Now that the Pittsburgh Penguins have qualified for the Stanley Cup final, the comparisons to the Oilers of the early ’80s can really begin.
It was 25 years ago that an exciting, young team from Edmonton qualified for its first Cup final led by a nucleus of future Hall of Famers. Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier were just 21-years-old at the time while Jari Kurri checked in at 22.
The Penguins counter with 20-year-old Sidney Crosby, the youngest captain in NHL history to reach the final, and fellow centres Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal, whose ID’s read just 21 and 19 respectively.
Did the Pens celebrate Sunday’s Eastern Conference win at a bar or Chuck E. Cheese?
On the backend, the Oilers were anchored by 21-year-old Paul Coffey and 23-year-old Kevin Lowe.
Though veteran Sergei Gonchar is the main offensive threat on Pittsburgh’s blue-line, youngsters Ryan Whitney (25) and Kris Letang (21) give the Pens another pair of comparables to the early Oil. And in goal, Marc-Andre Fleury (23) is analogous to a young Andy Moog (22), who handled the goaltending duties that spring with 19-year-old Grant Fuhr backing him up.
Given the type of dominance the Oilers enjoyed for the better part of a decade, Crosby and company will welcome the comparisons. However, the Pens are hoping to rewrite the beginning of script, as the Islanders swept the Oilers in four games in their first trip to final in 1983.
- Despite the unfavourable outcome for our home and native land, cross your fingers that the gold medal game in 2010 features the same two countries as at this year’s World Hockey Championship. Russia’s 5-4 win over Canada in Quebec City may have been frustrating for Canadian fans, but it was everything you want to see in a hockey game with the exception of highlight-reel goaltending. Cam Ward and Evgeni Nabokov weren’t terrible, but they weren’t as exceptional as one expects to see in the Olympics two years from now when the likes of Martin Brodeur and Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo show upApart from that, the domination of the Canadian contingent of Rick Nash, Dany Heatley and Ryan Getzlaf was a preview of a line we should see in 2010, and the high-flying talent of Alexander Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk left viewers marveling at both the wonderful skill and personality the new generation of Russians can provide. Mix in the likes of Crosby, Joe Thornton, Vincent Lecavalier and Jarome Iginla for Team Canada, with snipers like Malkin and Pavel Datsyuk bolstering Team Russia, and the $775 for the best seat in the house at GM Place on Feb. 28, 2010 might look like a bargain.
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