By Kim Dunning
The Pittsburgh Penguins are the Stanley Cup Champions, much to the surprise of a lot of hockey fans. Before the start of the NHL season, the Chicago Blackhawks were favored to win back to back championships. They had essentially the same personnel from their previous Cup run in 2015. However, the St. Louis Blues finished better in the division than the Blackhawks, had home ice and eliminated them in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Most experts thought that this playoff game winner would be the eventual Stanley Cup Champions. The series ended with the announcer saying “The Chicago Blackhawks are Champions no more”. This just goes to show you how difficult it can be to win in the playoffs.
So why exactly is it so hard to repeat a Stanley Cup Championship? It has only occurred 15 instances in 89 years. That doesn’t bode well for a Champion to come back and repeat the next year. The Montreal Canadians have done it the most at five times. What makes it nearly impossible to repeat a Stanley Cup Champion?
The simplest answer is hockey is a game of momentum. A team, like the Penguins this year, can get hot at the right time. A team, like the Washington Capitals, can be hot and dominate throughout the entire regular season and then lose their momentum to a team who “caught fire” at the right time. This also proves that the regular season doesn’t always transition into how a team will perform in the playoffs. Reasons why teams don’t transition well from regular season hockey to playoff hockey is because the teams who rely on the power play to be dominate do not end up being successful in the playoffs as opposed to teams who are used to playing 5 on 5. Also because of the different overtime format of 3 on 3 during the regular season, the points total can be misleading.
Some teams are lucky enough to have a momentum swing by having a hot goalie at the right time, like we saw with Matt Murray in Pittsburgh this year. You can’t discount the “puck luck” you get when your team is playing well either. Some shots will bounce off the “tinman” and somehow make it into the goal, where as a team who isn’t getting the puck luck will have those same shots bounce up and beyond the net or to the side.
The Stanley Cup is the hardest trophy in professional sports to obtain and once a team has achieved that tremendous goal, repeating that task is next to impossible to achieve. Fortunately, for the reigning Champions, the Penguins have succeeded in repeating in 1991 and 1992, and this year, with basically the same roster intact, the Penguins have a good shot of attempting to repeat Stanley Cup victories. Unfortunately, statistics show that it has only been done twice in the last 30 years. Although the Penguins did repeat back in 91-92, most of the players on the current Penguins team either weren’t alive yet or were barely able to skate.
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