Sidney Crosby channels his inner Steve Yzerman to win Conn Smythe

Sidney Crosby (Getty Images)

SAN JOSE – Perhaps Sidney Crosby will never score 100 points ever again. Then again, maybe he will. If you go by analytics, logic states that his numbers should begin declining at some point pretty soon. But he proved in the Stanley Cup final, and by winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP, that he’s about so much more than numbers.

“I think Sidney Crosby’s best hockey is ahead of him,” said Penguins assistant GM Bill Guerin.

Whoa there, cowboy. Best hockey ahead of him? Two Stanley Cups, two scoring championships, two Hart Trophies, a Conn Smythe, five 100-point seasons, two Olympic gold medals and a space waiting for his plaque in the Hockey Hall of Fame and his best hockey is still ahead of him? Well, if you consider that Crosby has essentially turned himself into a Selke Trophy candidate and that he’s altered his entire game a la Steve Yzerman, perhaps that’s not as outlandish as it sounds.

Read more

Cup-winning Penguins have sights on becoming NHL’s next dynasty

Pittsburgh Penguins (Getty Images)

SAN JOSE – It was a team that had one player who overcame thyroid cancer, another a stroke. A third player had to retire because of blood clots. It was a team of superstars and castoffs, one player who was run out of the so-called Center of the Hockey Universe. It was run by a guy who called himself a caretaker, then ended up remodeling the whole darn school. It was a team that was floundering until it fired its coach, then had to turn to 22-year-old kid with all of 13 games of NHL experience in the playoffs.

And now the Pittsburgh Penguins are Stanley Cup champions. So they know a little something about staring down adversity. And they also know a little something about forming habits. This is Pittsburgh’s fourth Cup in the past 25 years, which doesn’t seem like much until you consider that the Detroit Red Wings are the only other team to win as many Cups as Pittsburgh in that time frame.

Read more

Penguins finish off Sharks to win fourth Stanley Cup in franchise history

(Getty Images)

SAN JOSE – The city of Pittsburgh will hold a Stanley Cup parade later this week at its State Point Park and when it does, the good people of that city will have a chance to celebrate a franchise that has set a gold standard over the past quarter of a century.

The Penguins won the Cup Sunday night with a 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final and it was impossible to make the argument that the better team did not win this series. The Penguins, under new coach Mike Sullivan and a rebuilt roster, were so dominant in the Stanley Cup final that only Sharks goalie Martin Jones prevented it from being a laugher.

Read more

Can Penguins close out series on the road?

Sidney Crosby (Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Penguins have another chance to win their fourth Stanley Cup in franchise history, and first since 2009, when they face the San Jose Sharks on the road in Game 6.

Trying to win a championship on the road late in a series doesn’t sound like the easiest of feats, but recent history may suggest otherwise.

Read more

Olli Maatta hoping to go to Finnish military this summer as a Stanley Cup champ

Olli Maatta (left) and Patrik Laine  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

SAN JOSE – Far too often, hockey players are described as warriors. In the case of Finnish players, that description actually fits. And that is why after Olli Maatta may very well end up going from being a Stanley Cup champion to a buck private in the Finnish military this summer.

Finland is one of the last bastions of mandatory military service. In fact, the penalty for refusing it can be up to 173 days in prison. All men 18 years and older are required to serve a minimum of 165 days, something Maatta plans to do over the next two summers. So shortly after the Cup final ends, which could be as early as tonight if the Penguins win Game 6 with Maatta patrolling the blueline, he’ll head to Santahamina, home to the Guard Jaeger Regiment, and report for duty.

Read more

Sharks banking on more otherworldly goaltending from Martin Jones in Game 6 (and 7, they hope)

Martin Jones (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

SAN JOSE – With 44 saves in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final, San Jose Sharks goalie Martin Jones made NHL history Thursday night. Recording the most stops in an elimination game in Cup final history plus a couple of dollars will get Jones nothing more than cup of very expensive west coast coffee. But if he can replicate his play in Game 6, that will almost certainly lead go a Game 7. And then we’re talking some serious history here.

If not for the play of Jones, this Stanley Cup final probably would have been a sweep, or perhaps been over in five. It’s safe and accurate to say that because the gap in play between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Sharks in the first five games of the final has been that cavernous. With the exception of Game 4, the 26-year-old Jones has outplayed the 22-year-old Matt Murray in every game. The Penguins, in case you haven’t noticed, are outshooting the Sharks by an average of 12 shots per game. Jones has stopped 167 of their 179 shots so far for a save percentage of .933.

Read more

Schultz gets new lease on hockey life with Penguins

Justin Schultz (Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images)

SAN JOSE – Things got so bad for Justin Schultz that he had to set up a fake Twitter account to keep up with the news of the day and read links to stories that interested him. That’s because his real Twitter account was so filled with vitriol and hate that he couldn’t stand looking at it.

So when a player tells you that he doesn’t read anything that’s written about him or that he’s impervious to the criticism, it isn’t always true. Some players can dismiss it, but others take it to heart. One win away from winning the Stanley Cup, Schultz can laugh about it now. But when he played with the Edmonton Oilers, he was hardly living the dream he’d spent so much of his life anticipating.

“It’s not a lot of fun getting booed in front of your home fans,” Schultz said. “It’s pretty tough to enjoy yourself when that’s happening.”

Read more

Leading playoff scorer Couture used to having a profound impact

Ken Campbell
Logan Couture celebrates his second period goal (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

SAN JOSE – Perhaps when Logan Couture accused Sidney Crosby of cheating in the faceoff circle, it was a desperate ploy. But, hey, desperate times call for desperate measures. The Pittsburgh Penguins had just won the first two games of the Stanley Cup final and Crosby was eating them alive in the faceoff circle.

Whatever the intent, it’s worked. Prior to Couture’s comments after Crosby won a crucial draw in overtime that led to the game-winner, Crosby had won 26 of 40 faceoffs for a mind-boggling success rate of 65 percent. But in Games 3, 4 and 5, Crosby was a combined 37-44 in the faceoff circle for a success rate of just 45.7 percent.

Read more