By Christian Binder, WSOE Sports
Well, call me a doubter. I was certain the Penguins would fall short in their quest to avenge last year’s loss to the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Finals. I was wrong and I am not afraid to admit that. In a tight 2-1 game, the Pittsburgh Penguins won their third championship in franchise history.
The Penguins have not won a Stanley Cup since the playing days of Mario Lemieux. Now team owner, Lemieux got to watch his team beat the best team in the NHL on its home ice last night. The most impressive part: the Penguins did it without Sidney Crosby. Crosby took a big hit early on in the game and was unable to play for the rest of the game. When he went down, it looked like Detroit would cruise to the finish. Not so. Even Evgeni Malkin did not play a big role in the deciding game. Maxime Talbot, who had only registered six playoff goals prior to Game 7, scored both of Pittsburgh’s goals in the second quarter. Malkin assisted one of them. The other hero was goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who had 25 saves in the game. The most crucial saves came in the final seconds of the game. Detroit was able to get two shots off in the final 5 seconds, but Fleury saved both, sealing the victory for Pittsburgh. The loss was especially difficult for Marian Hossa, who was a member of the Penguins last year. In the offseason, Pittsburgh offered him a large contract to remain with the team, but he signed with the Red Wings for less money in the hopes of winning a title. Tough luck for him.
What is truly remarkable about this win is how far the Penguins came to win it. The fired their head coach mid-season and hired a rookie coach, Dan Bylsma, to take them the rest of the way. At the time of Bylsma’s hiring, the Penguins were sitting at 10th in the Eastern Conference, looking nothing like the Penguins of 2008. However, the acquired Bill Guerin from the New York Islanders to provide a winning veteran presence and the team caught fire, racing its way to the top of the Eastern Conference and eventually the entire NHL. As if winning the cup wasn’t enough, Malkin (pictured far left) was able to add the Conn Smythe trophy (postseason MVP) as he led all playoff teams with 36 postseason points.
Congratulations to the Pittsburgh Penguins.