7 Reasons You Should Be Watching The 2016 Stanley Cup Finals

With the Stanley Cup Finals starting Monday, hockey fans will be watching a match-up with no shortage of storylines featuring loads of drama on the ice.

You have the Sharks making their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals, led by first-year head coach Peter DeBoer. San Jose has been known as a “cursed” organization. One with epic meltdowns and the inability to get over the hump, rotating several captains over the years.

In the East, you have the Penguins, who fired their coach in December and replaced him with Mike Sullivan; a team with a rookie goalie yet somehow finds themselves four wins away from the Stanley Cup.

It all sounds like something from a Hollywood script. Below are the biggest reasons you need to tune in:

Sharks veterans are due

Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau finally have a chance at the Cup

Joe Thornton #19 and Patrick Marleau #12 of the San Jose Sharks celebrate after a goal in a game against Edmonton Oilers. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

The 36-year-old veteran and 6x NHL All-Star, Thornton, has spent the last 11 years trying to get the Sharks to the Stanley Cup and is finally at the biggest stage of his career, hoping to reach the pentacle of professional hockey. Thornton’s teammate, Marleau, has played his entire 18-year career with San Jose and is on the cusp of hoisting the Cup over his head.

If the Sharks win this series, it will bring back shades of Ray Bourque, when the veteran finally won the Stanley Cup in 2001 with Colorado.

Sharks attempt at history

It’s the Sharks first Stanley Cup Finals EVER

In the Sharks’ entire 25-year history, they have failed to reach the Stanley Cup Finals … until this season.

San Jose reached the conference finals three times but they never came close to winning those series’. Now, an unlikely group, who finished third in the Pacific Division, finally have the chance to join their two other rivals, the Anaheim Ducks and the Los Angeles Kings, as the third California team to hoist the Stanley Cup.

Penguins’ rookie goalie Matt Murray

Matt Murray #30 of the Pittsburgh Penguins stands on the ice prior to Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Murray’s astounding performance in the playoffs is very reminiscent of legendary Montreal goalie Ken Dryden. The Hall of Famer made his NHL debut in 1971 and delivered a performance that would earn the rookie the Conn Smythe Trophy, helping to lead the Habs to the Stanley Cup. Murray has the potential to do the same. So far he has compiled an 11-4 record this postseason with a 2.24 goals-against average and .924 save percentage. If he can continue this performance, the 22-year-old rookie will be considered Dryden 2.0

The Big Names

The cast of stars on the ice during this Stanley Cup Finals is absurdly impressive. The series features Sidney Crosby, Joe Thornton, Joe Paveleski, Patrick Marleau, Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin, Logan Couture and Brent Burns. That is a heck of a line-up.

Pittsburgh’s “HBK” 

The Penguins line of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino, and Phil Kessel has earned the nickname “HBK.” The phenomenon grew too large for the original HBK to ignore it. That’s right. The “Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels became a Penguins fan and has been cheering them on throughout the playoffs, even sporting a jersey with the No. 156 on his back, which is the total sum of the line’s jersey numbers. The Pens even play Michaels’ WWE theme “Sexy Boy” when the HBK line hits the ice.

The Beards

When you look at the Sharks’ Thornton and Burns, you know a black light on those gnarly beards would probably reveal month old chicken fingers and perhaps a nest of birds. Those are the type of beards you grow when you want to fall off the grid. However, Pittsburgh’s star, Crosby, has a “beard” that may rival your typical 14-year-old. Regardless, all of the playoffs beards are quite the spectacle.

Sidney Crosby’s legacy

Whether you love him or hate him, Crosby is a legend, producing 85 points and 26 goals this season alone, he’s still one of the best players in the league.

He won the Cup in 2009 after losing in the finals the previous year and it has taken him seven seasons to get another opportunity for a ring. It’s an important plateau that Crosby must reach for his legacy, especially when you consider Penguins great Mario Lemieux won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992 and has his own statue in Pittsburgh. Crosby has to match Lemieux in titles to cement his place in hockey lore. Of course in order to be one of the all-time greats, whether it’s fair or not, you have to win the Cup again. 

Joshua Caudill is a writer for CraveOnline Sports, a surfing enthusiast, an avid basketball fan, a pro wrestling connoisseur and an expert on all things Patrick Swayze. You can follow him on Twitter @JoshuaCaudill85 or “like”CraveOnline Sports on Facebook.

Photos: Getty Images