Hello, everyone. It’s Dan Mount and welcome to another edition of Three Periods. It’s the last of the playoffs as the Pittsburgh Penguins have hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup with a 4-2 series victory against the San Jose Sharks.
The first period will talk about the Pens and the second will wrap up where the Sharks go from here. The third period will break down the NHL bringing hockey to Las Vegas.
We’ll wrap it up with some tweets of the week before next week’s NHL Entry Draft. Let’s get started.
The season is finally over and the Pittsburgh Penguins have their fourth Stanley Cup in franchise history after beating the San Jose Sharks in a hard-fought series. The Pens were out of the playoff picture around Christmastime, but a change in coach to Mike Sullivan and a couple of shrewd trades by General manager Jim Rutherford breathed life into the team.
Pittsburgh surged into second place and managed to take down the rival Rangers and Capitals before knocking out the defending Eastern Conference champion Tampa Bay Lightning. The H-B-K line of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel really flourished and gave Conn Smythe winner Sidney Crosby and the hot-scoring EvgeniMalkin a lot of help.
The feat is even more impressive considering that they won the title with backup goalie Matt Murray, who was injured himself at the start of the first round series. Marc-Andre Fleury won the team’s last Stanley Cup in 2009, but had been battling concussion issues. Murray had a couple of rough patches and “The Flower” even came in to start Game 5 of the Eastern final, but Sullivan went back to Murray after the Game 5 setback.
The Penguins were able to fire a lot of pucks at Martin Jones and neutralize the great defense of the Sharks. Role players like ConorSheary and others Pittsburgh the depth they’ve been lacking for years. The “Baby Pens” that came from AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton were ready to go and helped Pittsburgh win its first title since ’09.
I do think Kessel or Murray should have won the playoff MVP instead of Crosby. Don’t get wrong the Pens’ captain did have a solid postseason, but Kessel was the team’s leading scorer and played such a huge role. Murray won a title as a rookie and showed great poise.
Can Pittsburgh repeat again? It’s possible depending how they deal with the salary cap, but there could be some relief if they deal Fleury and let Murray be the number one.
San Jose didn’t get the Stanley Cup, but there season was not a failure. This team exorcised some playoff demons that have hung over this club. They finally ousted the Los Angeles Kings from a playoff series for the first time in years, and reached the Stanley Cup after a couple of tough series against the Nashville Predators and the St. Louis Blues.
This team made some drastic changes in the offseason in hiring former New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer as the team’s bench boss and getting the goalie of the future in Martin Jones from the rival Kings. The Sharks bounced back from a season where they looked listless under Todd McLellan. DeBoer utilized the depth he had to get this team its first final.
Brent Burns, Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton are great veterans that had great seasons. Burns should be a favorite to win the Norris Trophy, while Thornton had an MVP-caliber season. Marc-Eduoard Vlasic and Justin Braun keyed a great defense that rivals Nashville’s group of blue-liners.
San Jose did get outshot by a lot against Pittsburgh, but Jones was the reason that this team stayed in the series. The Sharks would have loved some scoring from Joe Pavelski, who disappeared in the final. However, this team has a realistic shot of making it back to the final next year in a loaded West.
Players like Tomas Hertl, JoonasDonskoi and Logan Couture are poised to be the leaders of this team when Marleau and Joey T decide to hang it up. There needs to be some tweaks to this roster, but I like where this team is heading.
The other big news of the week is that Las Vegas will be the next team added to the NHL. The league will put the expansion to a vote Wednesday and it looks like owner Bill Foley will get his wish for a team in the desert.
The move will mean there will be 31 teams and that will help balance the schedule a bit. (There is still an open slot for another team in the future.) The move will likely be rubber-stamped as it needs 20 of the 30 owners to sign off before expansion is approved.
I’m a little hesitant about adding a team in a non-hockey market. I know Sin City is thirsting to part of major pro sports, but let’s hope there is not a situation like the Arizona Coyotes, Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers. Teams like Nashville, Tampa Bay and Dallas are some of the few that succeed in non-traditional markets.
I do feel for Quebec City, whose bid was not approved. The faltering Canadian dollar played a factor in it, but the ownership group had money, a new arena and a fan base dying for hockey to return. The rumors of the Hurricanes or Panthers moving are giving fans in the Citadel City some hope that they will be an NHL team again.
One also can feel for Seattle, whose city council has been slow to approve funding for a new arena to bring back the NBA’s Seattle Supersonics and give the city pro hockey for the first time since the Seattle Metropolitans. The league is hoping an ownership group getting its stuff together when the league decides to make it a symmetrical 32 teams (eight per the four divisions). If Seattle gets a stadium deal, they’ll be the next expansion team or they will likely get the Coyotes. The place is a top 10 TV market for hockey despite not having a squad to call their own.
Tweets of the week: In honor of the Penguins winning the Cup, here’s a tweet from Steelers’ receiver Antonio Brown congratulating his black and gold compatriots bringing home the big trophy.
That’s it for this week. I hope everyone has a happy Father’s Day. Be safe and take care.
Dan Mount is a producer for Spadora on Sports. He’s also a writer for NHL on the Ice, the Nashville Predators beat reporter for The Hockey Writers and a reporter for the Watertown Daily Times in Watertown, NY. He can be found on Twitter @DanMountSports.