BACK TO BACK CHAMPIONS: THE PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

The Pittsburgh Penguins had a 2-0 victory in game six of the Stanley Cup Finals making them the first team to win back-to-back cups since the Detroit Red Wings in 1998. Heck of an achievement!

Dreams were made last night. Ron Hainsey, who had played 906 NHL games and ZERO playoff games before he was traded to the Pens, has won his first cup aged 36. Cullen aged 40 has won for the second year running. Mark Streit has also won his first ever cup at 39 years old. Chris Kunitz, who was undrafted, has won his FOURTH Stanley Cup. Of course, Crosby won a load more for his trophy cabinet too.

Unfortunately there can only be one winner, and for Nashville the season ended with heartbreak. But for a non-traditional hockey city, Nashville showed they have the loudest fans with the most heart; the best anthem singers; and their guys – who were the bottom seed – went all the way to the end and forced a game six against the defending champions. There is nothing to be ashamed of in their performance. And we’ll always have the memory of sweeping the Blackhawks. Commiserations to the Nashville Predators – you fought a hell of a fight.

And to Pittsburgh… Enjoy the hangover!

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Congratulations! поздравления! Grattis! Onnea! Félicitations! Glückwünsche!

And that’s a wrap on the hockey season until October… but we still have the NHL expansion draft, the regular rookie draft, and the NHL Awards to get through.

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Our Lord and Savior, Christopher Kunitz

The Ottawa Senators/Pittsburgh Penguins had to push things to the limit and so the series went to game seven THEN double overtime. The lord and savior of Pittsburgh, Chris Kunitz, fired home a shot to end the game 3-2 to the Penguins who stand victorious as the Eastern Conference Champions.

It’s nice to be able to contribute,” Kunitz said, “but we all know it’s a team game, and we’re all going to have to pull our own weight at some point.”

Incredibly, Kunitz hadn’t scored AT ALL in the playoffs this year until last night’s game where he scored the first and third goals.

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The Penguins will face the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Final. This is the first time the defending champions have made it to the final since the Detroit Red Wings in 2009 – and the cup hasn’t been won twice in a row since 1998 which is also held by the Red Wings. Big shoes to fill, Pittsburgh!

Whilst the Predators going all the way would be a fairy tale, the Penguins have plenty of their own.

  • Ron Hainsey, 36 years old, played 906 NHL games without EVER going to the playoffs. With his trade to Pittsburgh, he has experienced the playoffs and has gone all the way to the final.
  • Mark Streit, another veteran at 39, has never won a Stanley Cup either and how sweet would it be to win one with the Flyers’ biggest rivals after spending four years in Philly?
  • Matt Cullen is likely to retire at the end of the year, aged 40. He has already won cups in 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes, and last year with the Penguins – but wouldn’t it be nice to end your career with a hat-trick of Stanleys?
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Credit where it’s due… the Senators played a hell of a series. Karlsson was outstanding, as was goalie, Craig Anderson. Anderson’s wife, Nicholle, was diagnosed with cancer in October last year so Craig took around three months off to care for her and their children whilst she underwent treatment. To miss such a big chunk of the season, go through hell with his wife’s health, and to get back and perform at the level he has is commendable – many times throughout the series Anderson kept the Sens in it. Congratulations to the team for making it so far – and best of luck to the Anderson’s in Nicholle’s fight with cancer. You can follow it here: http://www.stickbynik.com/

 

The Clark Kent of Pittsburgh

I need to take a moment to talk about Conor Sheary because I feel like a proud mother and I don’t even know the kid. He’s turning 25 in June but this is only his second season in the NHL – his first full one too. The winger is only 5’8″ and 174lbs, compare him to team mates Dumoulin, Fehr, or Maatta, who are all over 6′ 2″ and 205lbs, and Sheary is tiny.

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A little bit of history on Conor: He played for Cushing Academy then the University of Massachusetts Amherst in his home state as he went undrafted. Despite excelling at baseball, Sheary followed in his big sister’s footsteps and stuck with hockey. His sister, Courtney, played for the University of New Hampshire and then coached the girls hockey at Cushing Academy. In his first year at Cushing Academy, he was cut from the team for being too small. He made the team in his second year.

“I grew a little bit, and that kind of caused some motivation as well, not making the team.”

Towards the end of the 2013/14 season, Sheary joined the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the AHL on an amateur tryout before signing a two year entry-level contract with their NHL affiliate – the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Under WB-Scranton, Sheary played for Mike Sullivan who was then made head coach of the Penguins when Mike Johnston was fired. Impressed with his tiny winger, the Penguins called Sheary up against the Bruins on the 16th December 2015 – three days after Sullivan was made coach.

Pens  lost 3-0 then two days later they faced the Bruins once more; this time Sheary scored on Tuukka Rask, registered an assist, and skated on a line with this generation’s greatest hockey player – Sidney Crosby. His first multi-goal game was at Madison Square Garden against Henrik Lundqvist. Six months after making his NHL debut, Sheary won the Stanley Cup with the Penguins.

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Your Stanley Cup Champions 2016

At the moment, Sheary is standing on 44 points in 83 career games – and he has nine of those points in his last four games. Perhaps, it should be noted that Sheary is playing on the top line with Sidney Crosby as his centre – but he’s keeping pace with 2015 second overall pick, Jack Eichel, and has more points than Blackhawks captain, Jonathan Toews. Not bad for an undrafted little forward!

“But the thing that jumps out to me the most, and what I most respect about Conor, is his courage.” – Mike Sullivan

Conor Sheary, the kid that could! (Or the Penguins very own Clark Kent?)

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