Penguins and Sharks meet, finally, in Stanley Cup Finals

Mon May 30, 2016 10:25pm EDT
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By Tim Wharnsby

(Reuters) - The 2016 Stanley Cup Finals could be billed as the what-took-you-so-long championship series. The Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks, which begin their best-of-seven series in Pittsburgh on Monday, were expected to meet in the final -- not necessarily this year, but six years ago to be precise.

Back then, the Penguins were a year removed from the franchise’s first championship in 17 years and the Sharks enjoyed the best regular season in the West.

But instead, Pittsburgh began a string of playoff failures in 2010, while San Jose continued to suffer shortcomings in the postseason, being swept in the Western Conference Finals by the Chicago Blackhawks a portend of things to come.

But the Sharks have finally solved their postseason woes, advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in their 24-year history.

The Penguins, with all their talent -- including captain Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz and Kris Letang -- feel like they’ve been missing from the National Hockey League’s biggest stage for almost as long.

“Every year, you look at the opportunities you have, and we were in pretty good spots for a number of those years going into the playoffs,” Crosby said.

“I think we've always believed in one another. Just trying to get back is not easy.”

Tell that to the Sharks. They have had plenty of talent and made trips to three conference finals between 2004 and 2011, but taking that next step eluded them.   Continued...

San Jose Sharks goalie Martin Jones (31) makes a save as defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic (44) defends against Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Carl Hagelin (62) in the second period of game one of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final at Consol Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Bennett/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports