by Brittany Bell
Photos Courtesy of 90.5 WESA, sbnation.com and Bleacher Report
Ahh, summer. The warmer weather has rolled in, along with shorter shorts, sun tans (or burns) and sunscreen. The season also marks the finales of both the National Hockey League and National Basketball Association. With both the Stanley Cup Finals and NBA Finals naming their new league champions, there were two great championship series to look back on, and see what was make or break for the teams competing.
This year’s Stanley Cup Final saw a newcomer from the Western Conference, the San Jose Sharks, and a seasoned, multiple-cup wielding franchise, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Both teams came into the tournament with quick offensive lines and solid defense. While both teams had questionable goaltender situations throughout the season, both proved to be effective during the series.
For the San Jose Sharks, centerman and captain Joe Pavelski, centerman Logan Couture and centerman Joe Thornton led in the scoring. In the playoffs, San Jose led in goals per game, with a 3.12 average. Young goaltender Martin Jones came up big for the Sharks, particularly facing elimination in Game 5 where he made over 40 saves to push the Sharks to victory. Ultimately, however, the Pittsburgh Penguins quick squad and powerful offense overtook them.
Pittsburgh winning the 2016 Stanley Cup marks the team’s first cup since 2009, and their fourth in franchise history. Captain Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin listed their second Cup in their careers, tying that of Penguins and NHL great Mario Lemieux. Some may not have imagined this result for Pittsburgh; however, after difficulties during the beginning of the season led to then-Head Coach Mike Johnston being replaced by former Terrier Mike Sullivan. Since Sullivan’s hiring on December 12, the Penguins saw success for the rest of the season, leading them to a Stanley Cup. The Penguins’ victory also marks the return of the Stanley Cup to the Eastern Conference, its first time since the Boston Bruins brought the Cup home in 2011.
In the NBA, a battle to the bitter end took place, with the Cleveland Cavaliers emerging victorious over the history-making Golden State Warriors team. This season, the Warriors beat the single-season wins record previously held by the Chicago Bulls. However, a comeback that was staged by Golden State against the Thunder in the Conference Finals could not be repeated in the NBA Finals. Though the Warriors held a 3-1 lead in the series, Cleveland rallied behind their star player, LeBron James.
After coming back from the deficit in the series, the Cavs became the first team to ever do so in the NBA Finals.
According to the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network, James said, "I'm coming home with what I said I was going to do. I can't wait to get off that plane, hold that trophy up and see all our fans at the terminal."
This win is especially important to the fans in Cleveland, with the win ending the 52-year major league sports championship deficit. Besides being the only team to come back from a 3-1 deficit, the Cavs were also the fourth team in history to win an NBA Finals Game 7 on the road. LeBron James also was awarded the honor of Finals MVP, taking it away from two-time league MVP Steph Curry, who couldn’t bring the Golden State Warriors to their second straight NBA Finals Championship.
With both the NBA Finals and the Stanley Cup Finals officially over, and their seasons coming to a close, there will be a lull in professional sports (besides Major League Baseball) until the fall when the National Football League, NBA and NHL all return for another season.