Thursday, June 02, 2016

Penguins' Crosby on mission to claim Stanley Cup

June 2, 2016

The Penguins' Sidney Crosby works in the offensive zone against the Sharks during the third period of Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday, June 1, 2016, at Consol Energy Center. (Chaz Palla/Tribune-Review)

Who won the faceoff? Who won the faceoff, then raced right to the net? Who is the reason the Penguins are halfway to winning the Stanley Cup?
Sidney Patrick Crosby. That's who.
And that's two for the captain's club in an already thrilling Stanley Cup Final.
“He's inspiring for our group,” coach Mike Sullivan said of Crosby, who diagrammed the sequence for winger Conor Sheary's overtime goal before winning the faceoff that set it up.
Sheary's goal set up the Penguins to cage the Sharks as the best-of-seven Cup Final shifts to San Jose. With a 2-1 victory in Game 2 on Wednesday night at Consol Energy Center, the Penguins staked the Sharks into a 2-0 series hole that probably feels as deep as the Pacific Ocean.
Of the Penguins' five goals in the Cup Final, three have come from rookies (Sheary and winger Bryan Rust). Another rookie, goalie Matt Murray, has allowed only three goals, though he has faced only 48 shots.
Look, the Penguins' much-ballyhooed rookies have been really good — critically good, even. But they've got nothing on Crosby.
Nobody on the ice has had anything close to what Crosby's had through a couple of games. And don't bring up him having only two assists because it's not about points.
He's setting a tone with his aggressiveness, determination and speed. At times, he's appeared to be moving too fast, as if he's been training for Canada's Olympics speed-skating squad.
“You can see it in his body language,” Sullivan said. “He's excited for this opportunity.”
More like possessed.
Crosby, whose favorite pastime outside of hockey is fishing, is treating the Cup Final as though it's a deep-sea shark hunt.
On Tuesday afternoon, he was one of six Penguins to participate in an optional practice. During the session, Crosby worked on taking draws.
When it came time for one of the biggest of his career, Crosby shared some thoughts with the rookie winger who would end up scoring one of the biggest goals in a half-century of Penguins hockey.
“Sid came out to me before the draw and told me to line up on the wall,” Sheary said. “It worked out pretty perfectly.”
You think?
Crosby's win pushed the puck to defenseman Kris Letang, who moved it to Sheary. His shot bested Sharks goalie Martin Jones, again a hard-luck loser after keeping his club from being beached by an early Penguins' wave of speed, skill and staggeringly efficient puck possession.
Crosby's faceoff win was his 17th in Game 2. He lost only seven.
Sharks center Logan Couture cried foul, saying Crosby's success in the circle is because of his standing as the Face of Hockey.
What about all of the Sharks' interference that has gone uncalled even as it has held up Crosby in the neutral zone? Guess Couture hasn't noticed any of that.
Take notice of Crosby because he's turning June 2016 into his version of Roberto Clemente's October 1971 or Terry Bradshaw's Januaries of 1979 and '80. In other words, he's making it a month that will forever be identified with him by Pittsburghers.
Only thing he's not doing — aside from scoring goals — is setting off fireworks.
Don't dare worry. There will be time enough for those.
Another summer with Stanley is upon the Steel City. Though nearly the Penguins' equal when it comes to resiliency — and certainly second to none in terms of guts, grit and glue (look, they're not going to suddenly become chum) — the Sharks are not winning four of five.
Not against these Penguins.
But the Sharks' fate has nothing to do with the Penguins simply being better. If they are, it's not by that much.
The Penguins just happen to have the best player on the planet, and he's on a mission.
It's almost as though legacy is beckoning to Crosby after it taunted him all the springs that followed his greatest NHL moment.
Was the night the Penguins won the Cup in Detroit Crosby's greatest NHL moment? On June 12, 2009, he skated only one shift in the final half of Game 7 at Joe Louis Arena. An ailing leg — the result of him being pinned against the boards awkwardly by the Red Wings' Johan Franzen — planted Crosby on the bench.
Sure, he was healthy enough to take the Cup from commissioner Gary Bettman, then take a lap with it. Even took it to his bed that night, if memory serves.
Still, the fact remains the Penguins won their lone title of the Crosby era without their captain.
And the fact is he's performing in their first Final since as though his hockey life depends on the result.
Rob Rossi is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter@RobRossi_Trib.

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