Kukla's Korner Hockey
NHL analyst Doug MacLean credits the Penguins D and goaltending, but really thinks the lack of production by the Sharks big guns has made it a fairly easy Final for Pittsburgh to this point.
The Stanley Cup was cradled by Sidney Crosby before 350,000 parade onlookers, dunked in Mario Lemieux's swimming pool, carried on a slippery ride across a baseball outfield by Bryan Trottier.
The one adventure that has never happened to the shiny silver cup in Pittsburgh is being lifted at center ice after a championship-clinching victory.
In fact, of the 11 major sports championships won by Pittsburgh teams since the Pirates claimed the 1960 World Series at Forbes Field -- six Super Bowls, three Stanley Cups, two other World Series -- not one was won on home turf or home ice.
But the Penguins, improbably, can win their fourth Stanley Cup in a quarter-century on Thursday night if they can close out the San Jose Sharks, who trail 3-1 in a finals in which Pittsburgh has never fallen behind in regulation.
from Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,
One more win …
Crosby wants it for a number of reasons. For Lemieux. For his teammates. For hockey-mad Pittsburgh. For his family. And, of course, for himself.
Crosby knows exactly what a second Cup will bring.
It will mean matching the great Lemieux’s total as a player.
It will mean never being called an underachiever again.
Maybe most of all, it will mean never having to say he’s sorry.
from Curtis Pashelka of the Mercury News,
For several members of the Sharks, losing a three-games-to-one lead in a playoff series is not a foreign feeling. But the one positive those players can draw from those painful experiences is the knowledge that momentum in a series can change. Quickly.
Trailing 3-1 in games, the Sharks say they will take that attitude into Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday.
"I think the one thing about our group is there's a lot of belief in our game and in each other," Sharks coach Pete DeBoer said Wednesday. "The other thing about our group is they've been on the other side, up 3-0, and saw how quickly that vanished against L.A. (in 2014). We have some guys that vividly remember that. They know how quickly a win can turn the momentum."
Shawn McKenzie and Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet looking ahead to Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final.
By Joe Sudberg,
At this point, Hooper may be best fit to drive the boat for the San Jose Sharks.
Monday night’s Game 4 was a harsh reality check for the Bay Area team, who saw their Stanley Cup hopes thin with a 3-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins now own a commanding 3-1 series lead as the series shifts back to Consol Energy Center for Game 5 Thursday.
from Frank Seravalli of TSN,
“This is the hardest hockey that I’ve witnessed in all the years I’ve been associated with this league, just as far as how hard both teams have to work for their ice out there,” Sullivan said after Game 4. “You’ve got to work for every inch of ice.”
The Dead Puck Era is long gone; the game is faster and cleaner now. If anything, you could argue that the one thing this Stanley Cup final is lacking - aside from competitive balance - is a nasty edge.
Yet, league-wide scoring dipped this season to its lowest rate (5.42 goals per game) since Sullivan’s 2003-04 campaign with the Bruins (5.14). Goal totals are even lower when accounting for the severe uptick in empty-net goals compared to 12 years ago.
Perhaps, with all due respect to Patrick Kane and maybe Connor McDavid, it is fair to wonder whether the NHL is entering the Post-Superstar Forward Era. At the very least it's time to temper the expectations we place on stars’ offensive production.
How else to explain that the Pittsburgh Penguins are closing in on their fourth Stanley Cup in franchise history without otherworldly performances from Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin?
from Damien Cox of Sportsnet,
It was only 26 days ago when it appeared that four general managers had perfectly positioned their NHL clubs to win the Stanley Cup.
Then, a week ago, it looked like two general managers had done so.
Now, Jim Rutherford stands alone, poised to do something that just isn’t done in the NHL, something Glen Sather, Brian Burke, Jay Feaster, Bob Gainey, Cliff Fletcher and Punch Imlach, among others, tried to accomplish but couldn’t. Something Lou Lamoriello and Peter Chiarelli are just starting to attempt.
The achievement? Win a Stanley Cup as general manager of one NHL franchise, then do it again with another.
Six months ago, of course, it looked like Rutherford, GM of the Pittsburgh Penguins, might not get the chance. The team was in deep trouble, Sidney Crosby was playing terribly and the 67-year-old Rutherford was being blamed for everything.
Now, one win away from his second Cup after capturing his first back in 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes, Rutherford looks like the smartest guy in the room, the executive who understood what had to be done and did it.
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
"Most of the postseason we've been able to jump out (to leads)," Sharks captain Joe Pavelski said after Monday night's 3-1 Game 4 loss, which gave the Penguins a 3-1 series lead. "We haven't quite got that yet. Moving forward, I think that's going to play a big role in giving ourselves a chance.
"If we can get going that way, it's going to help.''
The Sharks aren't used to this. They've been front-runners all spring, jumping down the throat of the opposing team early and dictating the game from there. It was the theme of San Jose's first-round series win against the rival Los Angeles Kings.
The tables have turned, and the Sharks are playing each and every Cup finals game like they're skating up a hill, chasing all night, getting out of their system at times to force the issue and falling out of rhythm, as San Jose coach Peter DeBoer is forced to shorten the bench to find offense.
It's a tough way to win games. And it grinds away at you mentally.
from Cam Cole of the Vancouver Sun,
If there was a Toronto newspaper that headlined ‘The Thrill Is Gone’ on the day the Maple Leafs traded Phil Kessel — and who could resist such an opportunity? — it was only half right.
He was undeniably gone from Toronto, but the greatest time of his life was just about to start.
Now, with Kessel leading the Pittsburgh Penguins in playoff scoring and the Pens one win away from the Stanley Cup after their 3-1 win in Game 4 on Monday night, giving them a 3-1 series edge, The Thrill is the polar opposite of gone.
“He’s been so good,” raved Pens’ 39-year-old forward Matt Cullen. “He’s playing such a complete game right now. He’s just such a dynamic player. Whenever he touches the puck, something good happens, and it’s not just shooting the puck. He’s creating, things happen with his speed, he’s finding open guys. He’s such a challenge for defencemen to handle. He’s been awesome.”
Kessel assisted on both the first goal and the eventual game-winner Monday night, pushing his post-season totals to 10 goals and 11 assists in 22 games, and continued to warm his hands over the ashes of all the newsprint that ushered him out of Leaf Nation, convinced it was a case of addition by subtraction.
This is not to unduly criticize the critics. Kessel, sullen and often appearing indifferent in Maple Leaf silks, provided plenty of ammo.
Only now, with the benefit of hindsight, it seems an inescapable conclusion that Kessel’s shortcomings in Toronto had much to do with the general hopelessness of the Leafs (not the first good player to be thus stricken) and was exacerbated by a dearth of first-rate linemates.
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
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