The Pittsburgh Penguins won their second Stanley Cup in as many years Sunday night, beating the Predators, 2-0, in Game 6 in Nashville.
The Penguins and Predators played to a standstill for more than 58 minutes before Patric Hornqvist found the back of the net with 1:35 remaining in the third period. Carl Hagelin followed with an empty-netter to seal the win, as Pittsburgh won its third Stanley Cup since 2009 and its fifth since 1991.
Throw in a couple of Super Bowls for the Steelers and a couple of playoff appearances for the Pirates, and Pittsburgh has been the envy of almost every sports city in America over the last quarter of a century.
“I think that’s the thing. People here, I don’t think they realize how blessed we are,” Pittsburgh radio host Paul Zeise said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “They look around and they think that this is how it is everywhere. It really isn’t. There’s few towns that get to experience it like this. Since 1990, the Penguins have won five championships. We came up with five other franchises (with that many titles in that time period): the Yankees, the Bulls, the Spurs, the Lakers, and the Patriots. That’s it. So that’s just the Penguins alone. That doesn’t even count the two Super Bowls from the Steelers. So it’s ben a great run here in Pittsburgh, and the Penguins, really, are going to have pretty much everyone back. They could be back again next year.”
Next year can wait. The Penguins will savor this one first.
Pittsburgh became the first team to win back-to-back Stanley Cups since Detroit in 1997 and 1998, and Sidney Crosby, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy for the second straight year, became the first player to lead the NHL in scoring and hoist the Stanley Cup since Wayne Gretzky in 1987.
Nashville was 9-1 at home in the playoffs entering Sunday, but a raucous fan base wasn’t enough against a determined Pittsburgh squad that won the last two games of the series by a combined 8-0.
“Just the resiliency of this team,” Zeise said, when asked what he will remember most about the champs. “Of the five (Penguins) teams (to win a Stanley Cup), if you take Kris Letang out of the equation, this was probably the weakest of the five teams that have won the cup here in Pittsburgh. The first two teams were really loaded. Actually, the ’93 team that got upset was probably the best of all of them, and they didn’t even win the Cup.”
Indeed, the ’93 squad fell to the New York Islanders in the division finals, losing Game 7 at home in overtime.
The ’17 Penguins didn’t mess around with a Game 7. They got the job done in Game 6.
“The thing about this team, they were resilient, they were tough, and they found ways to overcome their deficiencies,” Zeise said. “Mike Sullivan was a master just piecing the lineup together every single night, finding ways to counter whatever the other team was doing and finding the right buttons to push. They pushed through injuries. They pushed through injuries to some of their key players. They won a big game against Washington without Sidney Crosby. You could go down the list. They had a goaltender tank halfway through. The bottom line is if you really want to put it all in one word, it’s resiliency and just sort of the toughness of this team.”