The San Jose Sharks and Pittsburgh Penguins are the last two teams standing of the sixteen that qualified for 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. This is San Jose’s first ever trip to the Finals in their history, while Pittsburgh will attempt to win their fourth Cup title and first since 2009.
Led by captain Joe Pavelski, the Sharks boast the top offensive stats of the playoffs. Pavelski, Logan Couture, and Brent Burns are the postseason’s leading scorers with 22, 24, and 20 points respectively. In addition, the Sharks still possess veteran forwards Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton, who have a combined 37 seasons in the NHL.
In fact, the only guy on the San Jose roster with Stanley Cup Finals experience is veteran forward Dainius Zubrus. This is the third time Zubrus is playing in the final series, the first came way back in 1997 when he was a rookie with the Philadelphia Flyers. He and the Flyers were of course swept by the Detroit Red Wings that season.
Then he made another appearance in 2012 as a member of the New Jersey Devils, when the Los Angele Kings dispatched the Devils in six games.
Martin Jones has been solid in goal for the Sharks, boasting a 2.12 goals-against-average along with three shutouts. The Sharks are led by Peter DeBoer in his first year as bench boss after previously coaching the New Jersey Devils and Florida Panthers.
Meanwhile in Pittsburgh, this will be the Penguins’ third trip to the Stanley Cup Finals in the last nine years, and first matchup in the championship round against a team other than the Red Wings since 1992.
Led by captain Sidney Crosby, the Penguins feature impressive depth boosted by off-season acquisition Phil Kessel and mid-season trade acquisition Carl Hagelin. Meanwhile, goaltender Matt Murray has been a revelation in goal for Pittsburgh. The rookie is playing in his first Stanley Cup playoff and has started in all but two games for the Penguins in the postseason, outplaying the likes of Henrik Lundqvist anc Braden Holtby, two perennial Vezina Trophy contenders.
Pittsburgh’s turning point occurred in December with the firing of coach Mike Johnston and replacing him with Mike Sullivan, who led the Penguins to a 33-16-5 record after taking over behind the bench.
This will be among the more intriguing Stanley Cup Finals matchups in years, and regardless of who ultimately raises Lord Stanley’s Cup, both teams will provide an entertaining and intense series.
- Game 1: @ PIT, Monday May 30, 8 p.m. ET on NBC
- Game 2: @ PIT, Wednesday June 1, 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN
- Game 3: @ SJ, Saturday June 4, 8 p.m. ET on CBC
- Game 4: @ SJ, Monday June 6, 8 p.m. ET on CBC
- Game 5: @ PIT, Thursday June 9, 8 p.m. ET on NBC*
- Game 6: @ SJ, Sunday June 12, 8 p.m. ET on NBC*
- Game 7: @ PIT, Wednesday June 15, 8 p.m. ET on NBC*