The day the Pittsburgh Penguins took their first shot at reaching their second consecutive Stanley Cup Final was an important anniversary in my relationship with the team. Unlike those involving my wife, which I remember with religious fervor, I forgot all about this one.
Yes, I wrote on May 23, 2016, with the Penguins trailing Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference finals by a margin of three games to two, that Sidney Crosby was not an emphatic enough leader to push his teammates past the playoff petulance that had ruled their springs throughout this decade. When the Pens rallied to defeat the Lightning and reach the 2016 Stanley Cup Finals, I responded by tweeting I was fine with being proven wrong.
Lundqvist is 35 and his best years are clearly behind him. His main supporting cast members, in particular Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Derek Stepan, Rick Nash and Ryan McDonagh, are still above-average contributors, but they aren’t getting younger.
Ultimately, we have some philosophical differences on how to build our team. Therefore, we mutually agreed that it is in everyone’s best interest to have a coaching change in order to move our franchise forward.
A couple suspect whistles (and non-whistles) irked both sides, including Predators superfan Carrie Underwood. The country music star and wife of Nashville captain Mike Fisher, already in hot water these playoffs for her social media thoughts on officiating, made it clear she felt the refs were out of line.
Suddenly all the pent-up anger went away when Kessel broke through with 6:55 remaining in the game.