by PuckStopsHere on 06/13/09 at 04:08 AM ET
I was wrong in prediction for the Stanley Cup finals. Pittsburgh won. That brings my record to 9-6 in my playoff predictions. It’s a .600 record, which isn’t bad but I have done better in past years. While I was wrong, the Detroit fans that make up most of the commenters on this blog were even more wrong. For the last month or more they have been screaming at me how Detroit is an elite team and a dynasty. Their dynasty didn’t win the Stanley Cup.
The biggest thing we learned from the seven game Stanley Cup final is that Detroit and Pittsburgh is a pretty even match, at least at this stage of the season. Neither team won conclusively. Both gave good showings. Both teams are lacking when compared to the historical elites.
Pittsburgh has a good start with an offence built around Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. They have a very good defenceman in Sergei Gonchar. They have no other players that can be reasonably considered to be on Hall of Fame tracks. They don’t have as good a depth as a typical Stanley Cup winner. Sure some of the depth came through in the playoffs. It may have been the finest hour for Maxime Talbot and Rob Scuderi in their careers to date, but neither of them is among the better players in the NHL. In goal, they won with Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury’s .908 saves percentage was below the average mark in the playoffs. Nevertheless, it turned out to be enough to win the cup.
Evgeni Malkin won the Conn Smythe Trophy with a 36 point playoff. His 36 points is the seventh best total ever recorded in a playoff year. I had been favoring Sidney Crosby, who finished second in scoring and had been the more prominent player for the Penguins most of the way through the playoffs, but Malkin definitely had the better final series and I can see either as good picks.
We learned this year that it is possible for the same team to win multiple Stanley Cups in the salary cap era. Neither Pittsburgh nor Detroit did this, but they came close enough by appearing in back-to-back finals to show that it clearly is possible. They also showed that a team that wins back to back cups might not necessarily be a historically elite team, as neither of them is. It isn’t clear at this point that a historically elite team can be built in the NHL of today and kept together for longer than a year. With the salary cap stagnating or possibly dropping in the next couple of seasons, I expect that the teams we see in future Stanley Cup finals will be further from being elite teams than the ones that were there this year.
We have clearly seen that there are three players who are running away from the pack in the race to be the best player in the league. Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby are the clear choices as the top three players in the league. It would be a large surprise for any fourth player to win the Art Ross or Hart Trophy next year. All of the three are young and could maintain their supremacy for a long time. So far Ovechkin is the best of the bunch, but he is also the oldest of the bunch. Perhaps when things play out, one or both of the others may catch up.
All told it was a great season. Congratulations to the Pittsburgh Penguins on their Stanley Cup victory.
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