Monday, 11 December, 2017

The Penguins Weather Storms to Once Again Win

The Penguins Weather Storms to Once Again Win The Penguins Weather Storms to Once Again Win
Spencer Simpson | 05 July, 2016, 11:02

It wasn’t supposed to end like this. A year ago the Pittsburgh Penguins were knocked out in the first round of the NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. And just six months ago the Pens were a team in transition facing an uncertain future, having just fired their head coach.

“I felt it was time for a coaching change because our team has underachieved,” said General Manager Jim Rutherford. “Our expectations are much higher with this group of players.”

And indeed those expectations from the fans, team ownership, and Rutherford, were right on point. New head coach Mike Sullivan turned Pittsburgh’s fortunes around, and the team that was expected to go nowhere instead went straight to the top, lifting Lord Stanley’s Cup as champions of hockey.

In getting to the Finals the Penguins cruised past the Rangers and Capitals, and then won a thrilling come-from-behind series against Tampa Bay–facing elimination in Game 6 and besting the Lightning in a thrilling Game 7, 2-1.

On the Western Conference side of things the San Jose Sharks easily beat their California rivals, the Kings, outlasted Nashville in seven games, and topped St. Louis in six, setting up their Finals clash with the Pens.

Pittsburgh, beginning the series at home, scored the nail-biting winning goal of Game 1 with just 2:33 left to play, taking the nail-biter 3-2. And in Game 2, also in Pittsburgh, it was more of the same, as the Penguins scored the winning goal in overtime to take a 2-0 series lead. Twenty-three year old Conor Sheary was the hero on a face-off play that had been diagrammed by captain Sidney Crosby.

Game 3 shifted out to San Jose, where it also a saw a shift in momentum. This time it was the Sharks celebrating last-second heroics, with a goal in the 3rd period to tie the game, and a goal in overtime to win it. But for Sharks fans, who waited twenty-five years to see their team make its first ever Stanley Cup Finals, saw their team’s chances crater in Game 4, a 3-1 score that gave the Penguins a 3-1 series lead.

Two games later the Penguins wrapped up the Finals in Game 6, 3-1, lifting the Stanley Cup for the fourth time. For Pittsburgh, all credit went to coach Mike Sullivan. While for San Jose it was the lack of adjustments that did them in.

It is, of course, never too soon to begin looking ahead to next season, where early Stanley Cup betting has the Penguins as the favorites to once again rule the NHL. In other NHL Finals betting news the

Sharks are tied as the fifth most likely team to win the Stanley Cup in 2017. The Chicago Blackhawks, winners in 2010, 2013, and 2015, are just behind Pittsburgh as favorites.  

But as we saw with this season’s two Finals competitors, anything can happen in the NHL playoffs.

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