Two months ago, the Pittsburgh Penguins were playing in the regular season. Remember that? It seems so long ago, now - just watching through every series, waiting for the Penguins to win four games just so they could do it all over again, each round tougher than the last.
And now we're two games into the Final, and things seem to be going pretty well so far.
This calls for Mike Rupp and Ryan Whitney to give us their Stanley Cup Final preview, finally! Because it's two games in, there's some analysis in there as well. For example, Rupp addresses faceoffgate with a personal twist:
I mean, if you’re not cheating on face-offs, you have no business taking them. That’s what you do. That’s 80% of it. It’s like holding in the NFL. You could call it on every play. The players know that.
I’ll give you an example. Craig Adams and I used to run a little scam when I was in Pittsburgh. Craig was the center, but I had experience taking draws, too. So if it was an important face-off, I’d say, "Hey, Craig, lemme take this one. I’m gonna cheat like a son of a gun."
If the the ref throws me out? Who cares. Craig comes in and takes it like the true gentleman he is.
But if he doesn’t? Well, our chances of winning the draw just went from 50% to 70% because I’m turning my feet early and jumping the drop. People ask me sometimes, "What makes a good hockey coach? I don’t get it." Well, any coach worth his salt knows that when there’s a super important faceoff, he has to put two guys with face-off chops out on the ice. One to cheat, and one to take it if the ref decides to toss him.
You’re a Pats fan. You understand cheating.
Rupp's analysis throughout the entire piece is absolutely fantastic, and very much worth the read - especially if you're a Penguins fan who wants to feel good not just because you know your team is two wins away, but so you get that little extra boost of confidence. Like, yeah, the games have been close - but the Pens have been dominant, and Rupp lays it all out.
The really nice thing about having Rupp and Whitney do this is they've both played with Sidney Crosby before, so they both know what he's like and can share personal stories. For example, there's the tape ball thing:
Crosby is the Jordan-level of ultra-ultracompetitors. I don’t know your experience with him, but when I was in Pittsburgh, he would be sitting at his locker, throwing a tape ball into the garbage can across the room. If he missed, he would go get the tape ball, come back, sit down, and throw it again. If he missed 20 times, he would go get the ball 20 times and shoot it until he made it.
Oh my Gosh, I totally remember Sid doing the tape ball thing. When I first got to Pittsburgh, I watched him do it like right times, by the seventh time he had a smirk on his face because Duper, Billy Guerin and the boys who have seen this many times were giving it to him. But he just casually walks over and picks it up, walks back to his seat, and does it again.
Even if it took 50 friggin’ minutes, he wouldn’t quit. He’s just wired that way. He wants to beat you at everything.
So when Crosby smells blood in the water? That's him damn well knowing he's two wins away, too. Why give in to Joe Thornton trying to agitate him at this point?
Be sure to give the entire Players' Tribune piece a read - it's fantastic insight from two former Pens.