The 2015-16 NHL season came to a close on Sunday night as the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the San Jose Sharks to claim the franchise’s fourth Stanley Cup and first Cup since 2009.
On what was generally a somber day across America after the events in Orlando, Florida, Kris Letang had the tie-breaking goal for the Penguins in the second period and Pittsburgh never looked back until Patric Hornqvist potted the empty net goal with 1:02 left in the third period to solidify the Penguins victory.
A Pittsburgh team that was swept by the Boston Bruins in the regular season (3-0) by a goal differential of 14-3 is spending the summer with the Stanley Cup in yet another example of how weird hockey can be. No one expected the Penguins to be this year’s champion, yet here they are.
Martin Jones played a phenomenal series for the Sharks in net and San Jose made it a competitive series after going down 0-2, but in the end the likes of Phil Kessel and Conn Smythe winner Sidney Crosby prevailed on Sunday night.
The Penguins had a whacky season in which Massachusetts-native and Boston University alum Mike Sullivan replaced Mike Johnston has head coach on December 12th. After spending most of the season hovering around .500, they entered the playoffs as the No. 2 seed in the Metropolitan Division and defeated the New York Rangers in the first round of the playoffs. Pittsburgh then went on to dispatch Alex Ovechkin and the top-seeded Washington Capitals, the Tampa Bay Lightning, and finally the Sharks en route to the team’s second Stanley Cup in eight years.
And as for Sharks fans, look on the bright side:
Next year I’ll once again make the age-old promise to follow hockey more during the regular season or at least keep watching the games past Thanksgiving. We’ll see if it actually happens.