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Stanley Cup Final Preview: Who has the better narrative?

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Leading up to Monday's Game 1, Puck Daddy is previewing every facet of the Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks — on the ice and off the ice.

PITTSBURGH

After the Penguins were ousted in the first-round of the playoffs by the New York Rangers last year, there was some doubt that this team led by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin could make another championship run.

Coach Mike Johnston was fired in December and it seemed the Penguins were going nowhere fast. Now Crosby has a chance to redeem his legacy as the best NHL player since the 2004-05 lockout with his second Stanley Cup. This is Pittsburgh's first trip to the Cup Final since 2009 when the Penguins beat the Detroit Red Wings. 

Further down the lineup, Phil Kessel’s time with the Toronto Maple Leafs had run its course. There was a belief he couldn’t turn it on for his team’s biggest moments that went back to his early years with the Boston Bruins.

He has led the Penguins in goals and points this playoffs and has been the difference for this team with the “HBK” line. As Crosby and Malkin haven’t produced at their customary levels, Kessel has led the way. 

Off the ice, 67-year-old general manager Jim Rutherford couldn’t seem to make a right move a year ago in his first year with the team and was ripped by local media. Now he finds himself with a chance at his second Stanley Cup.

Coach Mike Sullivan couldn’t get a head-coaching job after he was fired by the Bruins in 2005-06. Now he has a chance to be at the forefront at a big mid-season turnaround.

SAN JOSE

Organizationally the San Jose Sharks have come a long way in their 25 years to get to this point for their first Stanley Cup Final appearance.

The team started play in a place called the Cow Palace, but has since moved to a slick building named after tech company SAP. Before then it was HP Pavilion and Compaq Center, other Silicon Valley companies.  

Their general manager was part of the original roster and they have a group of early year employees that still work there.

But really San Jose’s older stars are their narrative. Joe Thornton was traded by the Bruins to San Jose in the 2005-06 season. At the time it was believed, by the Boston brass, that Thornton did not have the type of mentality to lead a team to the Cup.

"I asked myself if Joe Thornton could lead us to the Stanley Cup, and my answer was no," former Bruins general manager Mike O’Connell told the New England Hockey Journal in 2011. "Do you want to rebuild around a player that has character but not the championship character you're looking for?" 

In San Jose, Thornton has cemented his Hall of Fame legacy with 1,341 career points. Winning the Cup could stick it to those, especially in Boston, who thought he couldn’t get to this point.

Patrick Marleau, who was drafted by San Jose in 1997, has often been needled by NHL on NBC broadcaster and former teammate Jeremy Roenick for having similar issues.

They’ve essentially waited 18 years in their NHL careers to prove all doubters wrong. This is their chance.

ADVANTAGE: Even. A Stanley Cup would be storybook to Marleau, Thornton, or Kessel and change how all three are viewed around the league. A win for Crosby would greatly enhance his personal NHL legacy. Both teams have similar narrative of doubters and potential redemption. 

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

 

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