POA Gameday Extraordinaire Brett Nesbitt said something last night on the walk back to the Mercy Lot — the infamous POA good luck charm — from PPG Paints Arena; “You win your first Cup. You earn your second.” Well, it was something like that. I might’ve been buzzed after the long walk down Fifth Ave. with the aroma of IC Light and champagne in the air. But you get the point.
What the Penguins did last year was insane, and I’ll forever cherish that Stanley Cup. But they earned this one.
I’ve said this a million times by now, but there was a point where I thought I’d never see the Penguins win the Stanley Cup — I was born a little under a month after Badger Bob led the Pens to the Cup in ’91, and I obviously don’t remember them winning it the next year. Now, in the span of eight years, they have three. And these Penguins don’t look like they’re slowing down any time soon.
That being said, some “thank you’s” are in order — from the fashion in which the Stanley Cup was handed off last night in Nashville.
Thank you, Sidney Crosby. He turns 30 this summer, and here’s a list of accomplishments he’s achieved before the big 3-0: three Stanley Cups, two Conn Smythes, two Olympic Golds, two Harts, two Art Ross trophies, three Ted Lindsay’s and a pair of Rocket Richard trophies. In the last 365 days, he’s won the Cup and Conn Smythe twice, won the World Cup of Hockey title and MVP of the tournament and the Rocket Richard. Oh, and he’s also a nominee for both the Hart and Ted Lindsay awards. It’s just ridiculous what the man has accomplished, and he doesn’t show many signs of slowing up anytime soon. He’s a top 5 player of all-time, and now there’s no debating it.
Thank you, Ron Hainsey. You were mostly hot garbage in the second half of the playoffs, but I will never forget that goal in Game 5. And your performance in Game 6? Jesus Christ what a game. Totally worth a second-round pick and Danny Kristo. 25 games ago, Ron Hainsey had never played a single playoff game. 25 games later, he’s already accomplished more in his playoff career than Alex Ovechkin has in his.
Thank you, Matt Cullen. I remember being so lukewarm back in August 2015 when the Pens signed you. Well, it paid off last year. I remember being so jammed up last summer when Cullen and the Penguins stalled over whether or not he was coming back for another season. Well now, after two years, it’s all been worth it. Cullen may not have made the NHL Top 100 list, but he’s definitely a top 5 dad of all-time — right up there with my dad, Troy Crosby, Lemieux’s dad, Mike Sullivan and Harambe’s dad.
Thank you, Chris Kunitz. I see you’ve been taking your One A Day pills to cure your iron deficiency. You were Sid’s best friend, and maybe a little more if you ask Flyers fans. Kunitz was the whipping boy for a portion of his career, and I really thought he’d become that again this year. Over the last seven games of this playoff run, Kunitz had nine points including that legendary Game 7 performance against Ottawa and assisting Patric Hornqvist’s game-winning goal. Now, he’s a four-time Stanley Cup champion.
Thank you, Evgeni Malkin. IMO 2009 playoff Geno was a level we’ll never see him replicate. He was on PCP during that run. But he did a damn good job this year of trying to replicate that. Screw NHL’s Top 100 list. He’s Top 30, maybe even Top 20 all-time.
Thank you, Mark Streit. Are you watching, Philly?
Thank you, Marc-Andre Fleury. You’ve been a consummate professional throughout your entire career in Pittsburgh. As of writing this, Fleury has waived his no-movement clause for the expansion draft, thus allowing the Pens to protect Murray. If there was ever someone taking one for the team, this would be it. We have no idea what is in store for you, or where your future lies, but you don’t come across many players as loyal to a city as MAF has been to Pittsburgh. It is almost fitting if this is the end for Fleury in Pittsburgh. It’s his third time getting his name etched into Lord Stanley. This year, he earned every single letter. Without MAF, the Penguins would be lucky to survive the Columbus series, let alone Washington. He won over half the 16 games that it requires to hoist the Cup, and he singlehandedly took over this playoffs. As much as I’ve pushed my personal agenda that Fleury needs to leave in order to best solve the goalie controversy, it’s going to be brutal seeing him go. He embodies what Pittsburgh is all about. His Penguins career began in Bridgestone Arena, where he was drafted, and it very may well end in Bridgestone Arena, where he won his third Stanley Cup. If this is it, Fleury, thank you. So, so much.
Thank you, Matt Murray. Like Fleury, we wouldn’t be at this point without Matt Murray. The Conn Smythe has never been shared by two players, but Murray and Fleury made a hell of an argument to share it this year. I know Matt Murray won the Cup last year, but hear me out. Just as Fleury’s Penguins career began in Bridgestone Arena, so did Murray’s. That performance last night was nothing shy of unbelievable. Once the Predators tied up the series, Murray didn’t allow a goal the remainder of the series. He was the first goalie since 1952 to record a shutout in each of the last two games of the Stanley Cup Final. That moment of Fleury handing the Cup over to Murray? It’s one of the most iconic moments in Pittsburgh sports history.
Thank you, Trevor Daley. You died for our sins in 2016. In 2017, you proved to be much more than just the guy that we traded Rob Scuderi for.
Thank you, Phil Kessel. You now have more Stanley Cups than you have testicles. Too soon? I don’t believe in too soon. I’m on a tight schedule. Kessel has been a cult hero in Pittsburgh over the last two years, despite certain unnamed media members trying to do their best Toronto Sun impression to run him out of town this year for not playing defense. If you want Phil The Thrill to play defense, that’s a you problem, not a Phil problem. Kessel finished as nearly a point-per-game player in the playoffs. Over the last two playoffs, Kessel led the team in goals, powerplay goals and plus/minus. Oh, and he was third in points. Thank you for being you, Phil. I’ll raise a hot dog to you tomorrow for lunch.
Thank you, Patric Hornqvist. I’ll never forget you saving my life in Johnstown last preseason. More importantly, I’ll never forget you sealing the deal against San Jose. And even more importantly than that, you gave me probably my most memorable hockey moment ever while being in PPG at the watch party to see your game-winning goal last night. No disrespect to Bonino doing the thing in Game 6 last year, but last night was probably the most lit experience I’ve had at PPG Paints Arena. The goal defined the type of player that Hornqvist is: gritty.
Thank you, Carl Hagelin. There’s no doubt in my mind that Carl was playing injured during this playoff run. Everyone plays hurt, but Hagelin played injured. The goal to seal it was just….incredible. Hagelin smoked PK Subban like a bad cigar.
Thank you, Kris Letang. I don’t want to say I was the voice of reason at the beginning of the playoffs, but I was absolutely the voice of reason. Letang’s absence is what makes this Cup win all the more sweeter. They won the god damn Stanley Cup without Kris Letang. Imagine the Predators without Subban. Imagine the Blackhawks without Keith. Imagine the Senators without Karlsson. Imagine the Blues without Shattenkirk. Imagine the Caps without Shattenkirk. This is awkward...
Thank you, Nick Bonino. Nothing you ever do again will top your 2016 playoff performance. But the fact that Bonino played two periods in Game 2 with a broken tibia - all the way through the bone - is ridiculous.
Thank you, Ian Cole. Speaking of grit, Cole played with a broken hand and broken ribs since early in the Washington series. Just insane.
Thank you, Justin Schultz. The Penguins’ next order of business needs to be handing this guy a blank check. The powerplay was…..interesting…..without Kris Letang, but Schultz has an absolute cannon from the point. That goal to start things off in Game 5 made me tingly in the nether regions.
Thank you, Olli Maatta. You haven’t been the same ever since you got ran into the open bench door against Minnesota. Sometimes watching you play makes me want to push myself out the open door of a moving train.
Thank you, Brian Dumoulin. Now that you’ve won back-to-back Cups, what’re you gonna do?
Thank you, Bryan Rust. You scored some big goals in some big games, and had a celebration in Game 5 that I’ll never forget.
Thank you, Scott Wilson. I’m at the point where I don’t know what to say. So, thanks dude.
Thank you, Tom Kuhnhackl. Yeah.
Thank you, Chad Ruhwedel. I’m still trying to figure out what a Ruhwedel is.
Thank you, Carter Rowney. I had no idea who the hell you were before the playoffs started, but I sure as hell knew who you were by the end of it. Needless to say, I was stunned before Game 5 when I learned that you were 28 years old.
Thank you, Jake Guentzel. This is why the future is so, so bright. He has potential to be Sid’s winger for the rest of his career. Guentzel tied the all-time record for playoff points by a rookie and fell one goal shy of tying the rookie playoff goalscoring record. Guentzel is one of the numerous guys that completed sculpted this playoff run.
Thank you, Josh Archibald. This one will go down as one of the more weird names etched into Lord Stanley, but I’m excited to see what Archibald’s future holds in Pittsburgh.
That wraps up the players, so just a few more “thank yous” are in store.
Thank you, Mario Lemieux. You will now have your name on the Stanley Cup more times than Gretzky. You saved this team in so many ways, and no one will ever mean more to Penguins hockey than you.
Thank you, Jim Rutherford. When you were hired, I think it was a parallel step in the sense that the Pens would continue to just trade draft picks for rentals and give it the old college try every year in the playoffs. Now, a foundation has been built thanks in part to you.
Thank you, Mike Sullivan. First ever Penguins coach to win multiple titles (why did Badger Bob have to be taken from us so soon?) and first American-born head coach to win multiple Stanley Cups. A strong argument could be made that Sully is the greatest coach in Penguins history. Just two years ago, I wondered if Sid, Malkin & co. would only win one Cup in their careers. Now they have three, in large part to Sullivan, and now I’m wondering if I’ll ever see them win another.
I think that’s a good place to part ways on. Before last year, I wished I’d spent more time cherishing the 2009 Cup. But I was spoiled. When you have Crosby, Malkin, Letang and Fleury, you’re at least in the conversation every year as a team that could win the Cup. Little did I know, 2010 would happen. And then the shitstorm against the Lightning in 2011 happened. 2012 never happened. Neither did 2013. 2014 was bittersweet, because it meant change. 2015? Yeah, didn’t happen either.
But then Mike Johnston was fired. And then Rob Scuderi was traded. And then Phil Kessel became a Stanley Cup champion. And then we took the Cup down to the river and partied all summer.
Naysayers said the Penguins couldn’t go back-to-back. Well, they did just that. Now they’re going to say the Pens can’t win three in a row. So, let me leave you with this: why not us?
Old Posts from our site, heyyyyyfannnssss (4/11-2/15). Cute name, but impossible to remember.