The Pittsburgh Penguins have another chance to win their fourth Stanley Cup in franchise history, and first since 2009, when they face the San Jose Sharks on the road in Game 6.
Trying to win a championship on the road late in a series doesn’t sound like the easiest of feats, but recent history may suggest otherwise.
SAN JOSE – Far too often, hockey players are described as warriors. In the case of Finnish players, that description actually fits. And that is why after Olli Maatta may very well end up going from being a Stanley Cup champion to a buck private in the Finnish military this summer.
Finland is one of the last bastions of mandatory military service. In fact, the penalty for refusing it can be up to 173 days in prison. All men 18 years and older are required to serve a minimum of 165 days, something Maatta plans to do over the next two summers. So shortly after the Cup final ends, which could be as early as tonight if the Penguins win Game 6 with Maatta patrolling the blueline, he’ll head to Santahamina, home to the Guard Jaeger Regiment, and report for duty.
SAN JOSE – With 44 saves in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final, San Jose Sharks goalie Martin Jones made NHL history Thursday night. Recording the most stops in an elimination game in Cup final history plus a couple of dollars will get Jones nothing more than cup of very expensive west coast coffee. But if he can replicate his play in Game 6, that will almost certainly lead go a Game 7. And then we’re talking some serious history here.
If not for the play of Jones, this Stanley Cup final probably would have been a sweep, or perhaps been over in five. It’s safe and accurate to say that because the gap in play between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Sharks in the first five games of the final has been that cavernous. With the exception of Game 4, the 26-year-old Jones has outplayed the 22-year-old Matt Murray in every game. The Penguins, in case you haven’t noticed, are outshooting the Sharks by an average of 12 shots per game. Jones has stopped 167 of their 179 shots so far for a save percentage of .933.
SAN JOSE – Things got so bad for Justin Schultz that he had to set up a fake Twitter account to keep up with the news of the day and read links to stories that interested him. That’s because his real Twitter account was so filled with vitriol and hate that he couldn’t stand looking at it.
So when a player tells you that he doesn’t read anything that’s written about him or that he’s impervious to the criticism, it isn’t always true. Some players can dismiss it, but others take it to heart. One win away from winning the Stanley Cup, Schultz can laugh about it now. But when he played with the Edmonton Oilers, he was hardly living the dream he’d spent so much of his life anticipating.
“It’s not a lot of fun getting booed in front of your home fans,” Schultz said. “It’s pretty tough to enjoy yourself when that’s happening.”
SAN JOSE – Perhaps when Logan Couture accused Sidney Crosby of cheating in the faceoff circle, it was a desperate ploy. But, hey, desperate times call for desperate measures. The Pittsburgh Penguins had just won the first two games of the Stanley Cup final and Crosby was eating them alive in the faceoff circle.
Whatever the intent, it’s worked. Prior to Couture’s comments after Crosby won a crucial draw in overtime that led to the game-winner, Crosby had won 26 of 40 faceoffs for a mind-boggling success rate of 65 percent. But in Games 3, 4 and 5, Crosby was a combined 37-44 in the faceoff circle for a success rate of just 45.7 percent.
Marc Savard has now been traded twice without having played in a single game.
The injured 38-year-old center was dealt Friday – the second time in less than a year – in a move made strictly because of salary cap implications. Savard is now a member of the New Jersey Devils, leaving the Florida Panthers for minor-leaguer Paul Thompson and center Graham Black, a 23-year-old prospect.
Entering the NHL off-season, it appears the league’s projected increase in the salary cap to $74 million could fall short.
Each year, the NHLPA votes on approving a five-percent escalator clause. If the players vote against it this year, the cap ceiling could drop. Last Saturday, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported the cap could fall to under $70 million.
The New York Post’s Larry Brooks cites a source with ties to the PA claiming the cap would drop to $69.3 million if the players reject the escalator. If they approve it, the ceiling rises to $72.8 million.
The Stanley Cup final is heading back to San Jose with the Sharks in a position to tie the series and force a seventh game. And even though it was the first game of the series in which Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski found the goal column, it’s Martin Jones who was the real star of Game 5.
The Pittsburgh Penguins, as they have throughout the playoffs, dominated the possession game Thursday night and put the Sharks on their heels for a good portion of the second and third frames. And were it not for Jones, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where the Sharks emerge victorious. The Sharks goaltender made more than a dozen big saves, and none was more spectacular than this lunging toe save on what looked like a sure goal for Penguins center Nick Bonino.
After receiving a cross-ice pass, Phil Kessel, who was a force all night, fired a shot that was blocked but bounced right back onto his tape. Kessel’s second shot was low and hard but was kicked away by Jones right onto Bonino’s stick. He immediately batted a backhand towards the net when Jones darted his left pad out to rob Bonino: Read more