The time is finally here. The San Jose Sharks and the Pittsburgh Penguins have battled through each of their respected divisions and will take the ice for once last series and a chance to hoist the Stanley Cup. Each of them have very different stories and backgrounds, but they have made it this far and each deserve to be in this spot. So who should you root for? If you don’t have fandom to either team if could be a tough decision. We will run down some names and things to watch for to hopefully help you out on this decision.
San Jose Sharks
History – This will mark the first time in the San Jose Sharks history that they have reached the Stanley Cup Final. In fact, they had never even held a lead in the Western Conference Finals until they took a 2-1 series lead against the St. Louis Blues in the WCFs this year. To say the Sharks are excited to be here is an enormous understatement . Before this year, they were deemed playoff disappointments, year after year. Every year they have a great regular season, every year they choke in the playoffs. We at Because Hockey often referred to them as the “Shorks” because of this. But this year has been much different. They flew through their rival Kings, went to and dominated a Game 7 against the Predators, and looked like a team that was destined for glory after taking charge against the Blues. Now they are 4 wins away from completing their story book year.
Why Root For Them – Simply put, they’re the under dog. This team is a very fun and lose team to watch in all aspects of the game. They have a young and very skilled captain in Joe Pavelski who is one of the best in the game at going to the net and redirecting the puck. They have veteran guys and former captains for the team in Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau who have played a combined 315 playoff games but never in a Stanley Cup Final. They also have the most unique character in the NHL in defenseman Brent Burns. They are fast and physical and won’t take this opportunity for granted, which should make them a fascinating team to watch and cheer for.
History – This will be the fifth time in the Penguins history that they have made it to the Stanley Cup Final. They last won the Cup in 2009 against the Red Wings, the year prior the two faced off against each other and the Red Wings came out on top. There is a superstition in hockey that the only trophy you want to touch in the playoffs in the Stanley Cup after you win it. When a team wins its Conference, a trophy is presented to them but rarely do they touch it. When the Penguins lost in the Stanley Cup Final in 2008, they didn’t touch their Conference Trophy before the Final. The next year, they did touch it and they went on to win the Stanley Cup as well. This year, after they defeated the Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, they touched their Conference Trophy. Will history repeat itself?
Why Root For Them – They are a very skilled team and have big names all across the board. A lot of their big names have been on this team since their Cup win in 2009 and know how to win. Their captain Sidney Crosby is still one of the best players, if not the best, in the NHL. Evgeni Malkin can produce points on any given night. Kris Letang is one of the most well rounded defensemen in the game. They have Phil Kessel who was basically ran out of Toronto has had a stellar playoffs and could win playoff MVP if they win. They also have a star in the making goalie in Matt Murray who has stolen the crease from their Cup winning goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. They basically have all the pieces you would want and need on a team going into the Stanley Cup Final.
This is going to be a fantastic series to watch. It will be refreshing to have a team in the Sharks that will be experiencing their Stanley Cup jitters and emotions for the first time. It will also be intriguing to watch the Penguins return to the Finals and try to rely on their experience and speed to get them past the Sharks. The blend of vets and youth on both of the teams allows for them to change the looks of things up from shift to shift and game to game. The Penguins have been very good in these playoffs, but to count on Murray having another great series is a lot to ask for in a kid that just turned 22. They do have Fleury who can replace him and an offensive machine that can bail the both of them out. But the Sharks have that special feel to them. They have had that ‘it’ factor that most teams look for but fail to get. They have guys you can get behind and really cheer for. They have the best beards in the NHL! Coming into the Finals, and into the playoffs for that matter, they have been the underdogs. After the final horn blows however, they will be the top dogs. Sharks in 6