When you read or hear about how the Pittsburgh Penguins won their second consecutive Stanley Cup in 2017, you will probably hear the whining about how the Nashville Predators were cheated out of a goal that would have given them a 1-0 advantage in the final Game 6.
You could not have asked for a more exciting Stanley Cup Final game. A contest that was tied at zero for nearly the entire 60 minutes of regulation play. A 0-0 battle, unless you consider what most are deeming a “mistake” by referee Kevin Pollock when the Predators Filip Forsberg took at shot on goal that Matt Murray stopped but failed to glove. Pollock made an error in thinking he had secured the puck and blew his whistle.
Play dead, right? Seeing a loose puck Colton Sissons fired it past Murray for a seemingly good goal. But since the whistle had blown, the goal was nullified. And as per NHL rules, the play was not reviewable. Still, the four refs discussed it but the non-call stood.
This is reminiscent of Super Bowl XL between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks—referees made several bad calls that fans would whine about for years after. The huge difference in this Game 6, though? Nashville had PLENTY of opportunities to win this game.
Take this, for example. At one point, Nashville had a 5-on-3 advantage due to penalties and could not score. The Preds had other power plays as well and still, they could not score. If Nashville fans want to cry about the non-goal until next season, so be it. It’s their right. But aside from Game 6, perhaps they should have played better. They could have found a way to win the close games. Had they done so, we would be heading for a Game 7 on Wednesday.
So for the first time in 20 years, the National Hockey League has a repeat champion. It’s the Pittsburgh Penguins, who have already been tabbed favorites to win the cup AGAIN in 2018 as per Las Vegas oddsmakers. Since the salary cap era began, no team has won two consecutive cups… until now.
With the coveted silver cup comes the Conn Smythe Trophy, given to the Most Valuable Player of the postseason. For the second straight season, Sidney Crosby was the recipient. Only two players before “Sid the Kid” have won back-to-back Smythe’s. Ironically, team owner Mario Lemieux was one of them (1991-92). The other was Bernie Parent, playing with the Philadelphia Flyers (1974-75).
Now with their names etched on the Stanley Cup for all of time, the Pittsburgh Penguins have seen this same scenario five times in their history. You don’t think Pittsburgh is a great sports town? Five Stanley Cups, six Super Bowl titles, and five World Series championships. In the 1970s, the Pirates and Steelers won six world titles. Two Stanley cups came in the 90s and since 2000, the Steel City has seen four parades through downtown for the Penguins and Steelers. Now it’s time for a fifth.
Tonight, the Penguins return home with the Stanley Cup in preparation for the parade and if any fans want to see them at the airport, good luck. Pittsburgh International Airport is purposely keeping the Penguins out of sight when they arrive home.
As for the series clincher, you have to marvel at the play of Matt Murray. Technically still a rookie, Murray sparkled in goal in Nashville Sunday night, where early in the series he had not played so well on Predators’ ice. The broadcast crew was predicting an overtime game where fates would be decided, but with just one minute and 35 seconds to go in regulation, Paul Hornqvist gave the Penguins the lead on an assist from Chris Kunitz and Justin Schultz on a beautiful set up. With the goalie pulled by Nashville, the Pens ensured the cup would stay in the ‘Burgh when Carl Hagelin broke away and netted the insurance goal.
But Murray? Murray…Murray…Murray. Spectacular. Think baseball. A perfect game in baseball means 27 batters a pitchers faces and he retires them all without allowing a hit or error. In Game 6, Matt Murray faced 27 shots on goal and saved them all for the shutout. For the playoffs, the rookie goalie had three. When he wasn’t playing, Marc-André Fleury added two more. Hats off to the “Flower” because without him, there would not be a Stanley Cup this season.
Murray’s 1.70 Goals-Against-Average for the postseason was second only to Chad Johnson’s (Calgary) 1.15. Murray was also just behind Johnson’s save percentage of .952 by registering a .937 mark. Keep in mind that the Penguins reached the final series, whereas the Flames did not.
“The biggest thing we’ve got to take from this is remember the feeling. I don’t think you want to fight it. Just let it sink and take it because to get back here that is what is going to drive us,” P.K. Subban said on Hockey Night in Canada. “We’re going to be back here again next year.”
Last year, the Penguins also clinched the Cup on a Sunday, and the parade was held the following Wednesday. It’s unclear whether that scenario will repeat itself. About 400,000 fans lined streets downtown for that parade, the biggest celebration for any of the team’s five Stanley Cup championships.
Matt Murray didn’t just make 27 saves for his second straight shutout as the Pittsburgh Penguins became the first team in nearly two decades to repeat as Stanley Cup champions Sunday night. By doing so, he accomplished something no other goalie in NHL history had done. Murray, 23, became the first goalie to win not one, but two Stanley Cups as a rookie after being a late-season call up a year ago who didn’t play enough games to get that tag removed. That’s something neither Patrick Roy, Ken Dryden nor Cam Ward ever managed.
Now, where do they go from here?