Sidney Crosby turns 30 years old in August.
He has the chance Sunday to win the third Stanley Cup of his career — in his fourth final, which included a loss to Detroit in 2008 — and second in as many years. He may also repeat as the Conn Smythe Trophy winner, which would further add to his illustrious time in the NHL since entering the league as a teenage phenom is 2005.
Sitting second in Stanley Cup playoff scoring this spring behind teammate Evgeni Malkin, Crosby turned in one of those classic, dominant performances in Game 5 against the Predators. It started on his first shift, splitting the Nashville defense and ringing the puck off the post. He drew a penalty on the play, and then set up Justin Schultz on the ensuing power play to start what turned into a rout for the Penguins.
“He’s one of those unique players. He has that sense when it’s time to raise his level, and he’s one of the very few that can raise his level that high,” Penguins forward Matt Cullen told Postmedia. “Seeing the way he started the game, took the team on his shoulders and he said, follow me. It’s fun to see, fun to be a part of.”
His performance had its controversial moments, too. He had a well-documented dust-up with P.K. Subban. He threw a water bottle onto the ice, though he contended afterward that he didn’t try to throw the bottle.
But in the end, what the Penguins will care about the most is he had three assists in a lopsided win, giving him seven points in this series. That leads all players in the Stanley Cup Final, which began with Predators goalie Pekka Rinne as the favorite for the Conn Smythe and Crosby second on that list.
The latter has taken his play to another level in the past two games, ever since being held without a shot on goal in Game 3. Keep in mind that Crosby has played 208 games — NHL regular season, Stanley Cup playoffs, and World Cup combined — since the beginning of the 2015-16 campaign. (And remember, he was the best player at the World Cup only a few months removed from last year’s playoffs.)
That is a lot of hockey. But that doesn’t seem to matter to Crosby.
“I think being with him that he’s always had the motivation to be — maybe the best working hockey player out there,” said Chris Kunitz on Saturday. “Somebody who’s going out there to drive your team in any way, in every facet that he can.”