Monday, 19 June 2017

Penguins - The Flower Leave His Mark

Marc-Andre Fleury has left his mark on Pittsburgh, the city he and his family love so much and have called home for so many years, in a way that is so true to his personality.
On Tuesday, Fleury, his wife Veronique and their two daughters Estelle and Scarlett celebrated the grand opening of a state-of-the-art children's playground at the Sto-Ken-Rox Boys & Girls Club in the McKees Rocks area of Pittsburgh.
"It feels good," Fleury said. "It's been something we've been thinking about for a little while and we were just thinking about something to give back. The people of Pittsburgh have been so good to me, so to build something fun, something for the kids, I'm glad it all came out and the kids seem to like it."
When people think of Fleury, they think of his big, contagious smile and how he's always laughing and joking around. Always playing pranks, being mischievous and goofing around. He's such a big kid at heart, so this is the perfect legacy for him to leave in Pittsburgh.
"When you look at Marc-Andre, it's his smile," said Penguins Foundation President Dave Soltesz. "We're all captivated with Marc-Andre's signature smile, so how appropriate that he picked a project that will bring smiles to so many kids."
Fleury financed construction of the new playground, which features a huge outdoor structure - done, fittingly enough, in black and Pittsburgh gold - over rubberized flooring for year-round activities and a water feature for the neighborhood's children to enjoy during the heat of the summer months.
In addition to the outdoor structures, Fleury purchased a multitude of supplies for the Boys & Girls Club, including sports equipment, games, educational materials and electronics. He also donated hockey nets, a score clock and equipment for the Club's indoor dek hockey rink, now named Rink 29.
For the grand opening, all of those supplies were lined up on the bleachers surrounding Rink 29, where Fleury and his daughters took to the dek and played some ball hockey when they needed a break from outside.
This is something that had been in the works for a while now, and to see it come together like it did was heartwarming for the Fleury family.
"We're just so grateful, you know?" Veronique said. "We just wanted to make sure we could leave something behind. And we're excited. We're just very proud and happy today."
The Fleury girls absolutely loved it, and Estelle couldn't get enough of the slides. She was constantly going down them and running back up for another turn, telling us that was her favorite part of the playground.
"They've been playing in it for a few hours now, so that's a good sign," Veronique laughed. "That should mean the kids are going to be having a lot of fun in this for a while, so it's great."
The process began several years ago, when Marc-Andre and Veronique approached the Penguins about doing a legacy project. They settled on building a neighborhood playground, and planning got serious about 3-4 months ago.
"We've been in Pittsburgh for about 14 years, and now having kids, we just know kids are our future," Veronique explained. "So we wanted to give something back to the community and we thought (giving back to the) kids would be a great idea. And a playground, all the kids love it. Then we've heard of this Boys and Girls Club and thought it would be a perfect fit for us, which I think it is."
Mike Hepler, who is the President and CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Western Pennsylvania, is somebody that the Fleurys know and trust. They felt comfortable leaving this legacy project in his capable hands.
"I just think the owner of this place, Mike, does such a good job and sees so many kids every day in the summer and the school year also," Marc-Andre said. "I just thought that this could reach a lot of kids and I'll always love sports, I still do. Games too, so I thought that was fitting.
"Mike said he would take good care of it. Obviously, that's nice. He's the one doing all the hard work for the kids. He's given so much back to the community. To be able to help and see all the smiles out there, it's fun."
When we spoke to Hepler, he still couldn't believe that the Fleury family had done this for his community, calling it a 'blessing' and 'divine intervention.'
"It just kind of fell from the sky," Hepler said. "This is amazing. We had the opportunity to sit down with Marc, they liked the site and the timing could not have been any better."
That's because at this particular Club location, they partnered with a local school district, which brought their attendance up from 75-80 local youth to over 190 children every day. It's been what Hepler called 'controlled chaos' at the Club in terms of trying to find more and more activities for the kids to do.
"Whenever this project came to pass, we put it on the fast track to get it done to accommodate these children," Hepler said. "And I think what you're seeing here is that this has nothing to do with egos or anything. Marc wanted to do something wonderful for the children, him and his wife. So they took the time to plan the project and did all the heavy lifting."
It wasn't something that Marc-Andre put his name on and then walked away from. It was incredibly important to him and Veronique that they be involved in every aspect of the planning and make sure it turned out exactly right.
"I think what comes to mind is that Marc is doing this for all the right reasons," Hepler said. "And even today, he just wanted to focus on the kids. Not really him. And that's what he did. He's doing it for all the right reasons, right here. And that's important to all of us, especially in the Boys & Girls Club."
It worked out perfectly because Hepler said they had an issue with their swimming pool recently and ended up converting it into the indoor dek hockey rink, which is now named after Marc-Andre. They were then able to use the existing setup to make the water feature, which was important to the Fleurys. They wanted to make sure the kids could get a break from the heat.
"At the onset of the project, Marc and his wife asked for a wishlist from us," Hepler said. "We provided them with the wishlist, but we did not expect to get everything that was on that wishlist, plus some. The kids have an early Christmas, for sure, thanks to Marc. We are honored to name that rink after Marc, something that's going to be here for a long, long time."
Fleury has spent a long, long time in this city, and it's hard for him to put into words what this community means to him. He tends to choke up thinking about the support, gratitude and love he's gotten from the people of Pittsburgh during his 12-plus seasons with the franchise. This is his way of trying to reciprocate that as much as he can.
"It's bittersweet a bit, because this feels like home for me and my family," he said. "It'll be tough to leave this place and start somewhere else. But we've got great memories, lots of great times. I think I just wanted to give a little something to thank the people of Pittsburgh for what they've done for us."
And in return, they couldn't be more grateful.
When the kids came streaming out to start playing, a group of them held a colorful banner with "MERCI FLEURY!" written across it in huge letters. They giddily presented it to Fleury before the ribbon-cutting and jersey presentation, and he stopped to high-five them all and pose for a photo. Afterward, they couldn't believe they had actually gotten a chance to meet him, and couldn't believe he had left them this amazing gift.
"I feel so happy about this because it represents the goalie of the Penguins," said 11-year-old Amanee.
"I'm really excited about this park and I want to thank him for making all of this happen," said 9-year-old Ella.
When I asked how much they liked the new playground, they had the best responses.
"it's 100 percent cool!" said 9-year-old Maribella.
"Actually, it's 101 percent cool," interjected Amanee.
"It's more than cool, it's extraordinary!" exclaimed 12-year-old Najee.
Just like Marc-Andre himself.

Penguins Take The Cup On Tour

PNC Park
A while back, Sidney Crosby hit a home run during a batting practice at PNC Park. On Tuesday night, he took the mound instead. Crosby and the rest of the Penguins brought the Stanley Cup to the ballpark for the Pirates' game against the Colorado Rockies.
The team got a tour of the clubhouse before taking the field, where Crosby threw the first pitch. He was grateful for the chance to bring the chalice this year, as the Pirates had been on a long road trip this time last year.
"This is an unbelievable stadium and to be able to bring the Stanley Cup here and do all this is a great experience," Crosby told PensTV. "Pretty cool to be able to throw out the first pitch and share it with all the guys."
When the team arrived, they took the Stanley Cup straight to the clubhouse, where the players marveled at the setup of the room. They put the trophy on a table next to the Pirates logo (people are allowed to step on it here) and then mingled with their fellow athletes. It was a really cool scene that included Marc-Andre Fleury chatting with his fellow No. 29, catcher Francisco Cervelli - who gave him a jersey that the goalie immediately put on - and Phil Kessel sitting on the back of a couch deep in conversation with Andrew McCutchen.
While that was going on, Ron Hainsey donned full catcher's gear - with help from Matt Cullen's three boys - and went to the bullpen with Crosby to take a few warmup throws. They spent a lot of time in the bullpen - where Josh Bell was taking practice swings next to them - with their teammates assembled in the media room waiting to take the field. The Cullen kids, along with Chris Kunitz's son Zachary, provided the entertainment, as they had a blast playing with the mic that was set up on the table on the stage for press conferences. "Sing us a song up there, guys!" Cullen called out. "Give us something! How about Bruno Mars?" Instead, the boys giggled through a few one-liners before horsing around with Ian Cole and Carl Hagelin.
Once Crosby and Hainsey were ready, they and the rest of the team then went into the dugout, where they stood as a congratulatory video played before the national anthem. Once all of that finished, it was time. Crosby headed out to the mound, with all of the boys following him - except for Hainsey, who split off to go behind home plate - and Fleury bringing up the rear with the Cup.
They then gathered behind Crosby as he wound up and delivered the pitch, and certainly didn't quiet down as he threw - hooting and hollering and taking more videos with their phones.
"I was a little nervous because there were a lot of guys heckling me behind there," Crosby laughed. "But it's fun."
When I asked Crosby if he and Hainsey had worked out a signal, he laughed and said, "He asked me, 'Do you want me to throw a 1 or a 2?' I was like, 'a fastball that's not fast, No. 1. So let's see what I can do.'"
Crosby went out and threw a pitch that was in the strike zone, but going a little slow at 45 mph.
"(Hainsey) might have bailed me out there, I might have hit the dirt if he didn't get it," Crosby smiled. "Pretty cool that he could catch. I don't know if that's typically how they do it, but it was cool to see him suit up there and wear the catcher's gear."
While Crosby may have gotten chirps from his teammates, he certainly got plenty of cheers from the fans in the crowd.
"Pittsburgh's just a great sports town," he said. "I think we all understand that and I think we all pull for the other teams who are a part of the city. It's no different with the Pirates. So to be able to come to their stadium, for them to have us here and to do this, it's really cool to see some of the guys and see the reaction of seeing the Stanley Cup. It doesn't get old."

Fort Point Parade
"As I said in 2009, this is hockey heaven."

Penguins emcee Paul Steigerwald addressed these words to a crowd of fans huddled together at Point State Park to celebrate Pittsburgh's back-to-back Stanley Cup championships on Wednesday afternoon.
And it's hard to disagree with him.
A crowd estimated at 650,000 flooded the streets of downtown Pittsburgh, swarmed nearby parking garages, gazed from office windows and inched their way onto rooftops - all to catch a glimpse of the 2017 Stanley Cup champions. Black and gold confetti fell onto Sidney Crosby as he lifted the Cup into the air and over half a million people cheered.
"It's amazing to see so many people here supporting us," Pens winger Patric Hornqvist said. "This is a great sports town, but this is something special. I remember this last year and this was the best part of winning the Cup. It's the same this year."
Looking up and down the streets, it was easy to see just how big of a sports town Pittsburgh truly is, but, also, how much hockey means to this city.
The players were divided up into trucks to ride through the parade, but it didn't take long for them to begin leaping out to greet fans.
Rookie Jake Guentzel, known for being quiet, was the complete opposite for the event. He ran past crowds of fans to give out high-fives and signed autographs - a smile never leaving his face.
"No, no, no," Guentzel laughed when asked if the experience helped break him out of his shell. "This just happens when you win. You're all happy."
All the players were smiling ear-to-ear the entire route. Phil Kessel, who is now a two-time Stanley Cup champion, was barely in his truck, spending the majority of the time signing autographs and taking selfies with fans. Veteran Matt Cullen laughed as the crowd chanted "One more year!" as he made his way through the streets. Prankster Marc-Andre Fleury was quick to pop a bottle of champagne, soaking the crowd before passing the bottle to Cullen in the truck ahead.
After a stressful year of injuries and overcoming adversity, all of this celebrating was well deserved.
"It's been crazy," Trevor Daley said. "What we just accomplished, what we have achieved just says a lot about our group. It is a special group. We are a resilient group that we knew we could do this again. Here we are. We did it."
The fans were just as excited for the celebration after a long season.
Zach Smith and Joshua Watson brought a replica Stanley Cup to the parade. By the end, it was covered in signatures.
"It was a crazy season," Smith said. "We went through so many injuries toward the end of the season and the start of the playoffs, I didn't even know we could make it this far, but I had faith."
"It was a great season," Watson added. "We are diehard fans. It was a magical season, and it was all for this."
Though the parade ended, the celebration won't stop. The 'Ol' 29er' Phil Bourque made that clear when he christened the crowd with his famous line, saying, "Let's take this down to the river and party all summer!"

Parade Experience
A day after their championship parade through downtown Pittsburgh, the Pens players were still marveling at the turnout from the city. An estimated 650,000 people - which is more than double the population of the city - took to the streets to cheer on the Pens as they traveled along the parade route to Point State Park. It was an atmosphere that most players called 'unbelievable,' and rookie forward Jake Guentzel said it will always be his most cherished memory.
"Yesterday was insane," he said. "650,000, I heard? That's incredible. We have the best fans here."
While the players loved the crowd support, the fans loved seeing three of the quietest guys on the team show a different side of their personalities, as no one had more fun than Guentzel, Olli Maatta and Justin Schultz. Guentzel, 22, shared a truck with Conor Sheary and kept jumping out to run up and down the streets high-fiving fans, signing autographs and taking selfies - chugging beers the entire time. At one point, Sheary joined him to take a picture with a hilarious 'Sid and the Kids' sign.
"There were a couple funny signs. The Sid and the Kids one with the babies was pretty funny," Guentzel laughed. "That's probably the best one."
Meanwhile, Maatta, 22, and Schultz, 26, shared a truck and also downed a bunch of beers that they received from fans. Their teammates were torn about which one of the pair deserved the Conn Smythe Trophy as parade MVP.
"No. 3," Matt Murray laughed. "I bet you every guy would probably say that. He was MVP of the parade for sure. 'Schultzy,' actually. Schultzy was good out there too."
"Probably Schultzy," Sidney Crosby grinned. "Guys had fun. Everyone made it so great and the turnout was incredible. To kind of finish it off at the stage there, it was a great setting."
Maatta and Schultz were a hit on social media, with a picture of Schultz chugging a beer on the road making the rounds. He said he didn't know of its existence until later that night.
"My buddies were texting me and I was seeing all the pictures I was Photoshopped in chugging the beer," Schultz laughed. "It's pretty funny. I don't know, I was having a good time and I'd do it again."
His fellow defenseman Brian Dumoulin couldn't be happier that Schultz was enjoying himself.
"I just love the guy to death," Dumoulin said. "He's one of my best friends on the team. He's a great guy. I'll look at all the pictures of him."
Meanwhile, a photo of Maatta napping on his balcony got the meme treatment. He let everyone know today that he didn't get sunburned and he didn't get caught in the rain - "I heard the thunder and had to get up," he said.
Those photos were the only ones Crosby has seen, and he said the rest of the team received them as well.
"I saw two pictures, actually. I saw one of Schultzy, it was a pretty good one, and then I saw Olli taking a nap. That was the only two I've seen. They were on a group text. I haven't seen a ton."
What's so special about the parade is the ability to share their win with everybody. On Sunday, Monday and Tuesday they celebrated with just their family and friends. On Wednesday, they got to celebrate with the whole city.
"Just seeing how many people and the support group we have, the fans, it's unbelievable," Maatta said. "I think when you see how many of them show up, and just how excited they are about it, you see how big of a thing it is. It kind of makes you humble."
While those guys had the time of their lives, franchise goalie Marc-Andre Fleury experienced the perfect sendoff to what is likely the end of his time in Pittsburgh. There were so many No. 29 jerseys and signs in the crowd with sentiments like "We Love You Fleury! Thank You!" and "Merci, Marc-Andre!"
"That was pretty crazy," Fleury said. "So many signs, so many people. It was crazy. I think people chanted my name the whole way, so that was really emotional, but it was a good time."
He said he tried not to reflect a lot on his 12-plus years in this city as the truck he shared with his wife Veronique and oldest daughter Estelle traveled the route.
"I tried not to too much, because as you can see, I'm struggling with this," a choked-up Fleury admitted. "But I just tried to enjoy the moment, tried to remember the good times and this last parade."

Penguins Win Back To Back Cups

Pens Make History
History is not made in one game. History is not made in one day. History is not made in one year. History is built on the accumulation of time. It is as elusive as it is magnificent. The 2017 Pittsburgh Penguins, just like the 2016 version before them, has etched their names in history, both literally and figuratively, after winning their second straight Stanley Cup championship with a 2-0 victory in Game 6 against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on Sunday night. Literally, the names of these embattled warriors will be carved into the metal surface of the Stanley Cup, onto the final blank spot of the bottom rung.

Figuratively, the legend of the Pens' accomplishments - back-to-back Stanley Cup titles, the first team to repeat as champions in the NHL in 19 years, the only team in the salary cap era to win consecutive Cups and winning three Cups in the past nine years - will outlive all of our lifetimes.
The Pens' achievements over the last two years will live forever. The names of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Matt Murray will be spoken in the same breath as Mario Lemieux, Ron Francis, Jaromir Jagr and Tom Barrasso.
Crosby and Malkin have fulfilled their promise as franchise players, delivering multiple championships, and will finish their careers in Toronto's hallowed hall.
Crosby has solidified himself as the greatest player of his generation. He has led his team to three Stanley Cup titles, besting even his owner, Lemieux, as a player. Crosby was twice named the most valuable player in the playoffs and was the youngest captain to win the title at 21 years old in 2009. He already has a trophy shelf filled with Olympic gold medals, NHL scoring titles, NHL MVPs and goal-scoring titles. Malkin may not have made the list of the NHL's Greatest 100 players, but do not doubt his legendary status. Malkin also has three Cup titles, which ties for the most-ever by a Russian-born player. Malkin was also the playoff MVP in 2009, while also collecting NHL scoring titles and MVPs of his own.
Over the past nine years the Pens have gone through multiple general managers, head coaches and an ever-changing cast of players. But the one staple has always been Crosby and Malkin. They are the legs of the beast.
It's unimaginable now that a year-and-a-half ago - January of 2016 - the Pens were in danger of missing the playoffs and a black cloud of underachievement and disappointment hovered over the collective head of Crosby and Malkin.
But the story of these Pittsburgh Penguins isn't about two players. It's about a team in every sense of the word. It is a story, written with blood and sweat, of overcoming in the face of adversity.
Last season their offense grinded to a crawl while their record and confidence slumped and forced a coaching change. Head coach Mike Sullivan pulled this team from the gutter and led them to the heights of Mount Olympus.
This year offered no less in the way of adversity, mostly in the form of injuries. The Pens suffered 286 man-games lost during the regular season, yet still finished with the second-best record in the NHL.
Pittsburgh has played the entire postseason without its top blueliner in Kris Letang. In fact, the Pens have been without Letang, one of the best players in the league at his position, since mid-February. The Pens even started the postseason without their No. 1 goaltender when Murray suffered a lower-body injury during warmups before the opening game of the postseason. Marc-Andre Fleury, the team's faithful franchise goaltender for the past decade-plus, rode in on his white horse to save the day and helped them defeat two of top four teams in the NHL in Columbus and Washington. The defensive corps, without its leader, banded together to fight, scrape, claw and gut out shift after shift after shift.
The Pens, who have played in 213 games over the past two years, staved off fatigue and the arduous grind. That grind has killed every other team that has tried to repeat as champions in the past two decades. Sullivan, who is the first American-born coach to win two Stanley Cups, squeezed every ounce of juice out each and every man until the drip ran dry. It was enough. The Pens are one of only two franchises to pull off the repeat in the past 29 years - Pittsburgh (1991-92, 2016-17) and Detroit (1997-98). With many of the same players returning for next season, it's hard not to think of the capital D. Dynasty.
After all, the pillars of Crosby and Malkin are still solid. Add in Kessel, a healthy and fully healed Letang, and a cast of young stars headlined by Murray, and this year's breakout stud rookie Jake Guentzel. And just as importantly, the man steering the ship will also return - Sullivan. The future is bright in Pittsburgh. But the present is blinding. This season the Pens celebrated their 50th year of existence in the National Hockey League, and ended the year by celebrating their fifth Stanley Cup championship in team history.
The details may be forgotten. But the emotion will forever remain. It will be ingrained deep in the soul of this generation. You may not remember who scored the winning goal in Game 5 against Columbus in Round One (Bryan Rust). You might not remember how many saves Fleury made in Game 7 against Washington in the Second Round for a shutout (29). You may not remember Conor Sheary scoring in overtime of Game 2 against San Jose in 2016, or that Letang scored the Cup-winning goal in Game 6 against the Sharks. But you'll remember where you were when you watched Crosby lift the Cup, not once, not twice, but thrice. You'll remember how you felt seeing years of turmoil - bankruptcy, threats of relocation, three consecutive seasons of finishing in last place - evaporate as the Pens returned to the mountaintop. After all the tears and frustrations over the years, you'll remember that the elation and ecstasy was worth the pain.
With each passing year those feelings will only grow stronger. Soon, the ice will melt, the equipment will be packed away and the arena will be empty. As time passes by, all that will remain is history. This Penguins group has left its mark on history. The legacy of these Penguins was built over the past 14 years. In one night, it was immortalized.

Unbreakable Bond
The other day I asked Mike Sullivan about what he's seen in regards to the closeness of this group, the bond they've built over the last two years after making two Stanley Cup championship runs.

"I've been around a lot of teams both as a player and a coach now," he replied. "This team, I think, has a unique chemistry. They're a great group of people. I think they enjoy playing for one another. They've accomplished a lot in their time together. They have a unique chemistry. I believe it's a competitive advantage for our team. I think these guys really enjoy one another, and they play hard for one another.
"I know our coaching staff doesn't take it for granted. We talk about it a lot. We've got a great group of guys. These guys are a privilege to coach. We push them hard because we think so highly of them, we're trying to get the most out of them. By no means does our coaching staff take for granted the quality of the people that we have an opportunity to work with every day."
For those of us that have been on this ride with them, we couldn't agree more.
After winning the Stanley Cup in 2016, the Pens got a chance to defend their title with mostly the same group. Of course, they had some key additions - Jake Guentzel being the biggest one - but for the most part, there weren't huge departures, which doesn't happen often in the salary-cap era.
However, they are not going to get a chance to go for a three-peat with this same group. They are more than likely going to lose a key player to the Las Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft. As I write this, I'm getting a lump in my throat thinking that Marc-Andre Fleury - who will always be one of the absolute best human beings I will ever meet in my life - may not be back. Matt Cullen and Chris Kunitz have big decisions to make about their futures. Nick Bonino and Trevor Daley are set to be unrestricted free agents. The list goes on.
But for now, let's not think about that. Let's reflect back on just how special this team is, especially the players who have been here for both runs.
*** Let's start with Fleury. I can't say enough about how he handled his situation the last two years. He had been the franchise goalie since 2003, starting his career during dark days for the franchise, and had done so much for the organization in his years here. To see the starting job he'd held for so long slip away last year because of an injury - something he couldn't control - had to be incredibly frustrating. But not as frustrating as taking over for Game 1 of the First Round, backstopping the team into the Third Round and then losing his job, again. But Fleury remained the consummate teammate. He always came to the rink his usual positive, smiling self, continuing to have fun during practices (despite having to utilize them differently than he did in the past), and always being willing to talk and laugh and joke with anyone who wanted to have a conversation in the locker room.
*** He was also willing to be a mentor and a friend to Matt Murray. Seeing how the two of them handled this situation is the definition of teamwork and sportsmanship. It wasn't easy, but they did a fantastic job. Matt is a special kid and a special goalie who has blown everybody away with what he's done as a rookie. For him to come in and do what he did is nothing short of amazing.
*** Murray is part of that group who came up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton together, and I've got to be honest, I personally feel a lot of pride having watched them grow up these last few years. They all took different ways to get here, but once they all arrived in the AHL together, they became so close. And that carried over into the NHL. They all lived in a hotel together last year, and once they were told to get permanent housing in Pittsburgh, they all chose to live in the same complex. They've even formed a bunch of little superstitions and traditions together.
For example, watch when the team takes the ice right before puck drop. Most guys like to hit the ice and do a few laps, but Rust, Sheary, Scott Wilson and Tom Kuhnhackl all just go straight to the bench, sit down together and link arms. They even have a specific order, which, as Sheary told me, gets messed up when one of them is in the starting lineup - which throws them all off.
"A lot of times, people say in pro sports there's not much of a team aspect, it's more about making money," Sheary said. "But I think for this group, it's been a lot different just because we have had to go through so much together starting with the coaching change last year and then making it to two straight Finals. I think you grow as friends and you grow a chemistry to the room, and it's a lot of fun to come to the rink and be a part of."
*** Those kids are a mature bunch, as all of them are in long-term relationships and living with their significant others. They have their own families, just like the veteran guys here do, so the bonding with their older teammates is not over beers and going out. It's more done here in the arena, with Fleury pranking them when they first arrived or Sidney Crosby making sure that they feel comfortable in the locker room. That's exactly what the veterans did for Guentzel, who came in pretty much on his own. Unlike the second-year guys, who had played together for two pro seasons, he got called up to Pittsburgh much earlier in his career and he didn't come up with a bunch of teammates. But his new teammates went out of their way to make him feel welcome.
*** Speaking of old souls, doesn't it feel like Olli Maatta and Brian Dumoulin have been here forever? Maatta, 22, and Dumoulin, 25, both just finished their fourth pro seasons. They're both so mature it's easy to forget how young they both are. On the ice, they're both so calm and steady back there on the blue line and have quietly gotten the job done for the Pens. Off the ice, Maatta is surprisingly outgoing while Dumoulin is such a good guy who also handles team DJ duties, and is always playing an awesome mix of songs for the boys.
*** Phil. Where to even start with Phil? He is a unique personality, to say the least, and one that has fit in so perfectly since he arrived here from Toronto. The guys absolutely love him and love to mess with him, always joking around with him and trying to get him going. Take the prank that Malkin pulled on him earlier this season. Kessel tweeted a picture chirping Malkin for having to get dressed on a chair inside the locker room at New Jersey because he wasn't playing, and Malkin got his revenge by moving Phil's equipment onto a chair outside the locker room complete with a case of Coca-Cola, a coffeepot and cups, some signs and a big one above it all reading "The Phil Zone."
"It's an indication of how close our team is," Sullivan said that day. "I think they enjoy one another. They're constantly running pranks on one another. I think that helps build the chemistry around the room. It's all in good fun. Phil always seems to be in the center of all of that. I think it's really good stuff. That's an indication of the type of chemistry that we have in our locker room."
Sometimes Kessel will have disagreements with his teammates, as we saw when the cameras caught him and Malkin getting animated with each other on the bench earlier in the playoffs. As Malkin joked to me, "We support each other. Not every day, I mean, sometimes we get confused." But these guys are a family. They figure it out and move on together as brothers.
*** I can't say enough about how the rest of the acquisitions over the last two years have fit in. It's actually remarkable how it feels like they've all been here forever, when actually, it's only been a few years at the most.
- Patric Hornqvist was the first player brought in, and with him came an unbelievable energy. The guy goes 100 mph at everything he does in life. He's so intense and passionate and wears his emotions right on his chest. He's someone who's always positive and his attitude is contagious.
- When Carl Hagelin arrived, he became best friends with his fellow Swede. They live close by each other and often drive to the rink together. But it's not just Hornqvist that Hagelin is close with. 'Haggy' or 'Hags,' as the boys call him, is someone who gets along with and hangs out with everyone.
- Ian Cole may not be as loud as Hornqvist, but he's also got a big personality. He's one of the smartest, funniest, most talkative people you'll meet and is just so personable. He definitely helps keep things light in the room.
- Last year Ben Lovejoy told me that Nick Bonino was one of the best teammates he's ever played with, and I've learned why. Bonino is someone who has a dry, deadpan sense of humor and he loves giving guys a hard time in the most loving way possible. His interactions with Kessel are by far the best.
- Trevor Daley and Justin Schultz may come off as quiet in interviews, but from what I've seen being around the team, I can tell you they're not quiet within the group. Like Hagelin, they get along with everyone and have awesome personalities. As Dumoulin said, he loves both of those guys "to death."
- And then Matt Cullen, or 'Dad,' as the guys call him. He's honestly just the nicest guy and is such a good person. He's been so invaluable with his experience and advice and is just such a pleasure to be around. The guys love him and his family, as his three boys are a constant presence in the locker room. They also love the quirky habits he's adopted that have allowed him to still play at such a high level at age 40.
*** Finally, the rest of the core after Fleury - Crosby, Malkin, Letang and Kunitz.
Those guys have played together for a long time, and they've been through a lot together. When people look back at these back-to-back runs, they'll see that they're the players who spent a lot of that time re-writing the record books. It all starts with them. As Hagelin said to me, "It's obviously a special group. I can't say I've been on a team where there's been a closer-knit group. It starts with our leadership. 'Sid' is the leader of this team, 'Geno' is the leader of this team, 'Tanger' is the leader of this team. And they're really good at bringing guys together. And a guy like 'Kuni' who's been around, I think we have a good mix of older and younger guys that mesh well."
* Kunitz is someone everyone in that room references when talking about how to win. They respect him so much for the three Stanley Cup rings he has and the veteran presence he brings. He's someone who's always right in the thick of things, too, as he's part of the card game on the plane with Bonino, Kessel and Malkin and just loves being around his teammates.
"I think we've always enjoyed coming to the rink every day," Kunitz said. "Didn't matter if it was after a win or a loss, that we knew the next day we were going to go work together, and you have fun doing it. It's not a drag on it. Even in kind of the most dark days in January of the season and things like that. I think the best part about being on the Penguins team is that we have fun going to the rink every day, and that's why you want to play as long as you can."
* Speaking of Malkin, he's just so much fun. He's always hooting and hollering and as he laughed the other day, "I'm not a quiet guy in the locker room." He's someone we always hear on the plane yelling and laughing and just having a blast. "It's so much fun to be here," he told me. "It's very close. Good players, good teammates. I love being here." But he hasn't just been vocal with his teammates. He's been vocal with the media as well and has stepped up and taken that burden off other guys during tough stretches and after tough losses.
* Letang was the Pens' most important player on the ice last year, and this year he embraced his role off the ice. He just loves hockey, loves being at the rink and loves being around the boys contributing in any way he can. He's someone who did an awesome job of keeping it loose around the room. His spirits have been high and it's contagious.
* And Crosby. Honestly, we could be here all night talking about him. As one of his former coaches told me, he's a better person than he is a player, which says everything you need to know about him. He's the captain and the one everybody looks up to and follows. He takes that responsibility so seriously and goes out of his way to make sure the locker room is a welcoming environment for everybody. From texting new teammates right after they join the organization - even taking them golfing or to dinner - to getting to know the young guys when they come up, he's the ultimate leader. That goes for the organization as a whole, as he's so great to the staff. And he's a fun guy, too. I've gotten to spend a lot of time with him the last couple of summers, and he's truly enjoyable to be around.
No matter what happens or where they go from here, this group will always have an unbreakable bond from their experiences together. As Bryan Rust said, "There's not a guy in there that I'm going to forget. I'm going to remember each and every one of those guys forever." And when they come back to Pittsburgh in the future for anniversaries of their back-to-back Cups, it's going to be so much fun reflecting on the memories. But for now, they're focused on making them.

Matt Cullen's Future

As the Pens players celebrated with the Stanley Cup in the locker room following Game 6 of the Final in Nashville on Sunday, they surrounded Matt Cullen while he held the trophy and chanted, "ONE MORE YEAR!"
That sentiment was echoed by fans along the parade route in Pittsburgh on Wednesday as Cullen passed by in the back of a truck with his wife and three boys. However, during locker cleanout day on Thursday the 40-year-old forward wouldn't disclose his decision to retire or continue playing, saying that while he has a pretty good idea of what he's going to do, nothing is finalized yet.
"I think I just need to give it a little bit of time," the Minnesota native said. "Head home and get away from the celebrations and everything, and just allow a little bit of time for it to sink in and put a little separation from it. It's a decision you only make one time, so I want to give it some time to be sure."
Cullen smiled that he's heard enough from his sons Brooks, Wyatt and Joey about whether or not to keep playing. He knows where they stand on the subject.
"They've already voiced their opinion," he said. "I don't need to hear any more out of them. I've seen and heard enough out of them. Everywhere I turn, look on Twitter, whatever, I see their faces. I've seen more than enough of those guys (laughs). We're going to go home and they're going to go to their grandparents' for a while. I know what they want to do. They've voiced that. So I'll take that into account."
Cullen said if he did decide to continue his career, which so far has spanned 19 seasons, 1,366 regular-season games and 123 playoff games, he can't imagine playing anywhere else but Pittsburgh.
"I love it here and this place has been great for me," he said. "Going through that experience of the parade yesterday, it's unreal, and I can't imagine a better place to play hockey."
It truly has been an incredible experience for Cullen here in Pittsburgh. The biggest reason he chose to sign with the Pens two summers ago is to have a chance to win again, knowing that at his age, he wouldn't have many more opportunities to make a run. And not only did he win twice - he did so as an impact player on the team.
Cullen's versatility allowed him to move up and down and around the lineup when needed. He chipped in offensively with 29 goals and 63 points over two seasons. He was a key member of Pittsburgh's penalty killing unit and arguably their best defensive center. And the player lovingly nicknamed 'Dad' was a mentor to everyone in that locker room, the rookies and veterans alike.
Cullen finished the playoffs with a terrific performance in Game 7, leading all forwards with 19:42 minutes and helping the Pens kill off four penalties, including a 5-on-3.
He said this is as healthy as he's felt at the end of a season in quite a long time, and added "I've got to be honest, I feel great. I really do." So the question is, if he feels that good, why retire?
"I've played the game for a long time," he answered. "I love the game of hockey, but at a certain point, you have to make the decision and I think there's more to it than just the hockey stuff. Obviously you want to be an important player to the team, I appreciate the opportunity to be that here. But again, it goes beyond just only hockey at this point in my life. It's weighing the balance and figuring out what is best for the family and what is best for you too."
And if that isn't playing, Cullen said it will be probably still be something around the game.
"I've never wanted to do anything other than this," he said. "Since I've been 2 years old this is the only thing I've ever dreamed of doing. I don't know. I haven't put any thought to it. In the season I'm pretty well dialed on what I need to do to get ready for the next game. So I haven't ever really stepped back enough to look at that.
"When I'm done, I would likely stay in the game of hockey. It's the only thing I know. I can't do anything else. So I would likely do something with the game of hockey. I love it. There's nothing I love more than the game. So I'll figure that out."

Injury List
When Nick Bonino went down in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final after blocking a shot from P.K. Subban during a 5-on-3 power play for Nashville and breaking his ankle, he was forced to use crutches to move around. However, not being able to use his hands was just not cutting it for the Pens center. So Bonino took it upon himself to find a better alternative - a hands-free crutch strapped to his injured leg like a peg.
"In Nashville I was fed up with having no hands when I crutched around," Bonino said. "I went to a medical supply store, did a little research online, and went and got it. After the first few comments from the team I got used to it. It's worked out well."
Bonino missed the remainder of the series despite returning to the game after the injury.
"Anyone would have tried," Bonino said about finishing the game. "It's easier when the adrenaline is going, and it's a big game. He told me right before that if this goes wrong, we would need surgery. Luckily it didn't shift enough over the next week when I did try (to play on it) a couple times to need surgery at this point. I'm happy with that."
But Bonino wasn't the only player dealing with an injury. The Pens have dealt with a lot of them over the years, and this season was no different as they suffered 286 man-games lost. As the season came to a close with a second-consecutive Stanley Cup championship, even more injuries were disclosed during locker cleanout day on Thursday - showing just how tough these players were during the long stretch.
"A lot of guys were playing through so much," captain Sidney Crosby said. "It's incredible what guys were playing through and that we were able to get through all of that and still find a way to win."
Winger Carl Hagelin admitted that he broke his fibula against the Winnipeg Jets on March 8, an injury that kept him out of the first round of the playoffs against Columbus.
"It didn't really heal the way it should," Hagelin said. "It should take 4-6 weeks, but after five weeks it wasn't healing much in there. I took another week off and stuff and going into the Washington series, I wanted to get back and play. It didn't feel great at first. It wasn't until probably the Nashville series where I actually felt like I could do what I wanted to do, where my leg felt somewhat normal."
Rookie netminder Matt Murray also confided that the injury that took him out of the lineup prior to Game 1 against the Blue Jackets was a torn hamstring. While Murray is unsure whether it was a former injury or if it happened during warmups, he admitted that he only looked toward recovery and never to what could have been.
"I was just thinking about what I needed to do to get back, and that's kind of what I focused on," Murray said. "I think I got back pretty quickly and I think I came back stronger than I did before. That was a positive out of everything."
Defenseman Brian Dumoulin suffered a hand injury in that same series, but didn't let it slow him down.
"My hand was injured pretty good there right after the Columbus series in that last game," he said. "It didn't seem to heal at all throughout the playoffs at all, so it's good now to give it some rest and figure out what's going on with it."
Winger Patric Hornqvist broke a couple of fingers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final that knocked him out for the rest of the series, while defenseman Justin Schultz fractured his rib in Game 2. He missed the next four games, returned for Game 7 and dealt with it for the rest of the run.
"It's something that you've just got to let heal and rest up here," Schultz said. "Luckily for me, it didn't get too much worse as it went on there. It didn't take too many hits, bad hits, that hurt it, so that's good."
It seems like injuries have just plagued the Pens for both of their Stanley Cup runs. But these Penguins thrive on overcoming adversity, and injuries are just another bump along the road on the journey to lift Lord Stanley.
"To win a Stanley Cup, to a certain extent, it's a little bit of a war of attrition," head coach Mike Sullivan said. "It's a testament to how hard teams play, how physical the playoffs are, how competitive the league is. There's a lot of good teams. And so we're a banged-up group right now. We had guys playing with broken bones, broken ribs, these guys have such an appetitie to win and be a part of it, they're willing to play through so much. I think I have so much respect for this group of players that we have and their appetite to win and their willingness to play through the types of injuries that we played through. And a lot of times, we're trying to protect our players through the playoff process so we don't always come out and tell the media or people what they're playing with for obvious reasons. But I just have so much respect for what this group of players has endured in order to win this Stanley Cup championship."

Post Cup Quotes
Here's what the Pens had to say during their final media availability of the 2016-17 season.
On what he will miss the most:
Fleury: "I don't know. It's been such a long time, a great ride. I've met a lot of good people. It feels like home, for me. Everything."
On Fleury:
Crosby: "It will be tough (saying goodbye). It's something that I don't even like having to talk about it. Playing with someone that long, going through what we did, it's pretty special. We've got some great memories and we'll see what happens with things here in the future."
Cullen: "It's pretty clear what he means to this town. He rode in the truck behind me in the parade yesterday and listening to the fans, everything that they said to him and the support they gave him, it's pretty clear what he means to this community. I know what he means to this team and I haven't played with many better teammates than him. I just remember when he stepped in in Game 1 of the playoffs, the way that he played and what he did for us and the way he stepped up. I know what he's gone through these last couple seasons, sitting next to him in the room. And you know, he comes to the rink with a smile on his face every day and does his best to support his teammates and it's never about him. He's a pretty unique person and a pretty unique teammate. Whatever happens for him, whoever gets him, is going to be very lucky."
Hagelin: "He's probably the best teammate you can have. He's always positive and just a great guy in general. I don't think you'll find a better personality in sports when it comes to being a good friend and a supportive, positive teammate."
Dumoulin: "It's sad. He's the type of guy I want in my life at all times. If I could follow that guy around all day, I'd be happy. He's such a fun guy to be around and I love that guy so much and he's such a great player he's going to be good no matter where he is."
Murray: "We had a unique relationship for sure, but a great one I think. He was a really big mentor for me and that moment on the ice after we won where he handed me the Cup, that's a moment I'm never going to forget. It's one that meant a lot to me, so that just says a lot about who 'Flower' is and anybody who gets to play with 'Flower' - much less a goalie partner with 'Flower' - is really lucky to have him around. He's just so selfless, I think. He puts the needs of the team and his teammates above his own and treats everybody with respect no matter who you are. He's just one of the best, most genuine human beings you'll ever meet."
On Cullen:
Hagelin: "He's an incredible guy. Cully, since Day 1, you could just see he's a guy who loves the game and he loves being around his teammates. He was always extremely nice to me and we're going to have a long friendship. Whatever decision he makes, its up to him. He's definitely good enough to play another 3-4 years. You could probably ask any guy in here or any GM in this league and they probably want him. Obviously, it's a decision he's going to have to make. Obviously he has three kids who love the game as well, and it was fun to see them get to be a part of it all year."
On being teammates with Cullen and Fleury:
Rust: "Playing with those guys has been unbelievable. 'Cully' has been an unbelievable asset for us young guys, just his presence, his demeanor, the way he just handles himself, the way he's kind of joking around but knows how to be serious, he knows what to say and when to say it. I don't what you could say about 'Flower' that isn't great. He's awesome. He's one of the best teammates you could ask for. He's always having a great time, he's always welcoming guys, he's always playing little pranks, but I think that helps build chemistry and having a guy like that on your team is special and makes everyone a little bit closer."
On Daley:
Dumoulin: "I remember the first day Dales got here and I picked him up and we were riding in the car and it seemed like it wasn't that awkward even though he was the new guy, he was just talking with me and we were just talking to each other and it was fun. I sat next to the guy for a year and a half and I loved just coming in the locker room and being able to talk to him, whether it be about hockey, we talked about hockey a lot, but we also talked about life and stuff. He's been through it all and he's an older guy and I mean, I love that guy to death. That's definitely a guy I'll keep in touch with for life."
On the parade:
Maatta: "It was a phenomenal time. Just seeing how many people and the support group we have, the fans, it's unbelievable. I think when you see how many of them show up, and just how excited they are about it, you see how big of a thing it is. It kind of makes you humble."
Dumoulin: "It was fun. It was exciting. You definitely learn from the parade before. This one was a lot of fun. You could see the excitement in the crowd, in the people and it carried through us. It was fun to go every block and to see waves of people. It gives you such emotion and you just want it to be the best time of your life."
Kessel: "It was a great time. The fans came out and supported us. It was unbelievable. How many people were out there? It was bigger than last year. It was a neat experience."
On the chance to three-peat:
Crosby: "It's a great challenge. It's great to be able to have that opportunity to try and do that. I don't see why we wouldn't try to do that and aim for that, but we'll see what happens. We've got a good chunk of guys that we know are going to be back, and who have gone through this, and some who have won back-to-back, so I think that will certainly help if we're going to try to do it."
Hagelin: "Nothing tops this. Nothing is better than winning the Stanley Cup. Once you do, you just want to keep doing it. We obviously have a great team to do it, but right now we're just happy what we did this year. We're going to think about this win for a while before focusing on next season."
Dumoulin: "Everyone here is as hungry as ever and we feel celebrations and after going through it twice now we want to do it again. It is the best time in the world. it is what everyone wants and obviously we want it again."
On what this week has been like:
Guentzel: "It's been crazy. It's hard to put into words. I mean, what it means to win the Cup, it's something you work for your whole life. Obviously hopefully next year do it again. This is awesome (laughs)."
On how much he's looking forward to the offseason:
Crosby: "It will be good. It was a long stretch of hockey there. Just physically and mentally, those are big games to be a part of, and I think getting some rest will be good. I feel really good. A lot of guys were playing through so much. It's incredible what guys were playing through and we were able to get through all of that and still find a way to win. I wasn't playing through anything close to what a lot of guys were, so I feel really good. I'm lucky that way. We'll try to use that time to recover and get ready."
On if he's reflected on his whirlwind journey since arriving here:
Schultz: "Not really (laughs). I've just kind of been enjoying it lately and I'm sure now it's going to start to wind down and I'll be able to, but I'm so happy for this group of guys. And to be a part of it, it's unbelievable."
On having the most Cups of any active player:
Kunitz: "I feel very fortunate, but the first thing that comes to my mind is being able to play on some really good teams with some great players. And then basically the luck of being part of that many teams that have gone to the playoffs that have won that much, I feel extremely fortunate to be able to win - but also to make all those friends and be part of other people's careers throughout your own career."
On knowing this won't be the same group next year:
Cole: "We've all become so close and have accomplished so much together, it's going to be tough to see guys go. Unfortunately that is the business side of things. We know that. But I think looking back, you can look back at pretty fond memories of what we have accomplished and knowing we'll be seeing each other for the Cup reunions, so that will be a plus."
On why the free agents fit in so well:
Cole: "I think it's a mix of everything. The coaches here are obviously fantastic, the team here is obviously very good. That certainly all helps. But I think a lot of it is just good players who were in not ideal situations. You look at Justin Schultz, who was getting booed on his home rink, and comes here and was very much the power-play quarterback that held our team together when Kris Letang went down. So enough can't be said about how good of a job our scouting staff and general managers have done at finding guys who are in maybe not as ideal situations, and getting them for pretty cheap and then having these decisions pay off."
On the blue line:
Dumoulin: "We had to go through a lot, whether it was in the regular season or playoffs. I think that made us strong. You saw, it seemed like after every game we were rallying together. It seemed like if we went through a game without an injury, we considered that a good game whether it was a win or a loss. It got to the point where all you could do was laugh at it and it kind of kept the room loose, it made everyone involved and everyone had to be ready at all times."
On the younger guys who were together in the AHL and came up as a group last year:
Rust: "It creates a special bond between all of us young guys. We kind of went through all of it together, from being ATOs in Wilkes Barre and playing there to getting our first call-ups to kind of just trying to establish ourselves here. Through the ups and downs I think we've all kind of been there for each other and I think that makes things a little bit better and it's a bond we're never going to forget."
On if he and the other young guys from last season can appreciate how tough it is to win the Cup:
Sheary: "Yeah, it doesn't seem too hard right now. I think a couple of the older guys were saying how it's not supposed to be this easy. I think we went through a lot this year and we had a lot of challenges to overcome. We can draw from that experience too. It's not always about learning from losing, I think we can draw from a lot of the experiences we had and hopefully we can keep it going."
On what it means to people back home in Sweden to see him and Hornqvist score in the Stanley Cup clincher:
Hagelin: "There was a lot of talk about that from my friends back home and Horny's friends as well. It was pretty sweet. I remember 'Cully' was telling me at the morning skate there - it was just me, Cullen and Horny on the ice with Flower and (Cullen) got off the ice and some of the media people asked him 'Do you think the team is ready for tonight? How was the morning skate?' He was like, 'I'll tell you this, the Swedes are ready.' And we ended up scoring two goals. He mentioned it to me that night, and it was pretty cool, especially to see Horny score that game-winning goal against his former team that shipped him away. I'm extremely happy for him."
On his youngest son Joey:
Cullen: "Man, that kid. It's funny, I always tell my teammates that with that one, you're going to see him on the news someday. I don't know what for, but you're going to see him someday (laughs). He's a little fireball, so he stirs the pot at our house. There's no stopping him."

Penguins 2017 Championship Notes

Head coach Mike Sullivan and the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Nashville Predators, 4-2, in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final to become the first NHL team since the 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings to win back-to-back championships.
Pittsburgh became the ninth franchise since the 1967 NHL Expansion to win two or more consecutive Stanley Cups. The Penguins (2017 & '16; 1992 and '91) joined the Edmonton Oilers (1988 & '87; 1985 & '84) and Montreal Canadiens (1976 to '79; 1969 & '68) as the only clubs in that span to win consecutive championships twice.
Pittsburgh becomes the first team in the Salary Cap Era (since 2005-06) to win back-to-back titles.
Pittsburgh became the first team since the 1992 Penguins to win the Stanley Cup and also lead the league in goal scoring in both the regular season and playoffs.
Patric Hornqvist earned a permanent spot in Pittsburgh sports lore by scoring the Cup-clinching goal. He joined Kris Letang (2016), Max Talbot (2009), Ron Francis (1992) and Ulf Samuelsson (1991) among players who have done so in club history.

The Pittsburgh Penguins captured the franchise's fifth Stanley Cup, all of which have been earned since 1991. By winning a fifth title, the Penguins tied the Edmonton Oilers for the second-most Stanley Cup championships since the 1967 NHL Expansion behind the Montreal Canadiens (10 titles).
Pittsburgh has now won all five of its championships on the road. Only the Canadiens (10) have clinched more Stanley Cup titles away from home.
The Penguins joined the NFL's Steelers (6 championships) and MLB's Pirates (5 championships) as Pittsburgh sports franchises with at least five professional championships.

By winning a third Stanley Cup championship, the Penguins capped off a 10-year run that was unmatched among their peers. Pittsburgh's three Stanley Cup wins in that span are tied for the most in the league with Chicago, while the Penguins rank first in the NHL in every other significant category:
Penguins' NHL Ranks the Last 10 Years (2008-17)
Stanley Cups31st
Stanley Cup Final Appearances41st
Conference Final Appearances51st
Playoff Wins901st
Playoff Games Played1521st
Regular-Season Wins5671st

For the past decade, the core of the Pittsburgh Penguins has been the quartet of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and Marc-Andre Fleury. Eleven years after the four played together for the first time, they are now all three-time Stanley Cup champions.
Those three, plus forward Chris Kunitz, are the only Penguins players to play for all three of the franchise's Stanley Cup championships since 2009.

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby won the Conn Smythe Trophy for the second-straight year as the MVP of the playoffs. He is the first player to win back-to-back Conn Smythe Trophies since Mario Lemieux (1991 and '92).
Crosby is just the third player in NHL history to win back-to-back Conn Smythe Trophies, joining Lemieux and Philadelphia's Bernie Parent (1974-75).
Crosby is the sixth player in NHL history to win two or more Conn Smythe Trophies, joining, Lemieux, Parent, Wayne Gretzky, Patrick Roy and Bobby Orr.
Crosby and Gretzky are the only players in NHL history to captain teams to three or more Stanley Cups AND win two Conn Smythe Trophies.

Evgeni Malkin finished the playoffs as the leading scorer, the second time in his NHL career that he has done so. He also paced the league in scoring back in 2009 when the Pens won the Cup.

Last June, Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford became the first GM since the 1967 NHL Expansion to manage multiple teams to Stanley Cup championships when the Pens beat the San Jose Sharks. This year, the Penguins victory against the Nashville Predators puts Rutherford into another select group, one of just seven general managers since '67 to win three Stanley Cups.
In addition to his back-to-back crowns with Pittsburgh the last two years, Rutherford also won a Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006. He also built the 'Canes into 2002 Stanley Cup Finalists (lost to Detroit).
Rutherford is one of four active GMs with three championships, joining Toronto's Lou Lamoriello, Detroit's Ken Holland and Chicago's Stan Bowman. Of the other six GMs with three Cups, only the active Holland and Bowman are enshrined in the Hall of Fame (Lamoriello is among the 4 already enshrined).
Of the 25 players to suit up for the Penguins during the 2017 postseason, 12 were acquired by Rutherford.

By guiding the Penguins to a Stanley Cup championship, head coach Mike Sullivan became the first American-born coach in NHL history to win multiple Stanley Cups. He defeated fellow U.S.-born bench boss Peter Laviolette in the first-ever Cup Final featuring two Americans behind the bench.
Last year, Sullivan joined Laviolette (Carolina, 2006), Dan Bylsma (Pittsburgh, 2009), John Tortorella (Tampa Bay, 2004), Bob Johnson (Pittsburgh, 1991) and Bill Stewart (Chicago, 1938) in the select group of American-born head coaches to win the Stanley Cup.
Sullivan became the second head coach to win Stanley Cups in his first two years behind the bench with a team, and the first since Montreal's Toe Blake. Blake won his first five years with the Canadiens from 1956-60.
By winning a second championship, Sullivan joined former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Chuck Noll (4 Super Bowls) and former Pittsburgh Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh (2 World Series) as the only three coaches in Pittsburgh's professional sports history to win multiple titles (Courtesy: Paul Zeise article in the Post-Gazette).
Goaltender Matt Murray became the first goalie in NHL history to win Stanley Cups in each of his first two years in the league. In fact, since he is still a rookie, he is the first goalie to win the Cup twice as a rookie.
Murray earned back-to-back shutouts to close out the Predators, joining Marc-Andre Fleury as the only goalies in club history to record consecutive postseason shutouts.
Murray's win was his eighth in the Stanley Cup Final, surpassing Tom Barrasso to establish a new franchise record. According to NHL Tonight, Murray's eight Stanley Cup Final wins before his 25th birthday are tied with Terry Sawchuk for the second-most in NHL history behind Grant Fuhr (10).
Murray has now won 22 playoff games in his career, the most by a player in NHL history under the rookie designation.
Speaking of Fleury, by winning his third Stanley Cup championship, he becomes the only active NHL netminder with three Stanley Cup wins.

Forward Chris Kunitz became a four-time Stanley Cup champion with the Penguins' victory. That's the most Stanley Cup wins of any active NHL player.
Kunitz earned the second assist on Patric Hornqvist's Cup-clinching goal.
Kunitz has won three Stanley Cups (2017; '16; and; '09) with Pittsburgh, and one with the Anaheim Ducks back in 2007.
The Pens' seventh-leading scorer in club playoff history with 76 points (23G-53A), Kunitz secured Pittsburgh's ticket to the Cup Final by scoring in double overtime of the Pens' 3-2 Game 7 defeat of Ottawa in the Eastern Conference Final. Kunitz added six assists in six games played during the Stanley Cup Final. Only Sidney Crosby had more points among Pens in the Cup Final.

Jake Guentzel enjoyed a postseason run for the ages, scoring 13 goals and totaling 21 points. He equaled the rookie point mark shared with Dino Ciccarelli (1981) and Ville Leino.
Guentzel's 13 postseason goals are second-most in NHL playoff history by a rookie, behind only the 14 scored by Ciccarelli in 1981. He became the first rookie to lead the league in playoff goal scoring since the NHL took over the Stanley Cup.
Guentzel set an NHL rookie record by tallying five game-winning goals, which equaled the Pens' franchise record first set by Mario Lemieux in 1992.
Guentzel scored the game-winning goal in each of the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final, something only he and Lemieux (1992) have done in club history.
General manager Jim Rutherford made the bold move to acquire Phil Kessel on July 1, 2015, and the move has paid off in a huge way. The Penguins have now won the Stanley Cup in both of Kessel's seasons with the team.
This year, Kessel had eight goals and 23 points in 25 playoff contests, the third-highest total among NHL players.
Over the last two years, Kessel had 18 goals, which led all NHL players during that span. His 45 points in that same span trailed only teammates Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin (46 each).
*By making it to the Stanley Cup Final, the Penguins became the first NHL franchise since the 1967 NHL Expansion to make consecutive Stanley Cup Final appearances on three separate occasions (1991-92; 2008-09; and 2016-17).
*During the Stanley Cup Final, the Penguins moved into the top-five in total playoff goals with 1,118. They trail only Montreal (1,427), Boston (1,373), Philadelphia (1,282) and Chicago (1,212).
*Pittsburgh's 49 playoff games played over the last two years is the most by an NHL team in a two-year stretch in league history.
*The Penguins set a club record by winning 10 home games.

NHL - Stanley Cup Finals - Pittsburgh Penguins beat Trashville Predators 4-2

Game 1 - Penguins v Trashville Predators 5-3 - Monday, May 29, 2017
Jake Guentzel could have been a healthy scratch. But Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan gave Guentzel the chance to play hero. Guentzel scored with 3:17 remaining in the third period to help the Penguins defeat the Nashville Predators 5-3 in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final at PPG Paints Arena. Guentzel's goal, which made it 4-3, came on Pittsburgh's first shot on goal in a span of 37:00. It ended his eight-game goal drought dating to May 8. Pittsburgh did not have a shot on goal in the second period. Nashville became the first team to hold an opponent to zero shots in a period during a Stanley Cup Final since the NHL began tracking shots on goal in 1957-58. With forward Patric Hornqvist returning from an upper-body injury, Sullivan decided between playing forward Carl Hagelin or Guentzel, who did not have a goal in the seven-game Eastern Conference Final against the Ottawa Senators. Nick Bonino scored an empty-net goal with 1:02 remaining to make it 5-3. The Predators trailed 3-0 in the first period before scoring three times to tie the game. Ryan Ellis made it 3-1 with a power-play goal at 8:21 of the second period, Colton Sissons made it 3-2 with another power-play goal at 10:06 of the third period, and Frederick Gaudreau tied it 3-3 at 13:29 with his first NHL goal. Evgeni Malkin gave Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead with a slap shot on a 5-on-3 with 4:28 remaining in the first period before Conor Sheary made it 2-0 with 3:23 left. Sheary's goal was his first in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Pittsburgh took a 3-0 lead with 17 seconds left when Bonino one-handed a shot on Pekka Rinne that deflected off Rinne's stick blade before bouncing off Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm and past the goal line. P.K. Subban seemed to give Nashville a 1-0 lead at 7:13 when his shot got past defenseman Brian Dumoulin and under Matt Murray's blocker. The Penguins challenged that Filip Forsberg entered the zone offside at 6:58 and the goal was disallowed after video review. Murray made 23 saves for Pittsburgh; Rinne made seven for Nashville.

* Matt Cullen passed to Guentzel in the neutral zone, which allowed him to charge forward before shooting over Rinne's glove.
* Austin Watson dug the puck away from defensemen Olli Maatta and Trevor Daley before turning behind the net and passing to Gaudreau, who tapped a shot past Murray.

"It wasn't a perfect game, but we found a way and we know we've got a lot to improve on. … We'll go over it and make sure we're getting better with each game." Sidney Crosby said.
"You just have to stay positive, I think. You're getting the chances. … You just have to stay with it." Guentzel said.
"We weren't very good. We weren't very good. So, when you're playing a team like Nashville that has a balanced attack, you have to have some pushback. I didn't think, in the second period, that we had any pushback. … We just weren't very good."
"We felt in the last series that he might have been wearing down a little bit. So the coaching staff was trying to be proactive and trying to find ways to maybe cut his minutes a little bit so that we would get more productive minutes from him. And, quite frankly, to take a little bit of pressure off him." Sullivan said.

Game 2 - Penguins v Trashville Predators 4-1 - Wednesday, May 30, 2017
A span of 3:18 is all the Pittsburgh Penguins needed. It took them that long to score three times early in the third period, including twice in 15 seconds, to defeat the Nashville Predators 4-1 in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final at PPG Paints Arena. Jake Guentzel's second goal made it 2-1 10 seconds into the third after his first tied it 1-1 with 3:24 left in the first. He has three goals in the series, including the game-winning goal in Games 1 and 2. Entering this series, Guentzel had not scored in eight consecutive games. Because of that drought, Sullivan nearly scratched Guentzel in Game 1, but decided to play him instead of forward Carl Hagelin. Three days later, Guentzel was again playing on a line with center Sidney Crosby and leading the NHL with 12 goals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Scott Wilson made it 3-1 at 3:13 before Evgeni Malkin pushed it to 4-1 on his first shot of the game 15 seconds later. Malkin leads the NHL with 26 points (nine goals, 17 assists) this postseason. Predators goalie Pekka Rinne was replaced by Juuse Saros after Malkin's goal. Rinne allowed four goals on 25 shots after giving up four on 11 shots in Game 1. Matt Murray made 37 saves for Pittsburgh. Patric Hornqvist scored at 6:48 of the third period, but the goal was overturned after it was ruled Matt Cullen was offside at 6:40. Pontus Aberg gave Nashville a 1-0 lead with 7:03 remaining in the first period. The Predators could have scored earlier during a 5-on-3 after Malkin was called for hooking and Chris Kunitz went off for cross-checking 9:36 into the game. An interference penalty against Mike Fisher made it 4-on-3 58 seconds later before each of the penalties were killed. Penguins forward Nick Bonino left after blocking a shot by Predators defenseman P.K. Subban. He missed the final 9:26 of the first period but returned for the second and played the rest of the game.

* Guentzel gathered the rebound of a shot by Bryan Rust and sent a wrist shot past Rinne's right pad for his second goal.

"I think this team has an inner belief that we can score goals. They've provided plenty of evidence for themselves to suggest that. I know our guys believe in their ability to finish, and so it's about making sure that if we don't get anything, we try to limit the opportunities of our opponents to the best of our ability. We're going to go through stretches of games where we might get a handful of shifts in a row where we don't get an opportunity. It's just about making sure that we continue to try to play the game the right way." Mike Sullivan said.
"It's crazy. You can't even put into words what it feels [like], but the ultimate goal is two more wins." Guentzel said.
"He's really smart. He has really good hockey sense, so he's able to read the play. He's in and around the net all the time. He knows when to get out of there and find a soft area to set up for a pass." Crosby said.
"It's always fun to score. We have emotion to keep going. When we score one, we don't stop." Evgeni Malkin
Game 3 - Trashville v Predators v Penguins 5-1 - Saturday, June 03, 2017
The Trashville Predators got their first Stanley Cup Final win, 5-1 in Game 3 against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Bridgestone Arena. Roman Josi had one goal and two assists for the Predators, and Pekka Rinne, who was pulled from a 4-1, Game 2 loss, made 27 saves. Josi scored on a power play to tie the game 1-1 at 5:51 of the second period. His slap shot from the right faceoff circle beat Matt Murray for his sixth goal of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, most among NHL defensemen. Josi is the first defenseman with at least three points in a Stanley Cup Final game since Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010. Frederick Gaudreau gave the Predators a 2-1 lead at 6:33 on a wrist shot from the slot. He took a pass from Austin Watson for his second goal. James Neal made it 3-1 with 23 seconds remaining. Viktor Arvidsson chipped the puck off of the back of the net, and Neal got to the rebound to score his sixth goal. Craig Smith pushed it to 4-1 at 4:54 of the third period on a breakaway. He intercepted the puck at center ice and beat Murray on the glove side for his first goal. Ekholm made it 5-1 on the power play at 13:10 on a slap shot. Jake Guentzel gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead at 2:46 of the first period on a rebound. Ian Cole shot from the point, and Guentzel beat Rinne for his 13th goal of the playoffs, one short of the postseason record for a rookie. The Predators have had 19 players score in the playoffs.
* Gaudreau's goal came 42 seconds after Josi's and was the result of a chip pass by Watson. Gaudreau shot around Cole and beat Murray.* Rinne made a pad save on Phil Kessel's shot and followed it up with a save on a rebound chance by Kunitz in the second period to preserve a 2-1 lead.
"When Harry comes in the lineup, he brings speed, he brings energy, he brings physicality," Laviolette said. "That was a perfect example of it. He put the puck to an area, tried to get a step on the guy, and forced him to take a penalty."
"Missed the net and got shots blocked. I had some opportunities to shoot it and didn't get it there. There were a few chances around the net, just got to find a way to get it through. We got a good start. We knew they were going to come out hard, and they did. To come out of the first with the lead was good, but they score a power-play goal. That happens, but we give up one pretty soon after that one and then one late in the period that you can't give up with 25 seconds left or whatever it is. You can't do that at any point, especially in big games like this." Sidney Crosby said.

Game 4 - Trashville v Predators v Penguins 4-1 - Monday, June 05, 2017
Pekka Rinne showed he's back on top of his game by making 23 saves for the Nashville Predators in a 4-1 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final at Bridgestone Arena. The Predators and Rinne improved to 9-1 at home during the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Frederick Gaudreau scored his third goal of the Stanley Cup Final and second consecutive game-winning goal. Gaudreau gave the Predators a 2-1 lead at 3:45 of the second period on a wraparound attempt. The goal was confirmed when play was stopped at 4:20 of the period for a video review. With the goal, Gaudreau became the second player to score his first three NHL goals in the Stanley Cup Final. The other was John Harms of the Chicago Black Hawks in 1944. Viktor Arvidsson gave the Predators a 3-1 lead at 13:08. It was Arvidsson's third goal of the postseason and first since Game 4 of the Western Conference First Round against the Blackhawks. Filip Forsberg scored an empty-net goal to make it 4-1 at 16:37 of the third period, his first point of the series. Calle Jarnkrok gave the Predators a 1-0 lead at 14:51 of the first on a rebound. Craig Smith deflected a shot by Austin Watson, and Jarnkrok beat Matt Murray on the rebound for his second goal of the playoffs. The Penguins challenged for goaltender interference but the goal was upheld after video review. Sidney Crosby tied it 1-1 at 15:57 on a breakaway. He got behind the Predators defense and beat Rinne on a forehand-to-backhand move for his eighth goal. It was Crosby's first goal in a Cup Final since June 4, 2009, in Game 4 against the Detroit Red Wings.

* Rinne made a series of saves on a scramble play after he stopped Crosby on a breakaway in the second period. Bryan Rust followed up around the crease, and Rinne made a diving stop on Jake Guentzel to keep the game 2-1.
* Penguins forward Nick Bonino came out for warmups but did not play. He has missed the past two games because of a lower-body injury. Forward Josh Archibald replaced Scott Wilson for the Penguins. … Subban blocked a shot by Malkin with his leg with 7:08 left in the third period. He returned to finish the game.

"Tonight we generated some really good chances, played on our toes a lot more. I think if we continue to do that it's going to give us a really good chance to win games. It's a game of mistakes, and we made a couple and they ended up in our net. On the other side, we couldn't take advantage of theirs." Crosby said.
"The only thing I would say is I thought a couple of the goals tonight, a couple of goals in the prior game, there were things that we could have done that were preventable. Let's put it that way. They were preventable. The breakaway goal to me is an example. We have to have a bit of awareness away from the puck. If we do that, it's a nothing play." Mike Sullivan said.

Game 5 - Penguins v Trashville Predators 6-0 - Thursday, June 08, 2017
The Pittsburgh Penguins are one win from defending their championship after defeating the Nashville Predators 6-0 in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final at PPG Paints Arena. The Penguins have won each of their previous four championships on the road. They won the Cup last season with a 3-1 victory against the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 at SAP Center. The Predators won Games 3 and 4 at home after trailing 2-0 in the series. Matt Murray made 24 saves for his second shutout of the playoffs after allowing eight goals in his previous two starts.
Sidney Crosby had three assists to reach 27 points (eight goals, 19 assists) this postseason. The Penguins scored three goals in the first period. After Crosby forced Ryan Ellis to take a holding penalty 50 seconds into the game while splitting the Predators defensemen and shooting off the left post, Justin Schultz made it 1-0 at 1:31 on the power play. Crosby passed to Schultz at the point, where he one-timed a slap shot past Pekka Rinne's glove. Bryan Rust extended it to 2-0 by backhanding a shot through Rinne's pads at 6:43. Malkin, who had two points (one goal, one assist), made it 3-0 with 11 seconds remaining. He leads the playoffs with 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists). Juuse Saros replaced Rinne to start the second period. Rinne, who made six saves on nine shots, has been pulled in his past two road starts. Saros made 12 saves on 15 shots. Conor Sheary scored on Saros' first shot faced to make it 4-0 at 1:19 of the second period. Phil Kessel pushed it to 5-0 at 8:02, one day after Malkin predicted Kessel would end his six-game goal drought. Kessel hadn't scored since Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Ottawa Senators. Ron Hainsey made it 6-0 with 3:20 left in the second. Ellis left in the second period because of an undisclosed injury. Laviolette did not have an update on Ellis' status after the game. Predators forward Colton Sissons received a match penalty for cross-checking defenseman Olli Maatta with 34 seconds left in the third period. A match penalty carries an automatic suspension until the play is reviewed by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.

* Malkin retrieved the puck in the defensive zone before passing up to Kessel, who carried to the left circle. Kessel passed back to Malkin, who shot over Rinne's glove and into the right corner of the net.

"I thought the team played a pretty solid game overall. So, that helps a lot, obviously. But there are definitely things you can take from any game, no matter what happens. So I'll try to be better going forward. … Nothing in particular that I will share with you." Matt Murray
"We understand that the next one is going to be the hardest. So we're going to have to reset our mindset and be ready to play that game." Mike Sullivan said.
"There's still a lot of work to be done, but I like the way we played tonight." Crosby said.

Game 6 - Trashville v Predators v Penguins 2-0 - Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Pittsburgh Penguins clinched back-to-back championships with a 2-0 win against the Nashville Predators in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final at Bridgestone Arena. Pittsburgh is the first NHL team to repeat since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998. It is the fifth Stanley Cup title for the Penguins, and they have won each of them on the road. Sidney Crosby won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second consecutive season in his third Cup victory. He finished the postseason one point behind teammate Evgeni Malkin with 27 points (eight goals, 19 points) in 24 games. Patric Hornqvist scored with 1:35 remaining in the third period to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead. The Penguins acquired Hornqvist in a trade with the Predators for James Neal on July 27, 2014. He said scoring the game-winning goal against his former team made it even more special.

* Hornqvist's goal came on a missed shot by defenseman Justin Schultz that bounced off the boards and the back of the net. Hornqvist got the rebound and shot it off of Rinne's back.
* Murray made saves on Mike Fisher and Neal in the first period to keep the game 0-0. Fisher's shot went off of Murray's pads, and Neal got to the rebound by the crease. Murray got enough of his glove on Neal's shot to direct the puck away from the net.

* Crosby is the third player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy in back-to-back seasons, joining Mario Lemieux (1991, 1992 Penguins) and Bernie Parent (1974, 1975 Philadelphia). ... Crosby, Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury, Chris Kunitz and Kris Letang won the Cup for a third time with the Penguins (2009, 2016, 2017). ... Penguins coach Mike Sullivan is the first United States-born coach to win the Stanley Cup twice. ... Murray is the fourth goalie to close a Cup Final with consecutive shutouts, first since Terry Sawchuk of the Detroit Red Wings in 1952. Murray did not allow a goal for the final 146:26. ... Hornqvist's goal was the second latest (18:25) to win a Stanley Cup in regulation. Dave Bolland scored at 19:01 for the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013 against the Boston Bruins. … Penguins forward Nick Bonino missed his fourth game because of a lower-body injury. He revealed to the media that he broke his tibia in Game 2. ... Pittsburgh won 32 percent of the faceoffs in Game 6. … The Predators were shut out for the final 123:23 of the series. ... Defenseman Ryan Ellis played and was paired with Roman Josi. Ellis left Game 5 because of an undisclosed injury and did not participate in the optional morning skate Sunday.
"I think I'm just really happy for this group. A good chunk of the guys were returning from last year, so it's pretty special. We set out to try to go back-to-back. We knew it was going to be pretty difficult, but I think that's probably where the most joy comes out of is just knowing how difficult it is to go back-to-back and knowing that we overcame all those things. It's a pretty special group, I'll say that."
"I think this feeling right here. You can't match this. It's what it's all about, and to be able to share that with a group of guys, a lot of them guys that you've played a long time with and understand how difficult it is and what you've had to go through and that kind of thing, share it with family and friends, that's what it's about. You have a small window to play and have a career. I feel fortunate, but I also understand how difficult it is, so you want to try to make the best of it." Crosby said.
"Yeah, for sure. This is where I've been playing most of my games and to win it and score that goal here, it couldn't end any better for me." Hornqvist said.