Cam Tucker

Penguins to hold Stanley Cup parade on Wednesday

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Hockey fans in Pittsburgh partied into the night Sunday, as their Penguins captured the 2016 Stanley Cup.

They’ll have another chance to celebrate, as the Penguins have their Stanley Cup parade scheduled for Wednesday.

Here are the details:

The parade route will follow a similar route as previous championship parades that took place in 2009. The route will begin on Grant Street at Liberty Avenue, travel along Grant Street to the Boulevard of the Allies, turn right onto the Boulevard of the Allies and will end at the intersection of the Boulevard of the Allies and Stanwix Street. A stage will be set up at Stanwix Street for celebratory remarks from Pittsburgh Penguins personnel.

According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the city is expecting a crowd of more than 375,000 for the parade.

“Given the level of enthusiasm that Pittsburgh fans have presented so far we’re expecting the crowd to be larger that what appeared in 2009,” Katie O’Malley, spokeswoman for Mayor Bill Peduto, told the Tribune-Review.

 

Stanley Cup winners again, Penguins have a shot at lengthy run at the top

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PITTSBURGH — When the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2009, a dynasty appeared to be in the offing. It didn’t quite work out that way. Injuries and inconsistent postseason play sent the franchise into a full-fledged identity crisis.

The long, seemingly interminable wait for Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to bookend the championship the helped capture seven years ago came to a blissful, euphoric end on Sunday night in San Jose. Their six-game triumph over the Sharks in the final capped a meteoric six-month sprint under Mike Sullivan, whose arrival in mid-December provided the wake-up call the talented but erratic roster desperately needed.

“It’s not an easy win in this league,” Malkin said. “Every team in the league deserves to win. We play against San Jose and they haven’t won in 25 years. It’s not easy.”

Maybe, but for the Penguins the path might be smoother than most. The group that poured over the boards and onto the ice when the horn sounded at the end of a 100-game plus marathon that spanned from September to June appears to be well-appointed for the future thanks to a series of moves by general manager Jim Rutherford to build around his two stars.

Oddsmakers made Pittsburgh an early favorite to win it all again next year, heady territory considering there hasn’t been a repeat champion in nearly two decades. Then again, there’s reason to be optimistic the run at the top that seemed a near certainty in 2009 could still come to fruition, if later than expected.

Related:

Seven-year itch, scratched: Pens win Stanley Cup

From frustration to appreciation, it all came together for the Pittsburgh Penguins

Despite reports to the contrary, Matt Murray was nervous every day

On the evolution of Crosby, Pittsburgh’s ‘consummate leader’

The core of Crosby, Malkin, forward Phil Kessel and defensemen Kris Letang and Olli Maatta are all 30 or under and all signed through at least 2022. Goaltender Matt Murray – whose 15 wins in the playoffs tied an NHL rookie record – turned 22 last month. Young forwards Bryan Rust, Conor Sheary and Tom Kuhnhackl are in their mid-20s. Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Patric Hornqvist will be back.

So will Sullivan, who began the season molding prospects for Pittsburgh’s American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He ended it posing at center ice with his sport’s biggest trophy as the centerpiece after taking the pieces given to him by Rutherford and creating a relentless, swarming team that often tilted the ice for long stretches.

“We felt as though, if we were a team that could play fast in every aspect of the game, it could be our competitive advantage on some of our opponents,” Sullivan said. “I thought Jim Rutherford did a tremendous job in acquiring some guys along the way that enhanced that speed for us.”

The only real questions heading into the offseason surround goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and forward Matt Cullen.

Fleury kept the Penguins afloat early in the season, then played the role of dutiful mentor to Murray after a concussion suffered on March 31 limited him to one playoff appearance, an overtime loss to Tampa Bay in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals. Fleury has three years left on a deal with an average cap hit of $5.75 million, a high price to pay for a player who just watched his backup backstop the team to its fourth title.

Rutherford insists Fleury remains a part of the team’s future, though Fleury acknowledged at times during the playoffs he wasn’t sure what the future will hold. Ditto the 39-year-old Cullen, who pledged that this season would be his last. It’s hard to imagine finding a sweeter way to go out than skating around with the Cup. Yet he also looked and played like a guy a decade younger, and he didn’t miss a game in the regular season or playoffs.

For now, the chance to savor a triumph few saw coming when Sullivan took over is enough

“It’s pretty amazing,” Cullen said. “We went through an awful lot this year and we really became a close knit group. It was pretty cool how everybody seemed to play a special part as we went through the end of the year and into the playoffs. Everybody shares a big piece of it. It’s truly a team win.”

As if to emphasize the point, the first Penguins outside of Crosby to lift the Cup on Sunday night were those who played a vital role in the run but didn’t play a minute during the final, going from injured defenseman Trevor Daley to retired forward Pascal Dupuis to Fleury.

“It took everybody to get this,” said Crosby, who earned the Conn Smythe as the playoff MVP.

And it will almost certainly take everybody to get back. The Penguins are optimistic but also pragmatic. They know 2009 was supposed to be the first of many, which is maybe why they didn’t cherish it as much as they should have. They have no plans to make the same mistake this time around.

“It’s a great year,” said Malkin, who welcomed a son last month. “I have lots of emotion, I’m glad the season is over like this. It’s going to be a great summer.”

Penguins-Sharks Stanley Cup Final was most watched non-Original Six series in 15 years

SAN JOSE, CA - JUNE 12:  Joe Pavelski #8 of the San Jose Sharks shakes hands with Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins after losing Game Six 3-1 and the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at SAP Center on June 12, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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The 2016 Stanley Cup Final matched Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins up against the San Jose Sharks, becoming the most watched non-Original Six series in 15 years, according to NBC Sports PR.

The Penguins returned to championship status, taking the series in six games thanks to a road win Sunday in San Jose against a Sharks team that had made its first franchise appearance in the final.

As per NBC Sports PR, the six-game series averaged 3.948 million viewers, making it the most watched Stanley Cup Final without an Original Six team since 2001, when the Colorado Avalanche defeated the New Jersey Devils.

Viewership was up 31 per cent from the 2012 final, which was the last time two non-Original Six teams — the L.A. Kings and the Devils — battled for the Stanley Cup.

This series also drew increased ratings in Pittsburgh, where anticipation for another championship had been growing before fans eventually got to celebrate the team’s second Stanley Cup title in eight years.

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Report: Letang had surgery before Game 1 of Stanley Cup Final

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So, remember when Kris Letang missed practice and then didn’t take part in media day before the start of the Stanley Cup Final? A bit unusual at the time.

Given the time of the season, virtually no details as to why were provided, so uncertainty about his status began to grow. The next day, Letang held a press conference prior to Game 1. Asked if he was playing, Letang was brief: “Yup.” Asked about any problems, he replied: “Nope.”

OK then.

Not only did the Penguins’ best defenseman play in Game 1 and the series, Letang was solid, with five points in six games as Pittsburgh claimed the Stanley Cup over the San Jose Sharks.

Since the victory, details of his aforementioned absence — both brief and peculiar at the time — have emerged.

Letang finished the playoffs with 15 points in 23 games, while averaging 28:52 of ice time for the Penguins. His point total finished second behind only Brent Burns for defensemen in the 2016 playoffs.

Hurricanes sign prospect Aleksi Saarela, acquired in blockbuster Eric Staal trade

LAKE PLACID, NY - AUGUST 03: Aleksi Saarela #16 of Team Finland skates against USA Blue during the 2014 USA Hockey Junior Evaluation Camp at the Lake Placid Olympic Center on August 3, 2014 in Lake Placid, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The Carolina Hurricanes and prospect forward Aleksi Saarela have agreed to terms on a three-year entry-level contract, the team announced Monday.

It’s a significant move for the Hurricanes, who acquired the 19-year-old Saarela — plus a pair of second round picks, one in 2016 and the other in 2017 — in the blockbuster trade that sent Eric Staal to the New York Rangers prior to the deadline.

Here is the breakdown of the contract — which came with a signing bonus of $277,500 — at the NHL level:

— 2016-17: $625,000

— 2017-18: $675,000

— 2018-19: $750,000

“Aleksi is a talented, offensive-minded player who we were excited to acquire at the trade deadline,” said Hurricanes GM Ron Francis in a statement.

“He took a big step forward last season and led his team in goal scoring as one of the league’s younger players, and we look forward to seeing his game continue to grow.”

Saarela played in 51 games for Assat Pori in the SM-liiga this past season, scoring a team-high 20 goals and finishing third on the team with 33 points.

Earlier in the day, the Hurricanes signed top prospect Sebastian Aho to an entry-level deal.