The saddest, yet best time of the year. The Stanley Cup Final is the most anticipated time for all hockey fans out there. Some will shed a few tears as the season ends, some will be optimistic about a better year for their team. This year the San Jose Sharks and the Pittsburgh Penguins battle head-to-head to see who will raise the thirty-four-pound trophy. San Jose has never made a Stanley Cup appearance in their franchise’s history, while the Pittsburgh Penguins have more of a familiar feeling of what this feels like, as their last Stanley Cup win was in 2009. Personally, I did not see the Sharks getting this far into the playoffs, but once they knocked off Los Angeles, I think it was all Sharks from there on out. The Sharks have got past both LA and St. Louis with no problem. The Sharks rank 1st in goals per 60 minutes, with 3.32, and have the 2nd best power play ranking at 27%. Now the big shocker in San Jose is goalie Martin Jones, Jones backed up Quick in his years as a King. Now he goes into to the Stanley Cup as the starting goalie – ranking 4th in save percentage with .937. The Penguins were the hottest team in the NHL coming into the playoffs, many thought they got hot at a bad time, but others thought this could be the Penguins year, and after taking a 1-0 series lead the question still remains unanswered. The Penguins are a quick, fast paced, north and south team who tend to get a lot of shots towards the net. Pittsburgh ranks 2nd in goals per 60 minutes with 3.16, and 6th in penalty kill at 83.6%. Another big key to Pittsburgh success is rookie goalie Matt Murray, taking over Marc-Andre Fleury’s six-year starting spot is never easy for a rookie, but Murray is standing tall for Pittsburgh as he ranks 10th in save percentage at .925.
Both of these teams have their big time players, and the players that chip in during key situations, known as role players. San Jose has three players at the top of the leader-boards in points for the playoffs, Brent Burns (22), Joe Pavelski (22) and Logan Couture (25). As well as Joe Thornton who has 18 points. While Pittsburgh’s top performers, Nick Bonino (16), Sidney Crosby (16) and Phil Kessel (18). As far as role players go for San Jose, by the likes of Joel Ward, Tomas Hertl and Joonas Donskoi who combine for 32 points this postseason. San Jose’s role players have played a big role this post-season for the Sharks, as they all combine for three game winning goals. We all know Joel Ward as “big time Joel Ward”. Throughout his career, Ward just somehow finds the back of the net, and is always in the right spot at the right time – he has 20 goals and four game-winning goals throughout his playoff career. Now for Pittsburgh, players like Carl Hagelin, Patric Hornqvist and Bryan Rust combine for 33 points this post-season. Who as well combine for three game winning goals this post-season.
Pittsburgh and San Jose match up quite well, both teams who play a fast pace game and have the right group of the guys on the bench and on the ice. As well as two great coaches who have transformed both these teams into Stanley Cup teams. As far as a prediction goes, I have to go with Pittsburgh to win the Stanley Cup Final in seven. Due to having Crosby, Malkin, and Kessel on different lines, and Kessel having a great post-season, Pittsburgh have the upper hand in this situation. Both goalies are good but there’s not one goalie that can be a difference maker for their team, I believe it’s going to come down each team’s offense.