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:
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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:
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.