Well, at least I got the number of games right.
It wasn’t the Sharks winning the Stanley Cup in six games, as predicted here, but the Penguins who got the job done last night. But even with the lack of a Game 7, that Final series was closer than it seemed.
As laid out in that earlier piece, Martin Jones actually did his part, standing on his head and making save after save after save against Pittsburgh’s extremely talented offense. I briefly thought that Jones might get the Conn Smythe trophy despite the loss, much as Ron Hextall did against Gretzky’s Oilers back in the day, but that didn’t happen, and probably rightly so. (I’m not sure Sidney Crosby should have been the guy for the Penguins; that smacks more of marketing than the actual results on the ice. Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel seemed like better bets there.) Jones was great, but given the way Pittsburgh’s unexpectedly stout defense stifled the Sharks’ offense, he needed to be spectacular, and he simply fell short of that distinction.
So the better team definitely won, no doubt about that. The other takeaway from this Stanley Cup Final might be this: this match-up may not be over. Given the major contributions we saw from Bryan Rust, Conor Sheary, and Matt Murray–the first two were all over the ice the whole series–for Pittsburgh and Joonas Donskoi, Rob Tierney, and Melker Karlsson for the Sharks, the future looks bright for both teams. All of those players are either one year in or rookies. And while young players sometimes flame out quickly after brief flashes of brilliance, it’s hard to believe all of those guys will fall off the table in the future. The road will be tough next year–it always is–but I won’t be shocked if there’s a rematch in next year’s Stanley Cup Final. The Penguins lived through that with Detroit in ’08 and ’09; they might see it again with the Sharks next year.
Until then, the Steel City gets to have some good times with 34.5 pounds of silver and nickel. Enjoy.