The Sharks are in their first Stanley Cup finals in franchise history, while the Penguins are looking for their fourth Stanley Cup and first since 2009. Below are the top stats to know about the finals, which begin Monday night.
Numbers of note
Over the past 10 seasons (since 2006-07), the Penguins and Sharks own the NHL’s two best points percentages. The Sharks are playing for the Stanley Cup for the first time in team history after entering the NHL during the 1991-92 season.
The last team to make its Stanley Cup finals debut was the 2007 Senators, who lost to the Ducks in five games. Meanwhile, the Penguins are in the Stanley Cup finals for a fifth time since their first appearance in 1991. Only the Red Wings have made more Stanley Cup finals appearances (six) in that span.
This will be the third Stanley Cup finals appearance for Sidney Crosby, who was drafted No. 1 overall in 2005. Elias Sports Bureau research shows that Crosby joins Mike Modano and Patrick Kane as No. 1 overall picks drafted since 1979 (the first draft after the NHL/WHA merger) to make at least three finals appearances. Marc-Andre Fleury (drafted No. 1 overall in 2003) could make this list as well if he plays in any game in this series.
The Sharks have players who went 1-2 in the 1997 NHL Draft in Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Per Elias, Marleau and Thornton will have the second and third-most career regular-season games played at the time of their first Stanley Cup finals appearance. Dave Andreychuk ranks first (1,597 games before his first Stanley Cup appearance).
The Sharks’ appearance in the Stanley Cup finals is the fourth by a California team over the past 10 seasons. By contrast, teams from Canada have two appearances in that span.
The Sharks have won eight games this postseason by at least three goals. Only five teams in NHL history have won more games by at least three goals in a single postseason.
Crosby and Malkin along for the ride?
Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin enter the finals looking to match Mario Lemieux with a second Stanley Cup. This postseason, each has 15 points, which is the fewest each has put up entering an appearance in the finals. Both rank eighth in points this postseason.
Instead, the Penguins have been led by Phil Kessel, who leads the team in postseason goals (9) and points (18).
Thornton likes to feed his teammates
Thornton has 964 assists since coming into the NHL in 1997-98, 212 more than the next-highest player, Jaromir Jagr.
In this postseason, he’s got 15 assists in 18 playoff games. He’s one of four players to post 15 assists in a single postseason at age 35 or older (Thornton is 36). The previous three (Jean Beliveau, Larry Robinson and Steve Yzerman) are all Hockey Hall of Famers.
These Thornton passes aren’t ordinary assists. He had a no-look backhand pass that led to a Joe Pavelski goal in Game 5 of the second round against the Predators and a pass through three defenders to set up a Pavelski goal in Game 4 of the Western Confererce Finals.
Speaking of Pavelski
Over the past three seasons, Pavelski has scored 131 goals (including playoffs), trailing only Alex Ovechkin (164). Pavelski’s 13 goals this postseason is tied for third-most by an American-born player. Elias notes that Kevin Stevens has the most, with 17 for the 1991 Penguins.
Pavelski’s 22 points this postseason rank second to teammate Logan Couture, who has 24.
A seasoned rookie in the finals
Penguins rookie goalie Matt Murray is 11-4 this postseason after winning nine games during the regular season. If he were to play and win all four games in this series, he’ll tie the rookie playoff wins record of 15 held by Patrick Roy (1986), Ron Hextall (1987) and Cam Ward (2006).
Murray, who just turned 22 this past Wednesday, is 4-0 this postseason immediately after a loss, including one on the road when facing elimination in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals.
Murray and Sharks goalie Martin Jones were not with their respective teams last season. Jones was actually traded twice in a five-day span last June. He first went from the Kings to the Bruins on June 26 in the Milan Lucic trade and then was dealt to the Sharks on June 30 for a first-round pick and prospect Sean Kuraly.
The Sharks have traveled to Los Angeles, Nashville and St. Louis this postseason. The Penguins have traveled to New York, Washington D.C. and Tampa this postseason. When you include all flights, to and from the respective cities, the difference in mileage is extraordinary.
Through the minimum four games of the finals, here’s what the total flight distance traveled this postseason would be (via World Atlas.com) (source: worldatlas.com)
Sharks: 20,342 miles
Penguins: 9,614 miles
The Sharks will have made at least 10 flights that were at least 1,700 miles one-way. The Penguins have not played a game outside the Eastern time zone since Jan. 18 (at the Blues) and haven’t been to the Pacific time zone since Dec. 1-6.