The 2017 NHL season has come to a close, and the Pittsburgh Penguins stand on top of the NHL for the second straight year. The Sidney-Crosby led squad won their second straight Stanley Cup on June 11, after defeating the Nashville Predators 2-0 in Game 6. The series was hard fought , but the Pens were able to get it done where and when it counted, thrusting them into victory.
The Penguins came into the season as favorites to win the Stanley Cup, and lived up to their expectations. While they finished second in the Metropolitan Division, they were able to defeat division rivals, the Columbus Blue Jackets and Washington Capitals, in the first and second rounds, respectively. After a thrilling seven-game series victory over the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference Finals, the champs clinched a Stanley Cup Final spot against the Western Conference Champions, the Nashville Predators.
The Predators had a much different story this season. While they were expected to make the playoffs, no one expected them to go on the run they did. They finished fourth in the Central Division and eighth in the Western Conference.
That would not stop the Preds from sweeping the top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs. This was the first time an eighth-seeded team swept a top-seeded team in North American professional sports history, which ignited the Preds for a run to the Stanley Cup for the first time in their 18-year history.
The series was hard-fought and full of energy. Though the teams had almost polar opposite seasons, they looked as if they were perfect complements to each other through the first four games.
In Game 1, the Predators held the Penguins to a mere 12 shots, compared to their own 26. However, the Pens were able to score five goals compared to the Preds’ three, and came out with a Game 1 victory.
The game was a thriller, as the Preds tied the game 13:29 into the third period after trailing 3-0, but the Pens rattled off goals at 16:43 and 18:58 to clinch the victory. Game 2 was a much more lopsided affair, as the Pens defeated the Preds 4-1.
With the series moving to Nashville, P.K. Subban knew he needed to provide a spark for the team, and did just that. guaranteeing a Game 3 win at home. He, his team and the hometown fans did not disappoint, as they won both Games 3 and 4, 5-1 and 4-1, respectively. While it looked like the momentum had shifted in the series, it would not last long.
Pittsburgh hosted Game 5, and the Penguins did not disappoint the home crowd, as they absolutely dismantled the Predators in their 6-0 victory.
The Penguins led the series 3-2, and one more win would clinch their first back-to-back championships since current owner and Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux led the Pens to consecutive Stanley Cup Championships in 1990 and 1991. The series returned to Nashville, where the Penguins would clinch their second straight championship after defeating the Preds 2-0. Nashville went 0-4 on the power play, as well as had a no-goal call against them early in the second period, which the Penguins capitalized on in order to win their fifth Stanley Cup. Sidney Crosby won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP for the second year in a row.
Led by rookie goalie Matt Murray, future Hall of Famers Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, veteran Phil Kessel, and young talent such as Jake Guentzel and Patric Hornqvist, the Pittsburgh Penguins successfully defended their crown to become the first repeat Stanley Cup champions since the 1997 and 1998 Detroit Red Wings, as well as the first back-to-back champions of the salary-cap era.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are undisputedly the best team in the NHL once again, and stand tall above the rest of the league. Now, they look to defend their crown yet again in what should be a great 2017-2018 season.