Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the Pittsburgh Penguins are tough as hell. And the Pittsburgh Penguins are the back-to-back Stanley Cup champions.
I’m not sure what’s more impressive – winning two straight Stanley Cups or going into Nashville’s house and ripping the clinching game from them in the final two minutes.
I might just go with the latter, because that barn was amped up. Hell, that whole city was amped up.
They’ve been peaking all playoffs…, but Smashville was roaring for hours before the start of the game. And they were really going crazy after Colton Sissons scored just over a minute into the second period, only for that goal to be erased by an early whistle that had been drowned out by the fans.
From that point on, it was two teams just trading shots and neither one giving in, to the point that it looked for certain that Game 6 was destined for overtime. That is until the puck bounced off the boards behind Pekka Rinne’s net and Pittsburgh’s Patric Hornqvist called BANK and bounced it off Pekka’s elbow and into the net.
Nashville challenged the goal, but they were unsuccessful and when Carl Hagelin scored an empty-netter with seconds left to make it 2-0, making Pittsburgh the first back-to-back champs in the salary cap era.
Sure, that game winner might have been fluky, but there’s nothing fluky about the Penguins. These guys are tough as hell. I’ve always said that no postseason is as grueling and draining as the NHL playoffs. It tests you mentally and physically, playing essentially every other day for two months. And I’m not sure any team has ever been tested, both physically and mentally, as much as the Penguins were.
Check it: they went five games with Columbus. Seven with the Capitals. Seven with the Senators. And six with the Predators. They lost their starting goaltender minutes before the start of the playoffs. Kris Letang missed the entire playoffs. And they did all of that as the defending Stanley Cup champs.
Meaning they played 82 regular season games last year, chased that with 24 playoff games, then ran it back with another 82 regular season games this year, and another 25 playoff games this year.
And they went into Nashville, a place where the Predators almost never lose, and won there, despite making one mistake after another. They committed dumb penalties, they got killed on face-offs for the first two periods, but they found a way to win. Which is something that Sidney Crosby is getting used to. Hate this guy all you want. But is there really anyone, anywhere who is still piling on this guy for being soft… or a diver… or dirty. After what he just did. Again?
That’s three Stanley Cups, two Olympic gold medals, a world cup, and one personal award after another. And he’s not done. And neither are the Penguins.
I’m not ready to predict a three peat, but after what I just saw over the last two months, I sure as hell won’t rule it out.
And if you’re still KILLING Sid, you’re just HATING, because this guy will not only go down as an all-time great player, but one of the best leaders the game has seen as well.