By one strange stat, Penguins have advantage over Sharks in Stanley Cup finals quest

The Penguins are headed back to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 2009. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

The Stanley Cup finals will pit the two teams with the best records in the NHL over the last 10 seasons.

It will also put to the test an interesting and perhaps odd trend that has carried through the last 15 seasons.

This will be the seventh time in the past 15 seasons that the Stanley Cup finals features one team that went seven games it its conference finals series and one team that did not.

The team coming off the Game 7 victory went on to win the Stanley Cup each of the previous six times -- so, advantage Pittsburgh Penguins over the San Jose Sharks.

The Penguins got there on the strength of first-year players: a rookie goalie in Matt Murray and a rookie goal scorer in Bryan Rust. They also have a coach in his first season with the team in Mike Sullivan.

Elias Sports Bureau research shows that it’s the fourth time that a rookie goalie won a Game 7 and a rookie skater scored the winning goal. It last happened in 1986, when both the Montreal Canadiens and Calgary Flames did it.

Elias also notes that Murray will be the sixth rookie goalie to start a Stanley Cup finals game in the past 30 seasons. Coincidentally, the last goaltender to do so was the goalie Murray beat on Thursday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning's Andrei Vasilevskiy, for the Lightning last season.

Rust scored twice in Game 7 versus the Lightning, making it the first time in his career that he had a multigoal game.

All three Game 7 goals were scored in the second period, when the Penguins logged 32 shot attempts and the Lightning managed only nine. The Penguins outshot the Lightning in all seven games in this series. Elias notes that the last time one team outshot another in all seven games in a series was in the 2011 matchup between these same teams. The Penguins outshot the Lightning but lost the series.

Sidney Crosby didn’t score for Pittsburgh on Thursday on the six shots he took in 23 minutes, but he did reach the finals for the third time. Per Elias, Crosby (and possibly Marc-Andre Fleury, if he plays in place of Murray) will join Mike Modano and Patrick Kane as No. 1 overall picks drafted since 1979 (the first draft after the NHL/WHA merger) to make three Stanley Cup finals appearances.