June21

Summing up the Champs

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p align=”center”>Summing up the Champs
Well done Pittsburgh, well done. That was some kind of playoff run. We have a new…wait, never mind… Stanley Cup Champion. What the Penguins have done over the past year is beyond words. We have seen history before our eyes with a team that has fought injuries, goaltending battles, concussions, defensive lapses and have faced questions regarding the status of their captain and leader Sidney Crosby.

A year ago, we saw the 2015/2016 Stanley Cup go to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 6 games after a tough battle with the San Jose Sharks. We saw captain Sidney Crosby receive his first Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs and a number of other players receiving their first championship (ex. Phil “The Thrill” Kessel). After it was all over, the question immediately came up, can they be the first team in the salary cap era to repeat as back-to-back Cup champs?

Before we go into that, I think we all need to stop for a minute and go back to Crosby. He is a winner. Over the past year he has won two Conn Smythe’s, World Cup MVP, World Cup and two Stanley Cups. He also did this while suffering another concussion and people suggesting on whether or not he should hang it up and retire for health related reasons. If that’s not amazing, I don’t know what is.

I was watching Tim & Sid the day after they won the cup. The guys were talking about how amazing it is to repeat as champs in this era of hockey. They decided to get into a debate on whether or not Crosby has finally cemented his legacy as one of the best of all time. They went on to make a poll on twitter to see if they would put Crosby as the 5th best to ever play the game. Good poll I’d say. After much debate, they both agreed that behind Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, Gordie Howe and Mario Lemieux, he is the 5th best player to ever play the game of hockey and this year just signified it. I’d say that is a pretty fair argument. He is the best of our generation for a reason. Sid the Kid is for real.

Getting back to what happened a few weeks ago, in case you missed it. The Pittsburgh Penguins became the first NHL franchise to record back-to-back Stanley Cups in the salary cap era. Not only that, they did it in such a way where they were unsure of their d-core and who was going to be in net. They never missed a beat.

Pittsburgh’s franchise defenseman and top minute holder Kris Letang was out for the entire duration of the playoffs. This meant their defense core was going to be a question mark with players like Justin Schultz and Trevor Daley taking on most of the workload. They also had an issue with their rookie sensation Matt Murray being injured right out the gate and Marc-Andre Fleury having to step up and take them all the way. Having said all this, their defense didn’t seem to take any steps back and Fleury took them to the third round before Murray jumped right back in and finished it off. That is something to behold. They’re champs for a reason.

Now that the season has finally come down to a close, we can now look to next year and what teams could be in the running for the next championship. There is no reason to believe that this team can’t do it again. I am going to assume they will probably lose Marc-Andre Fleury to the expansion draft or via trade. He has been a great Penguin but is too good to be playing a back-up roll behind Murray. Besides that, this team seems like they’re getting better and better. Their offense will still be intact, their d-core with a healthy Letang will only get stronger and they will go ahead with Murray as being their superstar goaltender. Seems to me they are going to be a force to be reckoned with next year and years to come. Let’s just hope the teams playing them next year know that beating them and stopping their “three-peat” is going to be a daunting task.

I’ll say good luck. What an amazing season. Can’t wait for the next one.