additions: Andrew Ladd, Jason Chimera, P.A. Parenteau, Dennis Seidenberg
Key Losses: Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen, Matt Martin
The New York Islanders had an amazing first season at Barclays Center. They won their first playoff series since knocking out the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1993. So how do you top that? You get experience. Andrew Ladd, a two-time Stanley Cup champion and former team captain, brings experience to the table. So to does Jason Chimera. But despite the departures of Kyle Okposo, Matt Martin, and Frans Nielsen due to free agency, the Islanders restocked with unknowns who proven themselves in the playoffs last season in Shane Prince and Alan Quine.
New York Rangers
Key Additions: Jimmy Vesey, Michael Grabner, Mika Zibanejad
Key Losses: Viktor Stalberg, Dominic Moore
The championship window for the New York Rangers is slowly starting to close. Call it natural regression. After all the success the Rangers had the last few years, eventually, time catches up to you. But despite all of this, the Rangers still are not willing to close that window shut. Especially not on Henrik Lundqvist’s watch. They also added 2016 Hobey Baker Award winner Jimmy Vesey to the roster, so don’t expect any major regression.
Key Addition: Dale Weise
Key Loss: Sam Gagner
No one thought the Flyers would make it to the playoffs in Dave Hakstol’s first season as head coach. But thanks to the emergence of Calder Trophy finalist Shayne Gostisbehere and play from goalie Michal Neuvirth, the Flyers made it in as a Wild Card..The Flyers have one of the best up-and-coming defensemen in their system in 2015 first-round draft pick Ivan Provorov. If Gostisbehere and Provorov are paired together, this pair could be just as effective as any good defensive pair in the NHL.
Key Addition: Ben Lovejoy
Key Loss: None
The penguins have a legitimate shot to become the first repeat Stanley Cup champion in 20 years all because of one reason: most of the team that helped win the Stanley Cup in 2016 are still in Pittsburgh. With the exception of the 2014 Chicago Blackhawks, nearly ever Stanley Cup Champion in the last 8 seasons has had a tough time defending the Cup the following season because of massive turnover occurring during the offseason. When you see the Penguins on the ice this season, what you see is practically the same team that won 16 games when it mattered most en route to their fourth Stanley Cup in 50 years.
Key Addition: Lars Eller
Key Loss: Jason Chimera
Last season, the Capitals had their best season ever. They had the best goal-scorer (Alex Ovechkin), best coach (Barry Trotz), and the best goalie (Braden Holtby). They had everything you could imagine for, except they were beten by the eventual Stanley Cup champions in the second round in six games. but much like their rival, there’s little to no turnover in the offeseason in Washington. So I’d expect nothing less for the Capitals to still be the dominant team in the Metropolitan Division.
Prediction: Metropolitan Division Champions
Back in December, if you have told me the Pittsburgh Penguins were going to become Stanley Cup Champions by the time June comes, I would have not believed it. When the 2015 calendar year ended, the Penguins were 18-15-4, and didn’t even look like a playoff contending team. Since winning the Stanley Cup in 2009, the Penguins, despite all their successes during that 7-year span, hit the proverbial glass ceiling in the playoffs, losing in the first round three times. the second round twice, and advancing to the Eastern Conference Final during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, only to be swept in four straight games to the Boston Bruins. But when the calendar flipped to 2016, the journey to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ fourth Stanley Cup Championship in franchise history started to write itself. And it all began with a major blockbuster trade in July.
On the first day of free agency, Jim Rutherford made a huge splash in trading for Toronto Maple Leafs goal-scorer Phil Kessel. A few weeks after acquiring Kessel, a trade with the Vancouver Canucks exchanged Brandon Sutter for Nick Bonino. Hope for the Penguins didn’t come early as they started the season dropping their first three games. then a 6-4-2 November didn’t bring any more optimism. After a 3-2 shootout loss to the Los Angeles Kings on December 11, the Penguins were 15-10-3, which was the 12th best record in the Eastern Conference at the time. Penguins fans knew that eminent change was needed if they were going to contend. The Penguins went in a different direction, firing head coach Mike Johnston and promoting Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach Mike Sullivan to Penguins interim head coach. Just before their next game against the Washington Capitals, another move was made when veteran defenseman Rob Scuderi, who was in his second stint with the Penguins, was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks for defenseman Trevor Daley. Daley struggled in Chicago, only registering 6 assists in 29 games played, and knew that success wouldn’t come with a team that won three Stanley Cup Championships in the last seven seasons. In the first fifteen games played under Sullivan, the Penguins were 5-6-4, and were still battling for a wild-card spot. On January 16, a trade with the Anaheim Ducks proved vital to what was a bout to come. The Penguins received speedy forward Carl Hagelin in exchange for forward David Perron and defenseman Adam Clendening. After the trade, the Penguins started to heat up, and there was no turning back.
The Penguins went on a 28-10-1 tear after the Hagelin acquisition, and finished the season 48-26-8, which was good to finish second in the Metropolitan Division, in spite of injuries to Evgeni Malkin, who missed 26 games in the final 2 1/2 months of the season. After a 5-2 win over the Nashville Predators on March 31, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was diagnosed with a concussion. Matt Murray, who began the season as the starting goaltender in Wilkes-Barre, started four of the Penguins’ final five games of the season. He won all four of his starts as the Penguins were ready to face the New York Rangers in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In the first round, the normal backup goaltender to Fleury, Jeff Zatkoff, started for the Penguins. After a 4-1 home loss to the Rangers in Game 2, Murray became the starting goaltender. After beating the Rangers in five games, the next opponent for the Penguins was the Presidents’ Trophy winner and Metropolitan Division champion Washington Capitals. A huge underdog to the Capitals, the Penguins beat the Capitals in six games, and it was all due to a line that was supposed to be their third, but played like they were the first line. The line that consisted of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino, and Phil Kessel suddenly became the talk of Pittsburgh and the entire sports world. Dubbed the HBK Line by WXDX-FM afternoon host, former World Championship Wrestling commentator, Mark Madden, the HBK Line was crucial in the Penguins run to the Stanley Cup. Combined during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Hagelin, Bonino, and Kessel had 20 goals and 56 points. The HBK Line even went up as the namesake od a sandwich at one of the most famous restaurants in the Steel City: Primanti Bros. decided to make a combination sandwich combining ham, bacon, and kielbasa, into one of their signature sandwiches that has fries, slaw and tomatoes inside. In the Eastern Conference Final against the defending Eastern Conference champion Tampa Bay Lightning, the Penguins split the first four games of the series. In Game 4, after the Lightning had a commanding 4-0 lead, Fleury relieved Murray. Heading into Game 5, a dilemma was brought forth: should Fleury start Game 5? They took that chance, and eventually lost the game 4-3, sending the series back to Tampa with a chance for the Lightning to return to the Stanley Cup Final. In Game 6, Murray once again became the no. 1 goalie for the Penguins. They took Game 6, 5-2, and sent the series back to Pittsburgh for Game 7. In that game, rookie Bryan Rust scored both goals for the Penguins as they advanced to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2009.
In the Stanley Cup Final, the Penguins faced the San Jose Sharks, who finally broke through under first-year head coach Peter DeBoer. The Penguins held fort on home ice taking the first two games of the Final. After splitting the next two games in San Jose, the Penguins returned to Pittsburgh with a chance to win the Stanley Cup on home ice. The party would have to wait as the Sharks forced a Game 6 back in San Jose with a 4-2 win. In their last game wearing Vegas Gold, the Penguins, much like they did in Minnesota in 1991, Chicago in 1992, and Detroit in 2009, won the Stanley Cup on the road with a 3-1 win over the Sharks in San Jose. Captain Sidney Crosby was named the winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Most Valuable Player in the Playoffs. As Crosby raised up the Cup, the first person he passed the Cup to was Trevor Daley, who broke his ankle in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final. Since being traded, Daley had six goals, 16 assists in 53 games played in the regular season, and had a goal and five assists in 15 games played in the playoffs. Three days after their triumph, the Penguins celebrated down the Boulevard of The Allies in front of an estimated crowd of over 400,000. The HBK Line was honored with a WWE World Heavyweight Championship belt sent by WWE COO Paul “Triple H” Levesque, and Nick Bonino’s game-winning goal in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final was saluted by the man who called the game in Punjabi for Canada, Harnarayan Singh. The mix of speed, skill, and the emergence of unknowns like Murray, Rust, and even Brian Dumoulin and Conor Sheary made the 2015-16 Pittsburgh Penguins so special, and team that looked like they were done for back in December, now sits on top of the hockey world as Stanley Cup Champions.
Well, it has been another amazing season. Unless there’s something that interests me, I’m not gonna do much posting here this summer. So I hope you enjoy the summer. The next time you probably hear from me will be during the World Cup of Hockey. So until then, I’m signing out.
Have you ever heard of Andrew Fetterly Wilkes-Krier? No? Well, this is a story of him and how his biggest hit influenced a team trying to find their way to make that song one of their own.
In the year 2000, Wilkes-Krier, the son of a University of Michigan Law School professor and a violinist, was trying to find his way into the world of music. Going by the name Andrew W.K., he released his first EP, AWKGOJ. His music was originally described as “hedonistic, so-dumb-it’s-smart rawk.” Today, we call it “party music”. He sent copies of demos to every major record label or musicians that had connections to those record labels. One of those demos was sent to Dave Grohl, former drummer of Nirvana and current lead singer/guitarist of the Foo Fighters. He was impressed by Andrew’s demo, that he wanted his band to open up for the Foo Fighters in San Francisco. After a performance at the Mercury Lounge in New York’s Lower East Side, Island/Def Jam Music Group executive Lewis Largent decided to give Andrew and his band a record deal with Island Records. His first album, I Get Wet, was released. The cover of the album was a picture of Andrew’s face that was bloodied from the nose down. Originally, Andrew smashed his nose in with a brick to create the album cover.But since the effect wasn’t bloody enough, blood purchased from a butcher shop was used to enhance the goriness of the photo. The album’s first single, “Party Hard”, was the definition of what “party music”: upbeat, positive, and colorful, with a touch of anarchy. And you can sense it even from the way he dresses for every concert: in a plain white shirt, dirty white jeans, and wearing running shoes. Fast forward 14 years later. when Nicholas Doblick, a die-hard Pittsburgh Penguins fan who manages The Sports Daily’s Pittsburgh sports blog PSAMP (Pittsburgh Sports and Mini Ponies), suggested the Penguins Game Productions team to use “Party Hard” as their new goal song. (to read the full blog entry, click here) Over the last 10 years, NHL teams tried to find a niche into taking a song and using it as their own instead of going the conventional rout of using Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll Part 2” or Blur’s “Song 2”. It worked in Anaheim with Pennywise’s “Bro Hymn“, “Kernkraft 400” by Zombie Nation in Boston, Joe Satriani’s “Crowd Chant” in Minnesota, and most significantly, The Fratellis’ “Chelsea Dagger” in Chicago. Change didn’t come easily, but during the Penguins 6th home game – the game where Buffalo Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma returned to Pittsburgh in his first game on the visiting bench after leading the Penguins to a Stanley Cup in 2009 – during the first minute of play, Pascal Dupuis’ first goal of the season lead to this:
Since then, #PartyHard has been the statement du jour for the Penguins this season. Even Andrew W.K. himself showed up to a Penguins game this season. And now with the Penguins just one win away from their first Stanley Cup Championship since 2009, this song can officially be permanently etched into Penguins lore forever ’cause like the song says when it’s time to party, we will always party hard.
If you can put the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs in only one word, it would be this: UNPREDICTABLE.
Who would have thought that the two teams that have represented in the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Final in the last four years — the Chicago Blackhawks and the Los Angeles Kings — would have their postseason run end after only just one round?
Who would have thought that the New York Islanders would win a playoff series for the first time in 23 years?
Who would have thought that the St. Louis Blues would the last Central Division team standing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs?
Who would have thought that the San Jose Sharks would finally make the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in their quarter-century history of their franchise?
Who would have thought that the Pittsburgh Penguins would make it back to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2009 WITHOUT Marc-Andre Fleury as the starting goaltender?
If you’d ask me those five questions before the Stanley Cup Playoffs started, I would’ve said “you’re crazy.” But it happened, and now, the Sharks and the Penguins will battle it out for the oldest trophy in North American professional sports. The Penguins are looking to become the ninth team in NHL history to win at least four Stanley Cup championships. The Sharks are looking to become the nineteenth active NHL franchise to win the Stanley Cup, and the third California-based team to win the Stanley Cup in the last five years.
In the regular season, the Sharks and the Penguins split the two-game season series, with the road team winning each game. Brent Burns scored twice in the Sharks’ 3-1 game in Pittsburgh on November 21. Evgeni Malkin scored the game-winning goal and had a 3-point night in the Penguins 5-1 win in San Jose on December 1. The two games were played when Mike Johnston was still the Penguins head coach. Both teams have since played differently. The Sharks’ road-warrior mentality, highlighted by a franchise record of 28 wins away from the Shark Tank, lead them back to the Playoffs after failing to qualify for the playoffs last year. After firing Mike Johnston in December and replacing him with assistant coach Mike Sullivan, the Penguins went 33-16-5, en route to second place in the Metropolitan Division. In the Playoffs, both teams won a series in five games (Sharks vs. Kings; Penguins vs NY Rangers), six games (Sharks vs. Blues; Penguins vs Capitals), and seven games (Sharks vs. Predators; Penguins vs NY Rangers), Can the Sharks stop the HBK Line? Can Matt Murray validate himself as the Penguins goalie of today after beginning the season in Wilkes-Barre? Can Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Joel Ward end their own personal drought and finally get their names on the Stanley Cup? Can Sidney Crosby match Mario Lemieux by winning a second Cup ring? Are the San Jose Sharks really a team of Destiny after a quarter-century of highs, lows, and shortcomings? Is Pittsburgh’s defense deep enough after losing Trevor Daley to a broken ankle? All I can tell you is that the 2016 Stanley Cup Final looks like a virtual coin-flip. But if I had to chose only one team to win the Stanley Cup, it’s the team that has more experience, the team that’s firing on all six cylinders, and the team looking to finally get the monkey off their back FOR GOOD.
Prediction: SJ in 6