Captain Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins lifts the Stanley Cup over his head after Game Six of the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the Bridgestone Arena on June 11, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Penguins defeated the Predators 2-0. The Pittsburgh Penguins win the Stanley Cup Final series against the Nashville Predators 4-2. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)
Defenseman P.K. Subban will wear out his welcome in Nashville like he did in Montreal. His mouth too often overloads his backside.
Like after Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Nashville had just beat the Penguins, 5-1, to halve Pittsburgh’s series edge. Subban skated to Sidney Crosby and squealed some pointed obscenities. Crosby responded in like. Subban lied to the media, saying Crosby told him he had bad breath. Subban showed up at the rink with a sack of mouthwash.
Entertaining? Maybe if you’re a child. Low-rent showbiz if you’re not.
The Penguins were defeated in Game 4, 4-1, but Crosby scored and dominated. He had three assists in Game 5, a 6-0 victory. Crosby didn’t make the scoresheet in Game 6, a Cup-clinching 2-0 win, nor did he blow the early whistle on Nashville’s disallowed goal.
But Crosby did everything else. That’s why he got the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP for a second straight year.
Not that Crosby needs extra motivation. But Crosby doesn’t suffer fools gladly.
Subban poked the bear.
Based on the past year, Crosby has to be considered one of hockey’s five best players ever. At 29, he has the potential to climb higher.
The Penguins’ captain, star center and serial winner racked up two Stanley Cups, two playoff MVPs, a World Cup of Hockey and a World Cup MVP. He also led the NHL in goals this season.
More than stats, Crosby impacts games shift by shift in a way matched or bettered only by Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr.
Gordie Howe and Rocket Richard seem the only potential inserts between Crosby and the trinity of Lemieux, Gretzky and Orr. Howe and Richard played mostly in a six-team NHL, and it’s hard to know where legend ends and reality begins.
You can’t compare stats across eras, though Crosby is sixth all-time in points per game, amazing in the dead-puck age.
But winning is winning, and impact is impact. Those notions apply any time, and all the time.
Crosby is still, obviously, the game’s top current player, and will be until an heir apparent like Connor McDavid approximates a year like Crosby just had.
That’s not knocking Toews. Nor is it knocking Howe, Richard, McDavid, or anyone else involved in these comparisons.
But in any comparison, somebody is better. In any comparison but three, Crosby is better.
Crosby is a worthy Conn Smythe recipient.
But Evgeni Malkin would be, too.
Evgeni Malkin #71 and Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrate with the Stanley Cup Trophy after defeating the Nashville Predators 2-0 in Game Six to win the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the Bridgestone Arena on June 11, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Malkin had one more point than Crosby in the playoffs, and two more goals. Crosby likely got some repeat business as last year’s winner. The makeup of those voting favors Canadians over Russians.
But, this season, Malkin played better all-around hockey than ever. He consistently factored in beyond his points, a Crosby specialty.
Like Penguins GM Jim Rutherford said, it’s time to re-vote for the NHL’s top 100 players of all time and put Malkin in. Better yet, Malkin should be top 50 or top 25. What a travesty that is.
Defenseman Brian Dumoulin got no Conn Smythe votes.
But, as ESPN’s Barry Melrose pointed out, Dumoulin had major impact in the absence of the injured Kris Letang, the Penguins’ best defenseman on both sides of the puck.
Dumoulin reportedly has a bad back and played through a lot of pain. But he kept making plays. Dumoulin was so simple, it was almost stylish. Break it up. Win puck battles. Manage the puck efficiently. Repeat as needed.
The Penguins’ puck management out of the back was inconsistent during the post-season. But it crystallized in the latter half of the final, and Dumoulin was a top component.
Dumoulin, a legit Conn Smythe contender? That’s a stretch.
But if the playoffs had a top defenseman award, Dumoulin might have gotten it. He was plus-nine in 25 games. Most importantly, Dumoulin’s team won.
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).