The Pittsburgh Penguins are rapping Ice Ice Baby because they clinched back-to-back championships with a 2-0 win against the Nashville Predators in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. Okay, they may not be rapping “Ice Ice Baby” however they are the champs.
Pittsburgh is the first NHL team to repeat since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998. It is the fifth Stanley Cup title for the Penguins, and they have won each of them on the road. This may go over your head however the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers are the king of The Steel City with six titles; the Penguins are trailing by with Sidney Crosby arguably the face of the NHL leading them.
Crosby won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second consecutive season and his third Cup victory. He finished the postseason one point behind teammate Evgeni Malkin with 27 points (eight goals, 19 points) in 24 games.
Crosby made the cover of Sports Illustrated at the age of 16 backing up some real hype that the likes of baseball’s Bryce Harper and the NBA’s LeBron James experienced. “Sid the Kid” was even labeled “The Next One.” Wayne Gretzky was named “The Great One.” Concussions have slowed him down in his NHL career leading him to miss games but winning is the best form of recovery. Is he one the greatest players of all-time? Maybe, considering he is achieving this in a city where “terrible towels” are popular for 17 to 20 weeks in a year.
“I think I’m just really happy for this group,” Crosby said. “A good chunk of the guys were returning from last year, so it’s pretty special. We set out to try to go back-to-back. We knew it was going to be pretty difficult, but I think that’s probably where the most joy comes out of is just knowing how difficult it is to go back-to-back and knowing that we overcame all those things. It’s a pretty special group, I’ll say that.”
There is nothing bad to say about NHL playoff hockey. It is that good. Game 6 backs it up. Patric Hornqvist scored with 1:35 remaining in the third period to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead. The Penguins acquired Hornqvist in a trade with the Predators for James Neal on July 27, 2014. He said scoring the game-winning goal against his former team made it even more special. Carl Hagelin scored an empty-net goal with 14 seconds remaining to give the Penguins a 2-0 lead.
The fact this series was played during the NBA Finals certainly gave topic of discussion when the NBA players had off days. Banter between P.K. Subban and Crosby did not disappoint but Crosby got the last word in adding his third ring to one of his hands.
Nashville lost for just the first time in regulation on home ice this postseason. “It stings,” said defenseman Subban. “I think the biggest thing we’ve got to take from this is, remember the feeling. That’s what’s going to drive us. …. We’re going to be back here again next year.”
The Predators caught my attention early. Having won just three of 12 playoff series before this year, Nashville opened this postseason by eliminating the top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks in four games. In doing so, the Predators became the first eighth-seeded team to sweep a first-round series since the current playoff format was introduced in 1994. Nashville went through St. Louis and then Anaheim to the Final, where only captain Mike Fisher on the roster had ever played before. As a team, lack of experience did not hurt the Predators. The home ice was amazing. Fisher backed the team up when they were down 2-0 assisting with the series becoming tied.
“We never gave up,” Fisher said. “We lost a lot of guys to injuries. Sixteen seed. No one really gave us a chance against anyone and here we are in Game 6. Things didn’t go our way, but that happens. That’s sport. Like I said, this team never gave up. We believed all the way.”
Nashville finished the series going 0 of 8 on the power play over the final two games.
The Penguins did not win this title as easy as last season however when water freezes, it is ice baby. That is all that matters.