Monday, May 25, 2009
In their 24th season, the Pittsburgh Penguins were finally able to win the Stanley Cup on this date in 1991 by crushing the Minnesota North Stars 8-0 to win in 6 games. The Penguins were led by superstar Mario Lemieux and a deep lineup featuring Joe Mullen, Mark Recchi, Kevin Stevens, rookie Jaromir Jagr, Larry Murphy, Paul Coffey and goaltender Tom Barasso. As if that roster weren't strong enough on it's own, the Penguins also added Bryan Trottier, a veteran of the New York Islanders recent dynasty to provide veteran leadership. Coaching this deep lineup of talent was "Badger" Bob Johnson in his first year behind the Penguins bench.
The Penguins started the season without Lemieux, who missed the first half of the season recovering from a back injury suffered in February of the previous season. The team got off to a slow start, but with the return of Lemieux, their fortunes improved to the point that they were in playoff contention in 3rd place in their division when March rolled around and they pulled off a big trade that would put them over the top, acquiring Ron Francis from Hartford. With the addition of Francis, the Penguins finished the season 9-3-2 and won their first Division Championship.
In the playoffs they would defeat the New Jersey Devils in 7 games after being down 3 game to 2. They next defeated the Washington Capitals and then the Boston Bruins in 6, after falling behind 2-0 to start the series, to earn the right to face the surprising Minnesota North Stars in the finals.
Minnesota had actually finished the regular season with a dismal 27-39-14 record (14 ties! How odd does that now look in the age of the shootout?) but came out of nowhere in the playoffs to defeat the President's Trophy winning Chicago Blackhawks in a huge upset, St. Louis and defending champions the Edmonton Oilers to reach the finals.
Minnesota continued their hot streak and won Game 1 on the road, but the Penguins came back to win game 2 as the series shifted to Minnesota where the Penguins earned a split, tying the series at 2-2. Pittsburgh then won Game 5 at home and slaughtered the North Stars 8-0 to win their first Stanley Cup.
On a personal note, we grew up as North Stars fans, and the first time in our lives that our team makes the Stanley Cup Finals, we were in Italy on vacation. In the pre-internet days of the early 90's (which now seems like a lifetime ago), the only way we could "follow" the series was to buy the European edition of the USA Today and look for the game scores - 2 days later due to the time difference - in the agate type in the scoreboard section. No photos, no game story, not even a boxscore! Probably just as well, since being there in person (having gone to a game in the previous round vs. Edmonton, you have no idea how easy it was to buy tickets for the best seats in the house for the finals at the time) for an 8-0 pasting in your own building probably would have had us in a depression for days.
Today's featured jersey is a 1990-91 Pittsburgh Penguins Mario Lemieux jersey featuring the 1991 Stanley Cup Finals patch, as worn on May 25th, 1991 when the Penguins won the Stanley Cup and Lemeiux was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP. This reissue of the older Penguins jerseys is one of our favorites. The newer version has a very large, well constructed crest, probably 50% larger than the crests originally put on the replica jerseys back when the Penguins originally won the cup.
This jersey was purchased blank and is nicely customized with the proper font for the sleeve numbers in particular, as the ones sold by CCM with the name and numbers already on them used an incorrect, tall and narrow font for the sleeve numbers rather than the Penguins squat, nearly square shaped numbers.
Incorrect customization brings up an interesting point. Just because a jersey comes with a name and number already on it from the manufacturer, don't always assume that it is correct. Starter was known to put wildly incorrect fonts on their jerseys, such as our least favorite font "Machine", The First Font of Choice by People Who Have No Idea What They are Doing™ on a New Jersey Devils jersey.
We can't tell you how thrilled we were when our local club, the Minnesota Wild, chose to use this very font on their retro styled alternate red jerseys when they first came out. What a completely crap font.
Another utterly maddening example is the retro green North Stars CCM Mike Modano jerseys that permeate the hobby. We don't know what dipshit originally screwed up this one, but once it was made wrong, it apparently became The Gospel Truth.
Take a look at it. Notice the drop shadow, the key word here being "drop", on the N crest on the front goes down and to the right, but the "drop shadow" on the number goes... up and to the left! What they have done here is located the top white layer in the bottom left corner of the yellow layer of twill, instead of the upper right as it should be.
The effect can also be described as a "6" being sewn on upside down, because if you rotate the number 180º, it becomes a 6 with the drop shadow correctly oriented down and away from the white layer. How hard was it to get that right when every photo of the North Stars jerseys from this era has the same treatment and there's a big, fat clue as to how it should look right there on the front of the jersey!
While we're at it, notice the star on top of the N. It's backwards! It should lean to the right, following the same trajectory as the arrow part of the N below it. Later production runs of this jersey did have the star corrected, but we've never seen a factory customized jersey ever have the proper style number on the back and sleeves. Why they could fix the specs for the crest and never the numbers is beyond us.
Here's a challenge for you. Search for "Modano North Stars Jersey" on ebay any time you want. Go ahead. We promise you that 19 out of 20 will be wrong. Guaranteed.
The Mike Modano North Stars jersey. It's easily The Most Frequently Screwed Up Jersey of All Time™.
Dasherboard: The Blackhawks really missed an opportunity at home with Lidstrom, Datsyuk and Draper all out of the Red Wings lineup last night. Detroit really stamped their authority on this series as Cristobal Huet proved no substitute for Nikolai Khabibulin, getting yanked at one point during the game. He really needed to stop the first Detroit shorthanded goal to give the Blackhawks a lift and a reason to believe they were in the game. Letting that one in, which was no easy tap-in and did hit him in the glove was a real body-blow to Chicago.
Franzen's very stoppable shot was an upper-cut to the head. Another huge rebound led to the third Filppula goal and at that point it was really over for the Blackhawks. Toews got one back, but Campbell going for a hit and missing, which allowed Hossa a to beat Versteeg literally 12 seconds later just took away any hope that Blackhawks may have felt or possible momentum gained from getting on the scoreboard.
With the next game back in Detroit, it's likely Octopus Throwing Season again. Clearly the return of Khabibulin seems to be Chicago's only lifeline at this point.