The Penguins played great defense their own way

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SAN JOSE — For all the talk about the Penguins’ balanced scoring and how Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin didn’t have to do it all anymore, it was their ability to keep the puck out of their own net that head coach Mike Sullivan spoke about after winning the Stanley Cup.

“As I’ve said to them all along, I know our team is going to score goals,” said Sullivan. “In order to win championships, you got to keep it out of your net. You have to become a team that is stingy defensively. Everybody has to buy in to that idea for us to get to where we want to go. To their credit, they did, down to a man.”

Pittsburgh finished the playoffs with a 16-8 record, and a 2.29 goals-against average. In six games against the Sharks, the Pens never allowed more than 26 shots, and that included two games that went to overtime. That sure made Matt Murray‘s job a lot easier in goal. The rookie was solid in all four of his wins during the Final, but he didn’t have to stand on his head.

And by the way, the Penguins didn’t play heavy defensive hockey, the kind the Kings used to win a couple of Cups. The Pens used their main asset — their speed — to keep the big, powerful Sharks at bay.

“Their speed, the pressure they put on with their speed,” said San Jose coach Pete DeBoer. “It’s not just their speed, they have good sticks, too. They force you into quicker decisions.”

Let that be a lesson — you don’t need to be big to play good defense. But you need to play it somehow, however you can, because good defense wins Cups.

Goals-against average (regular season) of past seven Stanley Cup champs
2015-16 Penguins (6th, 2.43)
2014-15 Blackhawks (2nd, 2.27)
2013-14 Kings (1st, 2.05)
2012-13 Blackhawks (1st, 2.02)
2011-12 Kings (2nd, 2.07)
2010-11 Bruins (2nd, 2.30)
2009-10 Blackhawks (5th, 2.48)