A victory to remember

Pittsburgh’s Stanley Cup victory is one that many young fans will remember for the rest of their lives. It recalls two victories that are indelibly marked on my memory.

The first parallel victory is the Montreal Canadiens’ triumph over the Chicago Black Hawks in 1971. Chicago (like Detroit) had home ice advantage. Chicago (like Detroit) won the first two games at home. Montreal came back and forced a game seven — back in Chicago’s building.

That was the last time a team won game seven on the road, in the Stanley Cup finals. Thirty-eight years later, Pittsburgh has just duplicated Montreal’s feat.

The second parallel victory is the Edmonton Oilers’ 1984 triumph over the New York Islanders. The Islanders had won four consecutive Stanley Cups from 1979-80 through 1982-83. They were the veterans and the Oilers were the young up-and-comers.

The Islanders and the Oilers met in the finals in two consecutive years. The Islanders won in 1983; in ’84, it was the Oilers who prevailed. The Oilers thus launched a dynasty of their own (four Stanley Cups in five years).

Similarly, Pittsburgh and Detroit these past two seasons.

Detroit hadn’t won four consecutive Stanley Cups, but they did win in 1996-97, 1997-98, 2001-02, and again last year (2007-08). This is a formidable, veteran team:  they have a dozen players who can break your heart with a timely goal, and they never get rattled in the face of adversity.

The Penguins are the young up-and-comers. Last year (like the 1983 Oilers), they lost to Detroit in the finals. This year (like the 1984 Oilers), the Penguins prevailed.

Check out this table, adapted from TSN’s Sportscentre:

Age Contract continues through
Marc-André Fleury 24 2014-15
Evgeni Malkin 22 2013-14
Sidney Crosby 21 2012-13
Jordan Staal 20 2012-13

Sidney Crosby just became the youngest team captain ever to win a Stanley Cup.

As for Jordan Staal:  it seems to me that his shorthanded goal in game four was the turning point of the series. With Detroit already leading 2-1, Detroit had two consecutive power plays. They might have taken a commanding lead in the game (and hence the series) ;  instead, Staal’s terrific shorthanded goal tied the score and Pittsburgh quickly seized command of the game.

Here’s another remarkable table, also adapted from TSN’s Sportscentre. Until now, only two players had managed to scored over 30 points in the playoffs when they were only 22 years old or younger. This year, the Penguins added two names to that short list:

Year Points
Wayne Gretzky 1983 38
Evgeni Malkin 2009 36
Barry Pederson 1983 32
Sidney Crosby 2009 31

Evgeni Malkin was awarded the Conn Smythe trophy, as the Most Valuable Player in this years’ playoffs. He is the first Russian ever to win that trophy. (Perhaps causing Don Cherry, who often disparages European players for their lack of intensity in the Stanley Cup playoffs, a little heartburn.)

Did this years’ playoffs mark the end of the Red Wings’ dynasty? I wouldn’t go that far — they will continue to be a formidable contender next season.

But this years’ playoffs almost certainly mark the beginning of the Penguins’ ascendancy. Pittsburgh ought to be among the favourites to win the cup every year through at least 2012-13.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. nebcanuck
    Jun 13, 2009 @ 21:42:34

    As you already know, I too thought it was a great finish to a great playoffs!

    It’s good to see that the Pens have a number of key players locked up for a few years. Still, I wonder if they’ll manage to maintain the less-important pieces that make or break the Stanley Cup finals? Guys like Talbot and Kunitz have surely upped their price tag, and unless the Pens can draft well in the late round, it’s unlikely that they’ll get quite as many solid role players as they have right now.

    Still, with both Crosby and Malkin on the rise, Staal there to kill penalties and score shorhanders, and Fleury looking like he may just become a bona-fide franchise netminder, it looks like they have the core well securd anyways!

    Out of curiosity: Who’s Barry Pederson?! With that kind of feat to his name, I’m surprised he’s not a better-known player!

    Reply

  2. Stephen
    Jun 13, 2009 @ 22:16:36

    I wondered the same thing — Barry who? — so I googled him.

    It turns out that Pederson started his career brilliantly, as that single stat attests. But after only three seasons, he developed a (benign) tumour in his shoulder. It required two surgeries, and the removal of some of the shoulder muscle. Pederson was never the same after that.

    Sadly, he is now best remembered as part of an extremely one-sided trade. Pederson was a Boston Bruins player, and the Bruins decided he was never going to return to his early talent level. They traded him to the Vancouver Canucks — and got Cam Neely in return. You can read all about it on Wikipedia (Pederson; Neely).

    Reply

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