Eight OHL graduates are Stanley Cup champions with the Pittsburgh Penguins following a 2-0 Game 6 road win over the Nashville Predators on Sunday.
After defeating the San Jose Sharks last year, the Penguins become the first team since the 1997 and 1998 Detroit Red Wings to win back-to-back Stanley Cup titles. Their 49 playoff games in a span of two years are the most of any team in NHL history.
Rimouski Oceanic graduate Sidney Crosby was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the NHL Playoffs for the second straight year. Crosby joins other CHL grads in Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Bernie Parent (1974, 1975) as well as Penguins legend and current team president Mario Lemieux (1991, 1992) as the third back-to-back recipient of the award in NHL history.
Crosby finished second in NHL playoff scoring with eight goals, 19 assists and 27 points in 23 games. He recorded a goal and six assists in the Stanley Cup Final.
“We had injuries all year and through the playoffs,” said Crosby after hoisting the Stanley Cup. “Everybody understands when you get this far you have to get through some adversity. We knew it was going to be tough to get back here but we found a way.”
Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds graduate Matt Murray turned in a 27-save shutout in Game 6, hoisting the Stanley Cup for the second time in as many years despite having not yet reached the 100-game mark on his young NHL career.
“We didn’t let the fact that we didn’t score all game get us down and we stuck to our game plan and got a late one,” said the Thunder Bay native during post-game celebrations. “It says a lot about the character of our team and I’m so proud and so honoured to be a part of this team and get this done back-to-back.”
Murray went 7-3 with a 1.70 goals-against average, a .937 save percentage and three shutouts in an injury-shortened 11-game playoff run. He was spelled by goaltending partner Marc-Andre Fleury (Cape Breton Screaming Eagles) early in the post-season who played to a 9-6 mark with a 2.56 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage to capture his third Stanley Cup title.
Other OHL graduates in Trevor Daley (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds) and Olli Maatta (London Knights) were key contributors on an unheralded Pittsburgh blue line that persevered despite missing star defenceman Kris Letang (Val-d’Or Foreurs) through the second half of the season and entire playoffs due to injury.
“It shows the character of our team when we had our best defenceman out of the lineup,” said Daley post-game. “We found a way to get things done and it’s a special group we’ve got here. Our defence doesn’t get the credit it deserves but maybe now it will.”
Murray, Daley, Maatta and forward Tom Kuhnhackl (Niagara IceDogs) were four of the eight OHL graduates included on Pittsburgh’s playoff roster to see action in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Penguins were directed by key OHL graduates off the ice as general manager Jim Rutherford, who was an OHL GM and head coach between Windsor and Detroit from 1984-94, was the architect of the championship roster.
Assistant coach Jacques Martin was an assistant with the Peterborough Petes from 1983-85 before coaching the Guelph Platers to an OHL championship and Mastercard Memorial Cup title in 1986.
Fellow Penguins assistant Rick Tocchet played for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds from 1981-84 before an 18-year NHL playing career that saw him win a Stanley Cup title with the Penguins in 1992.
The Penguins’ fifth Stanley Cup title in franchise history follows other championships in 1991, 1992, 2009 and 2016.
Pittsburgh’s path to glory included a 4-1 first round series victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets, a 4-3 second round series win over the rival Washington Capitals, a thrilling 4-3 Eastern Conference Final win over the Ottawa Senators that required double-overtime in Game 7 and a 4-2 Stanley Cup Final triumph over Nashville.
Matt Murray (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, 2010-14)
Frank Corrado (Sudbury, Kitchener, 2009-13)
Trevor Daley (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, 1999-03)
Cameron Gaunce (Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors, 2007-10)
Olli Maatta (London Knights, 2011-13)
Tom Kuhnhackl (Windsor, Niagara, 2010-12)
Tom Sestito (Plymouth Whalers, 2004-07)
Garrett Wilson (Windsor, Owen Sound, 2007-11)