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Sidney Crosby hangs with rookies as Penguins prep for Cup defense

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CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP, Pa. (AP) Sidney Crosby likes his summers short. Really short. Short summers for Crosby means long playoff runs for the Pittsburgh Penguins, ones that usually end with parades through the city in mid-June, the Penguins captain holding the Stanley Cup aloft.

There is no other feeling like it. So the question isn’t why would Crosby want to cut the celebration short, but why would he want to put off starting the process all over again?

So just 88 days after Pittsburgh closed out Nashville in six games to become the first team in nearly two decades to repeat as Stanley Cup champions, Crosby found himself out on the ice with assorted prospects, many of whom have little chance of making it to the NHL this season.

That didn’t stop Crosby and his familiar No. 87 jersey serving as perhaps the most decorated “welcome wagon” in professional sports. For the better part of an hour the face of the game skated with the newcomers. Later in the afternoon the more established players went through a workout of their own, well aware of the message Crosby’s appearance in the building earlier in the day sent.

“I think that’s where it starts with this team,” said forward Carl Hagelin after a voluntary workout. “Any new guy that comes up or any new guy that gets traded here, they get treated extremely well by Sid first of all and then the organization. You kind of follow his lead. There’s a good culture within this locker room and within this organization. When you get here, you’ve got to follow or you’re going to get left behind.”

Crosby makes it a point to be the first one to extend a hand, even though it can make for occasionally awkward moments, particularly for players like forward Ryan Reaves. The Penguins acquired Reaves from St. Louis over the summer looking to give their lineup a physical presence. The issue, of course, is that part of Reaves’ responsibilities during his time in St. Louis was making Crosby as uncomfortable as possible whenever the two teams met.

“I would say me and Sid’s relationship before this was rocky,” Reaves said with a laugh. “But I don’t know many people that like me on the ice though. But we’ve hung out a couple times. Really nice guy for sure.”

Reaves joined some of his new teammates in a fantasy football draft over the weekend. Reaves believes he has an eye for talent. He also has an eye for leadership. He wasn’t exactly surprised when he arrived at the rink and Crosby was already out there working with kids who may never actually play alongside him.

“That’s why he’s the best in the world,” Reaves said. “He does things like that and he makes the younger guys better and he pushes everybody to be the best. He’s the best in the world for a reason.”

One intent on guiding the Penguins to a third consecutive Cup, something that hasn’t been done since the New York Islanders ripped off four straight in the early 1980s, long before the salary cap came around, a move designed to level the playing field both financially and competitively. It didn’t look like that last spring as the Penguins raced by Columbus, outlasted Washington and Ottawa then pulled away from the upstart Predators in the final.

“Last year everyone said it was impossible to do, winning two in a row,” said Hagelin, whose empty-net goal in the final seconds of Game 6 quieted the “Smashville” crowd and clinched Pittsburgh’s fifth Cup. “Everyone is going to come after you. Now we’re used to that and we’re expecting the same thing this year. There’s going to be no surprises this year obviously.”

Doing it means enduring training camp, a six-month regular season followed by eight more weeks in the crucible of playoff hockey. The Penguins were supposed to be too tired from the Cup run in 2016 to do it again. And yet they did. As the official opening of camp looms, the lure of history is giving even established players like Hagelin a dose of adrenaline.

“Usually this time of year, you have such a short summer, maybe you’re kind of dreading it a little bit,” Hagelin said.

Not Hagelin. He missed a chunk of the regular season and the playoffs with injuries but returned in time to make an impact in the final, his legs a blur as he sped away from the Predators to flip in the goal that secured his name on the Cup for a second time.

“Focusing on coming out and getting a good start, that’s usually the tough part, to have every guy on the same page in the beginning of the year to really dig down and make sure you win those games,” he said. “That’s our goal. After that we just keep playing and keep getting better, that’s the type of team we’re trying to be.”

 

Sidney Crosby at 30

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This post is part of Penguins Day on PHT…

Much like with Lebron James, Sidney Crosby is at the point in his career where the question is no longer “Will he be one of the all-time greats?” After back-to-back Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe wins, the discussion is shifting to where he ranks among the best of all-time.

And, like, with Lebron, there are a number of factors – including era, which is probably an even tougher nut to crack in hockey – that can twist and turn the debate.

Mere moments after Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins repeated as champs, Mike Sullivan made the case for number 87’s greatness.

” … You know, he’s arguably the best player of his generation, and he’s a guy that just knows how to win,” Sullivan said. “And so he’s done it in all different venues, whether it be the NHL and Stanley Cups to the World Cup to the Olympics. And he’s a player that — and I believe this, what separates him from others is his work ethic and his willingness to do what it takes to be the very best.”

It’s mind-blowing to consider the very real possibility that Crosby will be viewed as the best player to skate for the Penguins, edging Evgeni Malkin, Jaromir Jagr, and even Mario Lemieux.

It’s also mind-blowing that he just turned 30 on Aug. 7.

When it comes to the Mario vs. Sid debate that may eventually pick up steam, Crosby has some advantages. He matched “The Magnificent One” by getting those back-to-back titles and playoff MVP nods, while he already has three Stanley Cup rings to Lemieux’s two (and four Stanley Cup Final appearances to two).

Crosby already has an iconic moment to his name. Along with Paul Henderson’s goal and “Gretzky to Lemieux,” Crosby’s golden goal in the 2010 Winter Olympics will endear him to Canadian hockey fans for ages.

This list of accolades is honestly dizzying:

But, again, things get tougher when you try to really drill down to Crosby vs. The Greats. Most obviously since he’s far from done right now.

Circling back to the debate that might divide Penguins fans in particular, Crosby might also edge Lemieux if you correct for our modern era, which is so tough on scoring. NHL.com’s Rob Vollman explains Crosby’s place among the most impressive runs before 30:

From this perspective, Crosby is no longer in a block of a dozen players but in more select company. He ranks third at age 30 with an era-adjusted 998 points (377 goals, 622 assists), well ahead of Lemieux, who is in fourth with 899 points (365 goals, 534 assists). Gretzky is in first with 1,479 points (495 goals, 984 assists) in 896 games, followed by Jagr with 1,018 points (414 goals, 604 assists) in 858 games. (Adding to the distinction of being in the top four with Gretzky, Jagr and Lemieux: Those are the only three players to win the Art Ross Trophy as the League’s top scorer in the 21 seasons from 1980-81 to 2000-01.)  

Interesting. (This quick document has a bit more to chew on.)

Vollman also makes the point that even the all-timers tend to stop locking down the biggest awards once they turn 30. There’s an obvious barrier in Connor McDavid (just check the Hart Trophy odds) and possibly some other bright young players, so for all we know, most of our peak memories of Crosby may already be in the past.

That said, much like Lemieux, injuries have limited some of the stats Crosby’s been able to put up.

Crosby’s concussion history could conceivably prompt him to retire agonizingly early, but what if he instead gets better luck? We’ve seen cases, such as Patrice Bergeron, in which such issues become less of a concern over time. For all we know, Crosby might defy expectations and actually play until he’s 40.

(Hey, he already emulates Jaromir Jagr in being an inanely good puck protector.)

It’s been a special run already for Crosby, who’s already a no-brainer for the Hall of Fame. At this point, it’s about padding that resume.

Though, to Crosby’s credit, it’s still probably all about winning.

‘It’s just a number’ — Sidney Crosby celebrates 30th birthday with the Stanley Cup

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‘Sid the Kid’ isn’t really a kid anymore.

Sidney Crosby, the Pittsburgh Penguins captain and arguably the best player in the game, celebrated his 30th birthday on Monday and he did so with a very special guest — the Stanley Cup, a trophy he has hoisted three times in his National Hockey League career.

“It’s just a number,” Crosby told the Penguins website of his age. “When I think about that, it’s a number. Sometimes I don’t feel 30. Sometimes I do. It depends. I just try to enjoy things as much as I can. It’s pretty special to be able to do this on my birthday, share with everybody. I’ll just take that as a great experience and move on.”

Crosby brought the Stanley Cup to Halifax and then to Rimouski, Que., where he played his junior hockey before being taken No. 1 overall by the Penguins in the 2005 NHL Draft.

He has since gone on to what will be a Hall of Fame career. The Penguins have won three championships and been to the final four times since 2005. Not only does Crosby have a trio of Stanley Cup rings, he has twice won Olympic gold, scoring the winning overtime goal versus the U.S. in 2010 in Vancouver. It has become one of the iconic moments in Canadian hockey history, as he threw his gloves and stick into the air in celebration.

“It’s amazing how fast time goes by,” said Crosby, per The Canadian Press. “It makes you realize that it doesn’t get any easier and that’s why things like this (parade) — you have to enjoy it.”

There was a time, however, not long ago in which his career was completely sidetracked by concussions. In 2011-12, Crosby appeared in only 22 regular season games. He later opened up in an interview with CBC’s Peter Mansbridge about the prospects of his playing future given his concussion history.

From the Globe and Mail:

There were some dark days when the thought he may never play hockey again at the professional level entered his mind.

“I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I thought about it,” Crosby told Mansbridge.

Crosby suffered another concussion during the 2017 postseason but didn’t spend much time out of action, returning to help lead Pittsburgh to its second Stanley Cup in as many years. For the second straight year, Crosby claimed the Conn Smythe Trophy.

Related: Crosby ‘in the company of all-time greats’

Sidney Crosby wasn’t aware of concussion talk during Stanley Cup run

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HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (AP) Sidney Crosby said Wednesday he did not pay attention to those questioning whether he should continue playing hockey after suffering another concussion during the playoffs.

Crosby was too focused on capturing another Stanley Cup for his Pittsburgh Penguins to worry about outside opinions on his health.

“I don’t really read or listen to that stuff during the playoffs,” Crosby told reporters at his annual hockey camp in his hometown of Cole Harbor, Nova Scotia.

Crosby has suffered multiple concussions during his career, including one during Game 3 of the second round against Washington in May. He missed one game before returning for Game 5, prompting questions about whether he should consider retirement.

The Penguins went on to win a second straight Cup, defeating the Nashville Predators in the final.

Crosby said he understands why concussions generate so much controversy.

“It’s a hot topic,” he said. “That’s the nature of it right now.”

He said more information on how to deal with head injuries is becoming available all the time.

“You have to continue to listen to your body to make sure before you go back that you’re good to go,” he said. “There’s things in place to help with that.”

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

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.