Sidney Crosby wins back-to-back Conn Smythe trophies

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Sidney Crosby did it … again.

While the Pittsburgh Penguins accomplished the rare feat of repeating as Stanley Cup champions, Crosby managed to win a second consecutive Conn Smythe Trophy. This continues a trend of Crosby meeting and sometimes exceeding some of Mario Lemieux’s greatest accomplishments.

(“The Magnificent One” managed back-to-back championships and playoff MVPs himself, but Crosby has more Stanley Cup Final points and now owns an extra ring.)

Now, it must be said that like last year, the Penguins boasted plenty of crucial contributors beyond Crosby.

Evgeni Malkin is the most obvious alternative choice, actually managing one more point (28) during this postseason than Crosby, who generated 27. Matt Murray missed too much time to be a legitimate MVP choice, but he was sensational in crunch time once again. Phil Kessel and rookie sensation Jake Guentzel also provided plenty of offense for the Penguins.

The Penguins defied expectations in winning a Stanley Cup without Kris Letang. Ultimately, Crosby was the biggest reason why.

An eventful night for Sidney Crosby, who was brilliant for Penguins

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PITTSBURGH — Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final wasn’t even a minute old when Sidney Crosby put his stamp on it.

In a flash, Crosby took a pass and split the Nashville defense. He forced Ryan Ellis to take a holding penalty, got past him anyway, then whipped a shot off the post. No goal there, but the Penguins would score moments later on the resulting power play. They’d go on to hammer the Predators, 6-0.

It was a masterful performance by the Penguins captain, who finished with three assists and literally rubbed P.K. Subban’s face in it. Pittsburgh can win the Cup Sunday in Music City. If not there, then Game 7 will be Wednesday back at PPG Paints Arena.

“We had a great start,” said Crosby. “Wanted to make sure that we played on our toes. Obviously, getting a few goals helps, and then we followed up in the second. That’s how we need to play.”

They sure didn’t play that way in the first four games, even though they won the first two. Game 5 was by far their best performance of the series. It was a dominant victory.

Oddly enough, Game 4 might’ve been their second best, even though they lost it by three goals.

“There was a lot to like about that game,” said head coach Mike Sullivan. “We felt as though there was a lot to like about that game. I think sometimes people can get fooled by the scores of games, but we don’t. We understand it. And I think we try to keep an objective assessment of our games.”

“I think we turned the page,” added Crosby. “Looking at (Game 4), we felt like we still generated some good chances. We felt if we did a few things differently and buried those chances, we’d give ourselves a chance to win.”

Oh, and for the record, Crosby didn’t intentionally throw that water bottle.

“I made a gesture and it came flying out of my hands,” he explained. “I didn’t try to throw it. I know it ends up on the ice, but I wouldn’t start throwing water bottles at this point. I remember being surprised when it came out of my hands and thinking, ‘Great.’ But I have a better arm than that.”

It was a nasty Game 5, in an increasingly nasty series. Near the end of the first period, Crosby got mixed up behind the net with Subban. The two stars went to the ice and skirmished for a few seconds. They each received two minutes for holding.

What happened during that skirmish depends on who you asked.

“He lost his stick, and he was doing some sort of UFC move on my foot,” said Crosby. “I don’t know what he was trying to do. I was trying to get out of there. He had lost his stick and was just trying to hold me down. I was in some sort of lock there. I don’t know what it was.”

Predators head coach Peter Laviolette saw things rather differently.

“I don’t understand it,” he said. “I don’t understand the call. I saw my guy get his head cross-checked in the ice ten times. I don’t even know what he did, P.K. I’m not sure. I disagree with the call.”

Alas, neither Crosby nor Subban bit when asked if things had gotten personal between the two. They may have diametrically different personalities — one shunning the attention, the other craving it — but each chose diplomacy over escalation.

“Everyone’s out there trying to compete,” said Crosby. “He’s trying to do his job and I’m trying to do mine.”

“It’s just hockey,” said Subban. “It’s just hockey.”

And so we head back to Nashville, where you know it’s going to be nuts. On Sunday, the Penguins can become the first repeat champs of the salary-cap era. Or, the home team will win again and the Stanley Cup Final will have its first Game 7 since 2011.

As for Game 5, it may well be remembered as the game that Crosby won on his very first shift.

“I just think what separates him is his drive,” said Sullivan. “I don’t know that I’ve been around an athlete, not just a hockey player but an athlete, that is as driven as Sid is.”

Video: Is Sidney Crosby tired? Jeremy Roenick wonders if he is 100 percent

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Sidney Crosby finally broke through with a goal against the Ottawa Senators in Game 3, but it wasn’t anywhere near enough in a 5-1 loss for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Stanley Cup Playoffs sometimes seem like a battle of attrition, and there’s no denying that the Penguins have been hit as hard by injuries as any team in the postseason. Crosby is no exception.

With that and just the sheer volume of hockey he’s played in mind, Jeremy Roenick and Mike Milbury wonder if number 87 is simply getting worn out. Is he 100 percent, whether it be a matter of injuries, fatigue or some combination?

Check out the video above for more.

Sidney Crosby breaks goal slump, for whatever that’s worth (Video)

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The celebration was muted, and justifiably so.

Sidney Crosby‘s first goal of the Eastern Conference Final did little to change the scope of Game 3, as it merely slimmed the Ottawa Senators’ lead from 5-0 to 5-1.

Still, some might argue that it could mean something for the Pittsburgh Penguins and the series as a whole. It was a rare goal for Crosby and broke a bit of a slump for the team’s power play, too.

If nothing else, the questions about Crosby won’t revolve around him being pointless. Yes, it’s about small victories for the Penguins tonight.

Sullivan: Sidney Crosby wasn’t evaluated for a concussion after head-first crash

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Sidney Crosby wasn’t evaluated for a concussion during Monday’s Game 6 between the Penguins and Capitals, despite a dangerous head-first crash into the end boards in the first period.

That is according to multiple reports quoting coach Mike Sullivan, after the Penguins were crushed 5-2 by the Capitals, which forces a seventh and deciding game in this second round series.

The Penguins captain and the face of the entire NHL has a history of concussions, including his most recent one suffered exactly one week ago when he was cross checked in the head during Game 3.

On Monday, Crosby took a stick to the face in the first few minutes of the opening period. He went to the bench and received repairs but stayed in the game. Later in the period, Crosby went crashing into the boards after he came into contact with the left pad of Braden Holtby while chasing a puck near the Washington net.

And yet, he remained on the ice to finish his shift and, despite slowly getting back to his skates, he stayed in the game — a development that raised plenty of criticism on social media for the league’s concussion protocol.

Although, there seems to be somewhat conflicting messages between Sullivan and Crosby.