Seems about par for the course with Sidney Crosby - he experiences success on the ice, wins something and fans who don't like him try to tear him down. The latest example would be the Conn Smythe trophy Crosby won. Sid wasn't statistically dominant - his 19 points in 24 games were under his career average (and that's #1 active player in scoring per game, no less) but Sid was still 2nd on the team behind Phil Kessel.
As we said, Kessel would have been our MVP leader, but on such an even team there were several good candidates for the award. And arguing about it is the biggest champagne problem ever.
Come to think of it, the opposition consistently showed who they thought the Pens MVP was. Who always got matched with the other team's best defensive pair? And usually top line center? That would be Crosby. Every period, every game the mindset was the same - "we're going to match our best against Crosby's line and take our chances with Kessel usually getting 3rd pair". The end result was Kessel scoring 11 even-strength points and Crosby notching 10.
Ask any Penguin who their best player was, and they'll say Crosby. They aren't wrong either, Crosby played an excellent two-way game but still crushed it possession-wise this spring. And he generated scoring chances as well, with 10 individual ones in the last game alone. He was also relied on heavily in the faceoff circle, taking 153 more draws than the next highest center on the team and he also was the most successful center on the team % wise too.
Crosby had enough key moments too. He was dominant vs the Rangers, he scored 3 game winning goals against Tampa (including one on OT, and diagrammed a play and assisted on another OT goal against SJ. No problem here with naming Sidney Crosby as the most valuable player on the Pens.
All of this takes nothing away from Kessel, Letang or Matt Murray. Teams don't win the Stanley Cup without many players having the spring of their lives. And even if you look from Nick Bonino to Ben Lovejoy to post-Trevor Daley injury Olli Maatta to Carl Hagelin to Bryan Rust to Conor Sheary there are just about as many heroes as there are guys in the lineup. That's usually how it goes when the team wins the whole thing.
Any further criticism is either sour grapes that Crosby keeps winning or over-thinking a simple question.
On a lighter note, ever see anything better than Carl Hagelin exchanging high-fives with two generations of Letangs?
Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) June 14, 2016
So much great content out there at this moment, this piece on Penguins.com about Pascal Dupuis was interesting.
He shed the suit and tie by the end of Game 6 on Sunday, putting on the Pittsburgh Penguins uniform for one final turn around the ice, one final turn with his arms raised and the Cup shining above him.
This was his final moment.
Sidney Crosby took his skate with the Cup, kissed it and presented it to the SAP Center crowd and the Penguins faithful who had been able to watch their team win the NHL championship in person. He passed it to Trevor Daley, who had broken his ankle in the Eastern Conference Final and had not played in this round against the San Jose Sharks.
And Daley passed it to Dupuis, who had not played since Dec. 6.
He raised the Cup, wearing his No. 9 jersey, his last act as a hockey player, as the cheers rained down.
"It's a great feeling," Dupuis said. "Obviously, you come on the ice and I knew it was basically the last time I would put this on and to come on the ice [and win] the Stanley Cup is obviously a great moment.
"It was great. It came around and I looked at the owner, the staff, and I basically thanked them and I went across. I knew my wife and kids were down there, so I lift it one more [time]."
Dupuis is still under contract for 2016-17 and he'll get paid for it (though thanks to the magic of long-term injury reserve it won't count against the Penguins salary cap), but this is it for him. He won't be a part of next year's team, it wouldn't be surprising if he takes his family back to Quebec for good. Had to be so tough to be a spectator and watch his guys complete the mission, but complete it they did.
Dupuis is a hockey player who didn't go out on his own terms, but he's able to move on to his next chapter from the top.
In a big way, Marc-Andre Fleury was a lot like Dupuis. Fleury barely raised the Cup and quickly passed it along in the celebration, making it very obvious how bittersweet the situation was for him to be injured late in the regular season and be relegated to the bench for the playoffs. One great thing about the situation was Fleury's attitude and demeanor he was genuinely supportive and a great teammate for Murray.
Once the celebration dies down, how the Penguins manage Fleury figures to be the biggest storyline of the season, with expansion to Las Vegas in 2017 and a June 2017 expansion draft almost official.
On one hand, since the Pens will have to protect Fleury by virtue of his no movement clause, they would have to trade him in the next 12 months to make sure they don't lose Murray.
On the other hand, goalie depth is nothing to sneeze at. We saw it this year with Fleury and Murray getting injured in about a week's span. That's an extreme example but one that will be in Jim Rutherford's mind, as well as his experiences in Carolina when Cam Ward was oft-injured and his performance suffered the team went down the drain.
Fleury's ability to block 12 teams will be interesting too. It might be in his long-term best interest to allow the Pens to trade him to a good team in need of a goalie rather than block those teams and end up on a bad team. This will definitely be a stay tuned...
Crosby's season ended June 12. It begins September 4 for World Cup training camp. That's 84 days off. That's not enough. #WorldCupofHockey— Andrew Podnieks (@andrewpodnieks) June 14, 2016
If you're in the mind of thinking about next year, that's not promising. Very short off-season for Crosby and Evgeni Malkin . Maatta, Murray (U-23 team), Hagelin and Patric Hornqvist will also be playing in this
cash grab err tournament.
It will be probably very necessary to again roll 4 lines and try to limit minutes of the big guns next season as much as possible to make it through the 82-game marathon and stay somewhat ready for the grind of the NHL playoffs.
Getty Images has more good celebration pictures than I can share all summer (though it won't hurt to try and use them all in the coming weeks). This one from Bruce Bennett might be one of my favorites with Sid and Geno skating the Cup over together to a joyous Nathalie Lemieux.