NASHVILLE — It was more than two hours after the triumphant Pittsburgh Penguins began celebrating on the Bridgestone Arena ice. In the Penguins’ dressing room that looked like a tornado had just blown through, Sidney Crosby was having almost a private moment with his mother, Trina.
The Penguins captain was still in his hockey pants and stockings, his skates at least replaced by sandals. Cradling hockey’s grandest prize for the third time in his career, he was wearing a Stanley Cup champions T-shirt, a ball cap bearing a similar message and a fatigued grin of complete satisfaction.
Countless beer cans and champagne bottles scattered on tables and the floor around them, with players and families milling noisily about, Crosby leaned close to his mother, looked her in the eye, exchanged a smile and said nothing at all.
Sometimes, silence is profoundly louder than words.
In a room across the hall sat the Conn Smythe Trophy, awarded to Crosby for the second straight year as the most valuable player of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It looked almost lonely, its only company four empty beer cans while a computer monitor above cycled through the logos of 30 NHL teams.
Make no mistake, Crosby is fiercely proud of having repeated as winner of the trophy. Only Philadelphia Flyers goalie Bernie Parent, in 1974 and 1975, and Penguins legend and co-owner Mario Lemieux, in 1991 and 1992, have won it consecutively since it was introduced in 1965.
But it’s the Stanley Cup — the pursuit of it, the capture of it — that fuels Crosby.
In the midst of the madness, I found a private moment to speak with the Penguins captain about late Montreal Canadiens legend Jean Béliveau. Le Gros Bill, one of the greatest players and ambassadors hockey has known, won 10 Stanley Cup titles with the Canadiens from 1956-71, his second five as captain.
Crosby’s father, Troy, adored the Canadiens earlier in his life and was selected by Montreal as a goalie in the 1984 NHL Draft (No. 240), though he never played in the NHL.
Clearly, Sidney Crosby also admires and respects Béliveau for his play on the ice and his exemplary life off it.
“There’s still a big part of Jean Béliveau in my heart,” he said, emotion in his voice.
In a doorway across the hall, the Conn Smythe behind them, Crosby and his father squeezed tight for a photo with the Stanley Cup that still was in the player’s grasp.
On the ice two hours earlier, Troy Crosby tried to find the words for a father who had just seen his son write another remarkable chapter in his life and that of the only team for which he’s played.
“It doesn’t get old. It’s awesome,” he said, watching his son try to navigate a rink packed with players, coaches, management, families and media.
“I’ve seen Sid grow as a person and a player. I’ve seen him mature into a great leader. They’re all great,” Troy Crosby said, unwilling to rank the three victories. “There’s a little gap there after the first one (in 2009) with injuries and things, so it’s nice for him to come back and win again.
“He’s a competitor and a winner, that’s all. He always was, so what we’ve seen this series isn’t anything new to me.”
Winning the Cup isn’t anything new to Crosby; he’s done it three times in his 12 NHL seasons. But across the rink, beaming, was Penguins assistant Jacques Martin, who waited 30 years in professional hockey to win his first Stanley Cup championship last season. Now he’s won two in a span of 12 months.
“This one’s definitely sweeter,” Martin said. “When you look at our team this year, the injuries we had to go through, the character, the number of players who played hurt, it was outstanding. It was a difficult road when you look at the teams that cheap nhl jerseys we had to play — Columbus, fourth overall, played really well, then Washington was the No. 1 team overall and it takes us seven games against them. Then Ottawa, who played extremely well, and then Nashville. It was a difficult path but one that was very rewarding. The guys are really happy with the result. It just shows the character of our team.”
A career hockey man hugely respected for his teaching, Martin liberally spread the credit for the Penguins’ victory.
“It’s a lot of credit to the organization,” he said. “The acquisitions we made at the [NHL Trade Deadline] were key as is the leadership we have on this team. It’s one of the best leaderships I’ve been associated with.
“Our coaching staff has great chemistry, we work really well together. We bring different dimensions and I think that (coach) Mike Sullivan has done an outstanding job managing the players, getting the best out of our star players as well as some of our young kids.”
Though Penguins goalie Matt Murray will get the lion’s share of credit for his goaltending down the playoff stretch, his shutout of the Nashville Predators in Game 6 a bold exclamation mark, Martin pointed to Marc-André Fleury as a tremendously valuable member of the Penguins.
“You’ve got to give a lot of credit to both of our goaltenders, this year it was really a team effort,” he said. “Marc-André really was a key cog in our first two series, allowing us to continue, then Matt came back in the third series and took it from there. To me it speaks highly of the people we have on this team.”
The Penguins partied deep into the wee hours, scheduling their charter back to Pittsburgh shortly before noon. The Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy would fly with them, a parade in the works, and the Cup will spend the summer traveling far and wide. Martin will again bring it to his hockey school outside of Montreal, and Crosby surely will celebrate for the second consecutive summer in his hometown of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia.
But those are plans for future celebrations. For now, it was time to enjoy what they had just accomplished.
The last I saw Crosby early Monday morning, going on three hours after the Penguins successfully defended their championship, he was still in his hockey pants. And as captain, in a labyrinth of celebration, he unquestionably was custodian of and tour guide for the Stanley Cup, anyone who took it off his hands making sure they returned it.
LOS ANGELES — All those years being so close to the ultimate goal have built up inside Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh and crystallized as extra motivation.
McDonagh was rewarded for his revitalized individual performance through the first half of this season by being the Rangers’ lone representative in this NHL All-Star weekend, starting with Saturday’s skills competition and followed by Sunday’s 3-on-3 tournament at Staples Center.
But last season’s disappointing five-game first-round playoff exit at the hands of the Penguins did not sit well with McDonagh, not after three of the previous four years ended in the conference final or the Stanley Cup final.
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“Like any player, you want to play up to your full potential or what you think is your best ability,” McDonagh told The Post prior to leaving for the break.
The Rangers are 31-17-1, two points out of third in the terrific Metropolitan Division, behind the Capitals, Blue Jackets and Penguins, while solidly eight points clear of the ninth-place Maple Leafs.
“Had a long summer to think and work on a lot of stuff,” McDonagh said. “Pretty motivated here to not only play for myself, but play for this team and get something done here. We’ve been talking about it for a while. So that’s been a big motivation key for me, keeping my focus on my game and where it needs to be.”
During those deep runs into the postseason, the Rangers’ strength always was defense and goaltending. But last season, the defense started to crack, and it seemed like all those cheap nhl jerseys authentic hard, tight-checking games were catching up to them. Even McDonagh, who splendidly skated his way to Norris Trophy consideration en route to the 2014 Stanley Cup final, where the lost to the Kings in five games, had fallen off. It was the culmination of injuries to his shoulder and his foot and all of those short summers inadequate for proper rehabilitation and a training regimen to prepare for the grind of the NHL season.
But general manager Jeff Gorton also saw how the past was going to affect the future. So he retooled his team under the tight restraints of the salary cap and added youth, speed and skill up front. Yet it still was imperative McDonagh respond for the Blueshirts to be good again.
He did, and they are.
“Our group is real focused,” McDonagh said. “We’ve been consistent in our game. For me, that really helps. Certainly we’re a fast team, and myself, as a good skater, want to try to keep evolving the play. And the skill that we’ve added, seems like more opportunities have been there for me to contribute offensively and defensively. So just really trying to focus on making the right read on if there’s an opportunity or not and also make sure I set a good example for a lot of the new faces here.”
Now in his third year of the captaincy, the broad-shouldered 27-year-old out of St. Paul, Minn., is becoming more comfortable in the limelight. If the “culture” of an organization can be described by example, then McDonagh is the one at whom the Rangers front office wants everyone to look.
“He’s grown into this position,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “He’s his own man. He understands the culture that myself and [Gorton] want to bring to this team. He’s a great extension of when we’re not around of what to do and how to do it. We’re very fortunate to have a gentleman of his caliber be captain of this team.”
It also helps that in his seventh season in the league, McDonagh is on pace to surpass his career-best points total. He is second on the team with 26 assists and has added two goals while continuing to grow into his role as the quarterback of the power play.
“Certainly the power-play time really helps, confidence-wise, especially plays on the blue line and getting shots,” he said. “Probably wish I had a few more goals at this point, but the way our forwards have been able to create opportunities, I feel like I’ve focused a lot on distributing and getting them pucks in situations to finish. So far, it’s helped us win a lot of hockey games.”
This is McDonagh’s second All-Star appearance after his debut last season in Nashville, Tenn. But what a difference a year can make, and McDonagh is proud to represent his own revitalized game as well as that of his team.
“Very excited, very honored,” McDonagh said. “We have a lot of guys on this team that are having great seasons and worthy of All-Star consideration, so I’ll try to represent our team as best I can.”
It’s now been two years and a month since the Toronto Maple Leafs traded Phil Kessel to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Toronto Maple Leafs traded Phil Kessel, Tyler Biggs, Tim Erixon, and a second round pick who turned out to be Kasper Bjorkqvist. In return, they got Kasperi Kapanen, Scott Harrington, Nick Spaling, a first round pick, and a third round pick.
The Leafs then traded most of these pieces. They were left with Kerby Rychel, Kasperi Kapanen, Raffi Torres, Frederik Andersen, a 2018 second round pick, and a 2016 third round pick who turned out to be J.D. Greenway.
Let’s see what pieces the Leafs got out of this trade.
Kerby Rychel is a great prospect who is a major player on the Toronto Marlies. He had the most points on the Marlies, with 52 points in 73 games. Admittedly, a lot of the star players on the Marlies such as Leipsic were injured, but this gave a chance for Rychel to prove his worth. Rychel is an expendable piece who can be packaged for a right handed defensemen.
Kasperi Kapanen is one of the top prospects of the Leafs right now, and had an amazing opportunity to prove his worth in the late season with the Leafs. He scored when the Leafs really need it, such as his first NHL goal in the playoff clincher versus the Pittsburgh Penguins. With five minutes left and the Leafs down 3-2, Kapanen scored which could have been the difference between making the playoffs or not. And even more, when Kapanen scored the double-ot winner against the Washington Capitals. Kapanen is an amazing prospect and could really turn out to be a core piece on the Leafs in the future.
Frederik Andersen was the answer to the Leafs’ goaltending problem. When the Leafs traded Reimer and Bernier, the Leafs needed a reliable netminder who was more consistent than Reimer or Bernier. The Leafs acquired him from the Anaheim Ducks for the 30th overall pick from Pittsburgh and a second round pick. Andersen was a great solution for the Leafs and was reliable when the Leafs needed him most. Not a star goalie, but he’s an above average goalie who will do the job.
So was it worth it?
These are the core pieces that the Leafs acquired. Other than that, Raffi Torres was acquired, who is not likened in the NHL. As a result, the Leafs got rid of him. J.D. Greenway was also acquired. He was added to the US Roster for the cheap jerseys authentic World Juniors Showcase recently. Greenway is an overlooked prospect.
But most importantly, by trading Kessel, the Toronto Maple Leafs dropped to the bottom of the standings, getting them Matthews. The trade isn’t worth it at all if you don’t consider Matthews, but once you do, it’s a great trade.
As soon as the Penguins won the Stanley Cup Sunday night on the back of a garbage fluke of a goal from Patric Hornqvist, I knew it was only a matter of time before the made-in-Quebec P.K. hating roared back into action.
Sadly, I was right.
Social media was an ugly place to be Monday for people like me who are P.K. Subban fans and think that Marc Bergevin made a huge mistake shipping the Norris Trophy-winning defenceman to Nashville last year in return for Shea Weber.
On Sunday night, I tweeted to say the hating was about to begin and it elicited this response:
Right back at you in reverse. People like you turned us against Subban.
Then someone else responded to my original tweet about the hating, tweeting that the hating was “Music to my ears!”
Yet another Subban hater popped up to opine that “I trash Subban on here so much just to counter the fake (Habs) fans who sh*t on Weber and the rest of the organization.”
There was also no shortage of Subban bashing on Facebook.
Like Mike Herman, who posted this on top of a photo of Sidney Crosby with the Stanley Cup: “Thank Mr. Subban for this one. In that never-ending quest to be the centre of attention he poked and agitated a bear named Sid who dominated sending Smashville home in tears. His act will wear thin soon enough there (too).”
That, of course, was a reference to the trash talking between Subban and Crosby, who’d been in close quarters on the ice for much of the series. P.K. claimed Sid had told Subban he had bad breath and Subban responded that he’d taken his Listerine as usual that day. The anti-Subban narrative suggests he “poked the bear” and that Crosby suddenly came to life. Of course the problem is it’s not true. Crosby had a great playoff run from start to finish and ended up with 27 points in 24 games. He didn’t win the Conn Smythe just because he picked up in the last three games of the Final!
On TSN 690 Monday afternoon, host and former Habs player Chris Nilan and columnist and former Habs player Sergio Momesso were knocking Subban for making so much noise off-ice. And I don’t even need to watch L’Antichambre on RDS and Dave Morissette’s show on TVA Sports this week to know they’ll be kicking Subban in the head — for the very good reason that they’ve been consistently doing that ever since P.K. first donned a Habs sweater in 2010.
So why are the haters so full of hatred? Excellent question. For some reason, the folks who thought Bergevin was smart to trade Subban for Weber are incredibly intolerant of any discussion on the matter and it drove them crazy that thousands of Montrealers continued to be Subban fans even though he was playing in Tennessee. The Shea crowd was shouting almost from day one that the debate had to be closed, that we had to “get over it” and Bergevin, naturally enough, supported this discourse, quickly saying he would no longer be taking questions on the trade.
The pro-Shea/pro-Bergevin types keep saying that we are not “real” Canadiens fans because we still like Subban and were cheering for the Predators in the playoffs. It’s true that many of the Subban fans are indeed hyper critical of current Montreal Canadiens management. I confess. I may have launched one or two arrows in M. Bergevin’s direction.
But it only makes sense. If you think the trade was a huge misstep for Montreal, chances are you’re not thinking Bergevin is an ace GM. And that’s part of the roots of the hating. The anti-P.K. brigade don’t like the Subban love-in because it is something of a resistance movement against the Bergevin regime. Yes we wanted Subban to win the Cup in part to make it even more obvious that the Habs GM had made a big mistake. But that’s okay. We don’t need the Cup to prove that thesis.
With the exception of the Montreal media haters, there was widespread agreement in the hockey media elsewhere that Subban was having a monster playoff. He was on the ice against the top lines of Chicago, St. Louis, Anaheim and Pittsburgh and with the exception of the game last Thursday, he mostly shut them right down. Predators coach Peter Laviolette was playing him more than any other Preds skaters most nights and he wasn’t doing that because P.K. had the best smile on the team. He was one of the best players in these playoffs.
So why the hatred? Partly it’s because to love Subban is to have issues with the way the Habs are run. But it’s bigger and uglier than that. Bergevin and former coach Michel Therrien constructed a narrative that day-in and day-out subtly and sometimes not so subtly insinuated Subban was a cancer in the room. It’s unprecedented for management to treat a star player like that.
And a large portion of the Habs fan base bought into that nasty storyline. And now they’re happy to kick him when he’s down. Classy.
And is it even uglier than that? Does race have something to do with the hatred? I hope not. But it’s lurking there in the background. I had a couple of friends who went down to see a Habs game in Boston during that epic Bruins series in 2014 and they heard cheap jerseys China a lot of racist comments outside the rink.
I mean the National Hockey League is a very white league and Subban is one of the few black stars, so it is an odd coincidence that he is one of the few players who’s booed in every rink he plays in. Was race part of the reason he was in a perpetual conflict with Canadiens management? I don’t really think so. I think it was a cultural clash between conservative managers who didn’t know how to deal with a 21st-century player with a big ego.
But I do think all of the Habs “fans” gleefully hating on Subban in the wake of the Preds loss should maybe think about the optics of their Subban trashing. At best, it ain’t pretty.
PITTSBURGH — Evgeni Malkin posted a photo on Instagram as a way to say goodbye to Penguins’ goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
Fleury was selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft. In the photo, Malkin is wearing a jersey with the number 29, Fleury’s number, and the words ‘My MVP.’
Steve Dangle has break down the top 100 moments of the NHL’s centennial season. Evgeni Malkin‘s illustrious wholesale jerseys career reached a significant milestone in fitting fashion. The big Russian connected on a beautiful passing play with teammate Sidney Crosby on Dec. 27, scoring a power-play goal for his 800th NHL point.
Before this say goodbye, Malkin take part in a practice since he was injured against the St. Louis Blues on Jan. 24. He skated with skills coach Ty Hennes throughout the past week. Malkin rotated with center Carter Rowney between Scott Wilson and Patric Hornqvist. After watching the first few reps from center ice, he joined Pittsburgh’s first power-play unit.