Marian Hossa reveals skin disorders, miss the season

A severe reaction to medication for a skin disorder has put Chicago Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa’s career in doubt.

Hossa stunned the NHL on Wednesday by announcing he won’t play next season because of a severe side effect from medication to treat a progressive disorder he has been dealing with for years. At 38, the veteran might have played his last NHL game in a career that many believe will land him in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Marian Hossa will miss the 2017-18 season to treat a skin disorder, he announced Wednesday.
“Playing hockey is not possible for me during the upcoming 2017-18 season,” Hossa said. “While I am disappointed that I will not be able to play, I have to consider the severity of my condition and how the treatments have impacted my life both on and off the ice.” reported on Tuesday that Hossa’s career could be over because of a severe allergic reaction caused by his hockey equipment.

Hossa has been a major part of the Blackhawks’ core during their run of three Stanley Cup titles in six seasons and is considered one of the best defensive forwards of his generation. The Slovak had 19 goals and 26 assists for 45 points last season. He is still a very effective player for his age.

Not having him healthy and able to play could have a significant impact on the franchise, given his contract situation. Hossa has four years remaining at a salary-cap hit of $5.275 million, though if placed on long-term injured reserve, cap-strapped Chicago would face less of a roster crunch.

Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the NHL still had to determine if the Blackhawks could place Hossa on LTIR. It is a method that other teams have used with injured players, including Chris Pronger and Marc Savard, whose careers ended because of concussion problems.

Hossa’s case is controversial because the $63.3 million, 12-year deal he signed with the Blackhawks was front-loaded, and he’s owed just $1 million in each of the next four seasons. Commissioner Gary Bettman said he didn’t believe the Blackhawks were engaging in cap circumvention with Hossa.

“I certainly am more concerned about Marian Hossa’s medical condition,” Bettman said after the league’s board of governors meeting in Las Vegas. “I don’t think he has got a medical condition so that he and the Blackhawks can deal with the cap. I assume he would play hockey if he could, so unless we have a reason other than sheer speculation to think something is amiss, I’m not even thinking in those terms.”

Hossa said he has been privately undergoing treatment for the past few years under the supervision of the Blackhawks’ medical staff. Dr. Michael Terry said the team supports Hossa’s decision not to play and that the skin disorder, which the team did not disclose, is “becoming more and more difficult to treat and control with conventional medications while he plays hockey.”

“We feel in the most certain terms this is the appropriate approach for Marian in order to keep him functional and healthy in the short term and throughout his life,” Terry said.

Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman called Hossa’s absence a significant loss. The 19-year NHL veteran has missed only 46 games over the past six seasons.

“His teammates and coaches know he battled through some very tough physical difficulties but never complained or missed games despite the challenges he faced,” Bowman said.

Skin disorders ended the career of Blackhawks and North Stars defenseman Tom Reid in the 1970s and Kings and Predators defenseman Jan Vopat in 2000.

Dr. Jennifer Kim, an expert on skin disorders and treatments at Chicago’s NorthShore University HealthSystem, said that the main treatment for patients with reactions to sports equipment is avoidance.

“It can get very severe, especially with reapplication, and if the course is not removed from constant contact, you’re just going to make the skin condition worse,” Kim said.

She said that oral steroids and other medications to treat skin disorders can cause eye, liver and kidney problems.

Assuming league approval, the Blackhawks will likely keep Hossa on LTIR, rather than him retiring and costing the team cap-recapture penalties that were instituted for the last collective bargaining agreement.

With Hossa’s cap hit off the books and defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk and center Marcus Kruger linked to the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, Chicago won’t have as many roster problems as originally predicted in the first season of Artemi Panarin’s $12 million, two-year deal.

But Hossa’s on-ice contributions will be difficult to replace. He has 525 goals and 609 assists for 1,134 points in 1,390 regular-season games with Ottawa, Atlanta, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Chicago. He also has tallied 149 points in 205 playoff games and appeared five times in the Stanley Cup Final.

Connor Mike David, Austen Matthews in the headlines of the awards show

Connor McDavid may get a chance to bring home the hardware.


It’s Awards Night in the NHL, as the league will honor the best of the best from the 2016-17 season. The Penguins finished the season as the league’s best team. But who were the top individual performers?

Hart Trophy

Nominees: Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, Sergei Bobrovsky

The 20-year-old McDavid is trying to become the third player to win the Hart Trophy before his 21st birthday, along with Crosby and Wayne Gretzky (who won it twice).

Crosby, who led the NHL with 44 goals this season, is attempting to become the ninth player to win the Hart Trophy three times.

Bobrovsky winning would be highly notable. He led the NHL in goals-against average and save percentage. He’s trying to become the fourth goalie to win the Hart in the last 50 years, joining Dominik Hasek (twice), Jose Theodore and Carey Price.

Calder Trophy (Top rookie)

Nominees: Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, Zach Werenski

Matthews led all rookies with 40 goals and 69 points this season. He’s the first rookie to score 40 goals in a season since Alex Ovechkin in 2005-06. He can become the first Maple Leafs player to win the Calder since Brit Selby in 1965-66, the first American to win it since Tyler Myers in 2009-10 and the second player of Hispanic heritage to win, joining Scott Gomez (1999-2000).

Laine led rookies with an average of 0.88 points per game. He can become the first Finnish player to win a Calder since Teemu Selanne in 1992-93.

Werenski led all rookie defenseman with 11 goals and 47 points and hopes to become the second Blue Jackets player to win the Calder, joining Steve Mason (2008-09).

Vezina Trophy (Best goalie)

Nominees: Sergei Bobrovsky, Braden Holtby, Carey Price

The three finalsts have won three of the last four Vezina Trophys. Bobrovsky led the NHL in goals-against average and save percentage. Holtby tied for the NHL lead with 42 wins and led with nine shutouts. He can be the first back-to-back Vezina winner since Martin Brodeur (2006-07 and 2007-08). Price won the Vezina in 2014-15.

Norris Trophy (Best defenseman)

Nominees: Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson, Victor Hedman

Burns can become the first Sharks player to win the Norris. He led defensemen with 29 goals and 76 points. Per Elias, he is the second defenseman to have at least a share of the team lead in goals, assists and points in a season (Kevin Hatcher in 1990-91). Karlsson is trying to become the ninth player to win the Norris Trophy three times. Hedman led defenseman in assists and power-play points. He can become the first Lightning player to win the Norris.

Also up for grabs …

Selke Trophy (Best defensive forward)

Nominees: Patrice Bergeron (Bruins), Ryan Kesler (Ducks), Mikko Koivu (Wild)

Lady Byng Trophy (Most gentlemanly player)

Nominees: Johnny Gaudreau (Flames), Mikael Granlund (Wild), Vladimir Tarasenko (Blues)

NHL Foundation Player Award (Core values of hockey)

Nominees: Travis Hamonic (Islanders), Wayne Simmonds (Flyers)

Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award

Nominees: Nick Foligno (Blue Jackets), Ryan Getzlaf (Ducks), Mark Giordano (Flames)

Masterson Trophy (Perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey)

Nominees: Craig Anderson (Senators), Andrew Cogliano (Ducks), Derek Ryan (Hurricanes)

Jack Adams Award (Coach of the Year)

Nominees: Mike Babcock (Maple Leafs), Todd McClellan (Sharks), John Tortorella (Blue Jackets)

GM Of The Year Award

Nominees: Peter Chiarelli (Oilers), Pierre Dorion (Senators), David Poile (Predators)

Shane Doan will not be re-signed by Coyotes

Veteran captain Shane Doan will not be re-signed by the Arizona Coyotes, the team announced Monday.

Doan, 40, has played only for the Coyotes, dating back 21 years, to before the franchise moved from Winnipeg. He was the seventh overall pick by the Jets in 1995.


In 1,540 career games, Shane Doan scored 402 goals and added 570 assists for 972 points.

“After serious consideration, we have decided to not offer Shane Doan a contract for the upcoming season,” Arizona Coyotes owner, chairman and governor Andrew Barroway said in a statement. “The time has come for us to move on and to focus on our young, talented group of players and our very bright future. This was a very difficult decision given what Shane has done for the Coyotes and his unparalleled importance to the organization. With that said, this is necessary to move us forward as a franchise.”

The move is the latest in a housecleaning conducted by Barroway, who recently took over full ownership of the Coyotes.

The Coyotes have been in rebuilding mode since a run to the 2012 Western Conference finals, a span of five playoff-less seasons that led the franchise to skew toward younger players.

The Coyotes traded 33-year-old Mike Smith, their No. 1 goalie the past five seasons, to Calgary on Saturday and left Doan unprotected in the NHL expansion draft on Sunday. They parted ways — at least on the ice — with their captain a day later, leaving Doan to decide whether to retire or join another team.

“On behalf of the entire organization, I would like to sincerely thank Shane for everything he’s done for the Coyotes on and off the ice the past 21 years,” Barroway said. “Shane is a Valley icon who had an incredible career and was one of the best captains to ever play in the NHL.”

Doan became an Arizona icon through the years because of his hard-working mentality, professionalism and connection with the community. The bruising forward was known as one of the NHL’s best captains, a leader in the locker room and the ice who earned respect across the league.

Doan had one of the best seasons of his career in 2015-16, finishing with 28 goals and 19 assists, but was limited to six goals and 21 assists last season. He agreed to waive his no-trade clause for the first time last season for a chance to play for a Stanley Cup, but no teams were interested.

Doan could end up with a job in the Coyotes’ front office should he decide to retire.

Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson is expected to become Arizona’s captain with Doan no longer on the team.

“Shane deserves an enormous amount of credit for keeping the Coyotes in the Valley and for growing the game of hockey in Arizona,” Barroway said. “He is beloved by our fans, corporate partners and the media and has been a tremendous leader for us in the community, and a great role model for kids. We wish him and his family all the best in the future. He will be a member of our Pack forever.”

In 1,540 career games, Doan scored 402 goals and added 570 assists for 972 points.

Mikhail Selghachev eager for lightning opportunities

Defenseman Mikhail Sergachev might not have known he was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning were it not for social media. Sergachev, the No. 9 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, is vacationing in Cyprus and does not have reliable cell phone service, but he does have access to Twitter.

“Some fan texted me and said, ‘Good luck in Tampa’ and I was like, ‘What?’” Sergachev told the Lightning website Friday. “My phone doesn’t work here in Cyprus so [Montreal Canadiens general manager] Marc Bergevin couldn’t call me. I read it on Twitter or something.”

Mikhail Selghachev
Sergachev, 18, was acquired by the Lightning on Thursday, along with a conditional second-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, from the Canadiens for forward Jonathan Drouin and a conditional choice in 2018. Drouin, the No. 3 pick in the 2013 draft, signed a six-year, $33 million contract with the Canadiens shortly after the trade was announced.

After two productive seasons with Windsor of the Ontario Hockey League, Sergachev believes he’s ready for the NHL.

“I played a lot in juniors and I learned a lot in those two years,” he said. “I feel like this is my time to play in the NHL. I’ll do my best and I’ll [try] my best to make the Lightning roster.”

Sergachev is the type of the defensive prospect that rarely becomes available on the trade market and has the skill set Tampa Bay covets, Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said.

“We watched him play in juniors, we watched him in his draft year, I watched him play this year in the Memorial Cup again,” Yzerman said Thursday. “He’s got good size. He’s very strong. He’s physical, He skates very well. He’s got an excellent shot. He moves the puck well. We’re hoping that he continues to be that type of player as he turns pro and do that in the NHL. It’s very difficult to find players of that caliber and a prospect of that caliber, they’re difficult to acquire.”

Sergachev said he was surprised by the trade but is excited to join the Lightning.

“When I got drafted by [the Canadiens] I was a big fan of them and I played for them, my first reaction … I was kind of frustrated and shocked, but after that it’s a new opportunity for me,” Sergachev said. “I’ve heard a lot about the [Lightning] organization. They play fast hockey. They play offensive hockey. They have some great players and they have a great coaching staff and management. It’s just awesome.”

Sergachev made the opening-night roster for the Canadiens in 2016-17 and played in three NHL games before being sent back to Windsor. He had 43 points (10 goals, 33 assists) in 50 OHL games after finishing with 57 points (17 goals, 40 assists) in 67 games last season.

If Sergachev does not make the Lightning roster and play in at least 40 games next season, the Lightning will also receive a 2018 second-round pick from the Canadiens in exchange for a 2018 sixth-round pick. Yzerman said Sergachev will be given an opportunity to make the Lightning. If he doesn’t, he’ll return for another season with Windsor.

Sidney Crosby wins the playoffs MVP, second career Conn Smythe Trophy

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player in the playoffs after his team hoisted the Stanley Cup for the second straight season Sunday night.

Though held without a point on Sunday night in the Penguins’ 2-0 win over the Nashville Predators, in 24 postseason games, Crosby led the league with 19 assists and his 27 points ranked second behind teammate Evgeni Malkin. He entered the game with a three-game point streak, including three assists in a 6-0 win in Game 5 on Thursday.

“You can’t match this,” Crosby said after lifting the Stanley Cup for the third time in his career. “This is what it’s all about. To be able to share that with a group of guys, a lot of them guys you played a long time with and understand how difficult it is and what you’ve had to go through. You have a small window to play and have a career. I feel fortunate, but I also understand how difficult it is. You just want to try to make the best of it.”

Crosby’s back-to-back seasons winning the award marks only the third time that a player has repeated the feat.

Crosby joins fellow Penguins great and current team owner Mario Lemieux (1991 and 1992) and Philadelphia Flyers goalie Bernie Parent (1974 and 1975) as back-to-back trophy recipients.

“We set out to try to go back-to-back,” he said. “We knew it was going to be difficult. I think that’s probably where the most joy comes out of it. Knowing how difficult it is now to go back-to-back.”

The back-to-back Cup titles and playoff MVPs further pad one of the more astounding résumés in modern sports history. Crosby’s accolades include two Olympic gold medals, a golden goal at the 2010 Games in Vancouver, a World Cup title, the Hart Trophy as league MVP in 2007 and 2014, the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s top scorer in 2014 and the Maurice Richard Trophy as the league’s top goal scorer in 2010 and 2017.

Defender Dan Gillardi was bought by the Rangers

The New York Rangers announced that they will buy out the remaining three years of the contract of longtime defenseman Dan Girardi.

Only goalie Henrik Lundqvist has been with the Rangers longer than the 33-year-old Girardi. The alternate captain has spent his entire 11-year career in New York.

Dan Girardi has been a staple of the Rangers' blue line for a decade.
“I want to thank all of the Blueshirt faithful,” Girardi said in a statement. “You are one of the best and most passionate fan bases in the NHL. I appreciate your

support over the years. I poured my heart and soul into this team for the past 11 seasons and I enjoyed every minute of it.”

Girardi’s contract has an annual cap hit of $5.5 million, and his no-movement clause would have made it necessary to protect him in the upcoming expansion draft. By

buying him out, the Rangers save almost $2.9 million against the cap next season and almost $1.9 million the following two years.

Girardi has been slowed by injuries in recent years and his performance has suffered. The alternate captain had four goals and 11 assists last season, the third

straight year his numbers have declined.

Girardi was an All-Star in 2012.

“Dan’s contributions to the New York Rangers organization have been immeasurable,” Rangers president Glen Sather said in a statement. “He has been a role model through

his relentless determination, giving everything he had to this organization both on and off the ice. He, Pam, Landon and Shaye will always be a part of the Rangers


Detroit’s new arena is designed to be the best reconnaissance break

DETROIT — Olympia Entertainment President Tom Wilson traveled throughout North America visiting NHL arenas to take the best ideas from them for the Motor City.

He also took a look at how the roof of a hockey arena in Russia during the 2014 Winter Olympics was lit up with cool displays.

Just three months before Kid Rock becomes the first star to perform in the centerpiece of a 50-block development, Wilson touted the facility that the Detroit Red Wings and Pistons will share next season. The arena is part of an active construction zone in an $800-plus million project.

Much of the arena is draped with an aluminum shell that will become a big screen to show projected videos and images to create the same effect people saw three years ago during the Sochi Games.

“Bigger than anything you’ll see in Times Square, Disney or Vegas,” Wilson told reporters Monday during a guided tour.

He spoke under a translucent plastic roof on an elevated concourse inspired by the High Line in New York.

“This building is going to be a piece of art,” Wilson gushed. “I think this is going to blow people away.”

Capacity for hockey games will be about 20,000, with almost half of those seats in the lower level. About 21,000 fans can watch hoops in the heart of the Motor City.

Even those without one of the best seats in the house will have a clear view of what Wilson said will be the largest scoreboard in the NHL, with videoboards that will be the same size along the sideboards and behind the nets.

There are seating sections that seem suspended from the ceiling, looming over steeply pitched sections below them. That idea was born after a scouting trip to Madison Square Garden in New York. On another day, Wilson took note of how intimate the Bell Centre appeared to be for the Montreal Canadiens.

“It should be the tightest bowl,” Wilson said. “The whole emphasis is about getting close.”

It should sound good, too.

“We’ll have the finest acoustics of any arena this size in the country,” he said.

With two teams, the Red Wings and Pistons, that might struggle next season, Wilson is selling an experience that begins before games and continues after the final horn.

Several restaurants will be on site, and an outdoor plaza can give up to 4,000 people, with or without tickets to one of 250 events each year, a place to hang out and listen to concerts while sipping on something and getting a bite to eat.

“I think it’s going to change the way people attend an event,” Wilson said.

It was reported that Marc-Andre Fleury had waived the visa-free draft

Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has waived his no-movement clause for the expansion draft, according to multiple reports.

Every team has to expose one goalie to the Vegas Golden Knights, so now the Penguins can protect 23-year-old Matt Murray.

Although Vegas reportedly has interest in the two-time All-Star, Fleury’s no-movement clause allows him to be traded to 18 teams, according to multiple reports, so the Penguins have options. Even if the Penguins traded him to a team in need of a proven goalie, like Calgary, they would have to make another goaltender available in the expansion draft.
Marc-Andre Fleury, right, had started every playoff game for the Penguins after Matt Murray was injured in warmups before Game 1 of the first round against the Blue Jackets.
Teams faced a 5 p.m. ET deadline on Monday to ask players to waive their no-movement clauses for the draft.

Fleury, 32, backstopped the Penguins to the 2009 Stanley Cup but was displaced by Murray in last year’s run to the title. When Murray was hurt in warmups before the first game of the playoffs, Fleury stepped in for the next 14 games, leading the Pens past Presidents Trophy winner Washington in the second round.

In the conference finals, however, he struggled in Game 3 and was replaced by Murray. The youngster took the Penguins the rest of the way to the championship.

Fleury has two years remaining on his contract with a cap hit of $5.75 million per season.

This Pittsburgh Penguins title was a spectacle of survival

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — After the Penguins had finally conquered Bridgestone Arena, after the raucous Predators fans had thrown a final catfish and vacated the premises and allowed a few hundred Pittsburgh Penguins supporters to roar, after the TV cameras had turned off and the floodgates had opened to friends and family, Phil Kessel exchanged huge hugs and grateful pounds of relief with his friends. Mark Streit cradled his baby in his arms for gleeful photo opportunities with whomever passed by. Exhausted Penguins conducted versions of what was surely the same celebratory interview in a bevy of languages.

And there, in the middle of it all, was Sidney Crosby.

Even after the glamour of the initial Cup hoist was over, the Penguins captain again held the trophy up for minutes on end as he slowly sauntered around and then through a throng of teammates, coaches and onlooking media. You would forgive Crosby for feeling like it was his own, given that his Penguins became the first team to repeat as Stanley Cup champions since the 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings, and he became the first player to lead the NHL in regular-season goals then hoist the Cup since Wayne Gretzky in 1986-87 — Crosby’s birth year. While Crosby’s first title was a victory of revenge and redemption over those same Red Wings, and the second was a return to the summit after physical adversity, this was a triumph of sheer will. Pittsburgh survived its way to this championship.
Matt Murray started the playoffs as the backup and finished with two straight shutouts.
It took a win in Game 6 to keep the Penguins from tying a record for the longest postseason in league history, but in their 25th game of these playoffs, the Penguins delivered an unlikely victory. Beating the Predators in Nashville, where the home team had gone 9-1 before Sunday’s must-win Game 6? Winning a defensive struggle? It’s weird to think of a team with the silky skills of Crosby, Kessel and Evgeni Malkin gritting their way to a championship, but once the shooting luck they rode to stay alive early in this series wore off, Pittsburgh turned in what was mostly an impressive defensive display, a stretch of simply hanging on.

“The way we were able to get better with every series, that was a big thing for us,” Crosby told ESPN.

Their biggest improvement over this trek came on defense after Matt Murray returned to the lineup from injury. Murray, who ran a .937 save percentage after taking over for Marc-Andre Fleury in the Ottawa series, became the first goalie to roll off consecutive shutouts in the Stanley Cup Final since Chris Osgood (against the Penguins) in 2008.

Murray snuffed out repeated Preds chances from point-blank range, climaxing with a brilliant stop on a Colton Sissons breakaway in the second period. As much as Murray has been an afterthought at times — and there were certainly Penguins fans calling for Fleury as recently as Game 5 — who has a better résumé as a big-game goalie this early in his career? Murray turned 23 last month and has two meaningful roles in Cup victories — both as a rookie because of an NHL technicality — to his name.

If he’s the Grant Fuhr to this team, well, that’s a compliment.

The Penguins didn’t make it easy for Murray or themselves. They committed each of the four penalties the referees called without generating one on Nashville, including a pair of naive plays in their own zone, which set up a 5-on-3 in the third period. Pittsburgh centermen lost 70 percent of faceoffs through the first two periods, including a 4-for-22 stretch from none other than Crosby and Malkin.
For 58 minutes, the wall in front of Pekka Rinne couldn't be breached. And the breakthrough goal ultimately bounced in off his back.
Their defensemen unsurprisingly struggled to transition the puck out of their own zone, including a rash of mistakes from the Penguins rearguard during the first two shifts of the second period. One of those missteps required intervention from a third party, as a premature whistle wiped away what should have been the game’s first goal from Sissons.

It’s fair to wonder whether the Penguins should have needed a disallowed goal to stay within a goal of the Cup for the first 58 minutes of the game. The Predators basically spent most of this game down to one useful defensive pairing, and while the duo of Mattias Ekholm and P.K. Subban were massive in stifling Malkin’s line, Nashville hung on for dear life the rest of the way. Their third duo of Matt Irwin and Yannick Weber were basically left to rot on the bench after a horrific Game 5, while Roman Josi and the clearly injured Ryan Ellis couldn’t keep up against Crosby, as Ellis finished with a CF% (Corsi percentage) of 38.9 in 21 minutes of 5-on-5 play.

With their superstars held off the scoreboard, it took notable efforts from the veterans lurking deeper in Pittsburgh’s forward corps to come away with a victory. Matt Cullen, possibly playing his last NHL game, had a CF% of 60.9 in 5-on-5 play. The 40-year-old was on the ice for 11 scoring chances in just over 14 minutes of even-strength work. The Cup-winning goal — the physical manifestation of the cliché about how important it is to just put the puck on (or near) the net — came on a well-timed rebound from Patric Hornqvist. Hornqvist, a former Predators draftee and 30-goal scorer with Nashville, survived the inquest of a coaches’ challenge for goaltender interference to etch his name in history with one of the prettiest ugly goals he’ll ever score.

It would be cruel to deny Hornqvist’s old team its role in what was a compelling finals. The Predators rebounded beautifully from their brutal 6-0 loss in Pittsburgh in Game 5, with Pekka Rinne returning to form and stopping Pittsburgh’s first 27 shots. Nobody expected the Predators to make it out of the first round of the playoffs (with a stunning sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks that exactly nobody predicted), let alone outplay the Penguins for large chunks of these finals. It will be a long summer of wondering what might have happened if a couple of calls had swung their way, if an official had just managed to catch a glimpse of a puck slipping through Murray’s pads before blowing his whistle. It would have been impossible to begrudge the Predators a Game 7 in Pittsburgh.

And yet, the Penguins did the sorts of things that were supposedly absent during their six-year stretch between titles. They kept themselves alive by winning a pair of Game 7s after losing three consecutive Game 7s in those lean years. They chipped in with a cohesive defensive performance and weren’t dependent upon the hot stretches of their stars. They got great goaltending when they needed it. It might sound like a new story for such a star-laden team — until you remember that the Pens have clinched their Stanley Cups in the Crosby Era by winning 2-1, 3-1 and 2-0.

The Penguins and Crosby have been survivors all along.

Soon after the game, Crosby was asked by ESPN about the possibility of a three-peat. “I can’t imagine how difficult that is, knowing how difficult it was to get to this point,” he said.

You got the feeling as Crosby skated around with the Cup in his hands that, for this night, the future Hall of Famer was happy to celebrate just being the last team alive.

Stanley Cup for the second consecutive streak, Connolly Smith (Conn Smythe), Sidney Crosby

When naming the top five players in NHL history, few can debate that Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr and Mario Lemieux are absolute musts in the conversation. Is this year’s Conn Smythe Trophy winner next?

“I’d put Sidney Crosby right there at No. 5,” former NHL goaltender and current NBC analyst Brian Boucher told before watching Crosby hoist the Stanley Cup for the third time in his 12-year career, following the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 2-0 Game 6 victory over the Nashville Predators on Sunday night. “We’re watching greatness. For people to hate on it, I get it, because maybe you’re not a fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins. But if you’re a fan of watching true greatness, to me, that’s it.”

Face it, Sidney Crosby is one of the best ever.
Crosby is just the third player in NHL history to win the Conn Smythe (as the most valuable player of the Stanley Cup playoffs) in back-to-back seasons, joining Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Bernie Parent (1974, 1975) and Lemieux (1991, 1992). Crosby has now won three Stanley Cups and two Olympic gold medals, along with golds in the World Junior Championships, the World Championships and the World Cup of Hockey.

Yet the respect of the hockey world has come begrudgingly.

“I feel like he’s always having to prove people wrong,” said former teammate Colby Armstrong, now a radio analyst with the Penguins. “I know it’s crazy to say that about probably the best player of our time right now, with his Stanley Cups and all his awards. But there always seems to be something hanging over him. People saying he’s a crybaby. The concussions. He’s not what he used to be.

“I don’t know what else he could do to not be the villain. He’s the best player in our game, alongside Connor McDavid, but it seems like people are always looking to vilify him when he does nothing but make unreal plays and find ways to shine on the biggest stage. If there is anything I have learned about him, it is that when the chips are on the table in the Final, he’s found a way to get it done.”

Armstrong was a 22-year-old rookie with the Penguins when he saw Crosby step onto the Mellon Arena ice for his first NHL training camp, in 2005. “We had heard a lot about him, but YouTube was just kicking off, so there wasn’t much video any of us had on him,” Armstrong recalled. “I was like, ‘Holy smokes, look at this guy.’ To see what he could do at 18, his talent level and the way he competed, was just insane.”

During Crosby’s rookie season, Armstrong was playing for the AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins when he drove to Philadelphia to see a game between the Penguins and Flyers on Nov. 14, 2005. During a battle with former Flyers defenseman Derian Hatcher, Crosby took a stick to the mouth and parts of his two front teeth were sawed off.

“He throws his helmet down, all upset,” Armstrong recalled. “His mouth is bleeding, his teeth are chipped. He’s going up against an old-school guy like Hatcher, one of the baddest dudes in the league, and the fans were all over him. Sid was the young kid on the block and he kind of had to answer the bell and earn everybody’s respect.”

After getting stitches in his lip, Crosby came back to score in overtime, beating Antero Niittymaki with 46.7 seconds remaining. He had two goals and an assist in that 3-2 win.
Sidney Crosby was the center in more ways than one for the Penguins.
“I remember his celebration,” Armstrong said. “He was all angry and smiling at the same time. In my mind that was one of his defining moments.”

As a rookie, Crosby became the youngest player in NHL history to record 100 points (he had 102), but the Penguins finished with the worst record in the Eastern Conference and his reputation as a referee whisperer was growing, especially among NHL veterans.

“When he came into the league, a lot of us wanted to see if this kid was the real deal or not,” Boucher said. “Early on in his career as an opponent, maybe the one thing that stood out, that maybe annoyed you, is that he always seemed to be complaining and looking for calls. A lot of veterans don’t really care for that stuff because even though you may be a great player, you’ve got to earn those calls. I think over the last couple years you see a lot less of that [complaining] and you see more of a guy determined to fight through stuff.”

Evgeni Malkin joined the Penguins during Crosby’s second NHL season, when the Penguins made it to the playoffs for the first time in six years. In Crosby’s third NHL season, the Pens made it to the Stanley Cup Final, and Crosby recorded 27 points in 20 playoff games, but Pittsburgh lost a six-game Final to the Detroit Red Wings. The following year, in the 2009 postseason, Crosby captained the Penguins to their first Stanley Cup since 1992, and had 31 points in 24 playoff games.

In his fifth NHL season, Crosby won his first Olympic gold medal and his first Rocket Richard Trophy after tying Steven Stamkos with a league-high 51 goals. The Penguins were eliminated by the Montreal Canadiens in the second round that season, and midway through the 2010-11 season Crosby suffered his first in a series of concussions that robbed him of parts of two NHL seasons.

“I’ve had concussions, and I’ve never really talked to him about his future or what the damage has been,” Armstrong said. “You would think [the concussions] would affect him, but it’s tough to say that when you look at the way he’s playing now. I look at the way he goes into traffic and the slashes and hacks he gets. He gets cross-checked in the head against Washington [in Game 3] and he misses one game. Just watching him play, he can somehow move by it.”

Crosby rebounded from his concussions to record 104 points in 2013-14, his fifth NHL season with more than 100 points, but the Penguins failed to get past the second round in 2014 and 2015, and by midway through last season, many began to wonder if Crosby’s days as an elite point producer were nearing an end — at the age of 28.

Crosby had just 19 points through 28 games, and the Penguins’ power play was 26th in the NHL, when general manager Jim Rutherford fired coach Mike Johnston and replaced him with Mike Sullivan on Dec. 13, 2015.

“What’s really unbelievable is that if we go back a year-and-a-half ago, before they made that coaching change, we’re not even close to having this same conversation,” Boucher said. “We were wondering if [Crosby] was starting the downside of a career. There were a lot of questions about that.”

Boucher said that while Sullivan’s aggressive, up-tempo style has invigorated Crosby, the infusion of Conor Sheary, Bryan Rust and Jake Guentzel — and Crosby’s ability to raise their games to another level — has helped fuel the Penguins to back-to-back championships while cementing Crosby’s legacy as a selfless teammate.

“There are a lot of veterans who have played in the National Hockey League who would say to those guys, ‘Hey, get me the puck,’” Boucher said. “But he’s very inclusive and very supportive, and he’s a big reason those young players are having success. They feel comfortable playing with a star like Sidney Crosby, and that tells me he’s a tremendous teammate.”

“He can go down the entire Penguins lineup,” Armstrong said, “and tell you five good things about every guy and how much he means to the team, even the guy who isn’t playing. He has a large amount of respect for what everyone brings to the team. I hate to use a cliché term like down-to-earth, but when you have a guy like him being that inclusive, it bleeds through your whole locker room.”

Crosby finished the regular season tied for second behind McDavid (100 points) with 89 points, and finished second behind Malkin with 27 playoff points. But Crosby’s ability to steal the show when playoff series are on the line impresses even his most scrutinous critics.

In Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final, after the Predators had stolen the series momentum with consecutive lopsided victories in Nashville, Crosby drew a penalty on his opening shift, the Penguins scored on the ensuing power play, and he set up three more goals in a 6-0 rout that swung the series back into the Penguins’ favor.

“When you can elevate your game when the stakes are higher and when you’re needed the most, that’s the mark of greatness,” Boucher said. “After drawing that penalty, Malkin joins the party, [Phil Kessel] joins the party, and when you have that, they’re a team that’s tough to beat. And it’s all because Crosby started it.

“The thing that stands out to me is this guy is so driven and so tenacious. I told my son this: ‘If you’re going to watch one guy play hockey and model your game after, it’s Sidney Crosby. He doesn’t give up on plays, he gets his nose in there and he works. He’s driven.’”

Performing at the highest level in games that mean the most ultimately will serve as Crosby’s legacy and cement his place in hockey history, Armstrong said.

“Everyone wants to count Stanley Cups, and obviously, Mario was the Sidney Crosby of his time, bringing Cups to Pittsburgh and saving the team from moving post-career,” Armstrong said. “With the Penguins drafting Crosby and winning three Stanley Cups under his captaincy, I think he’s got to be right up there with all those greats in the game that have given so much. He’s in a special group with those guys — in a bubble all by themselves at the top — and there’s a gap to everyone else.”