Sidney Crosby believed when he was 21 that anything for he and his Pittsburgh Penguins was possible and he would have the opportunity to end each of his seasons with the Penguins by lifting the Stanley Cup in triumph as he did back in 2009.
However, both life and hockey took the Penguins captain on detours that he never expected. He sat out games due to concussions that were so bad his career was threatened.
The Penguins could not sustain their Stanley Cup success of 2009 making numerous management as well as coaching changes that looked to be headed nowhere even halfway through the just completed regular season.
Those memories all came back to him on Sunday, as he led Pittsburgh to a 3-1 win in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals to end the series and give the Penguins another Stanley Cup.
Pure joy and triumph could be seen on Crosby’s face as he had the honor as captain of the team to lift the Cup in victory to celebrate the fourth championship won by the franchise.
He said that winning the title at 21 in 2009 makes you take it slightly for granted but now he knows how hard it is to return to lifting the Cup again.
However, hope was never lost, but at the age of 28, he wondered if he and his team would ever win it again. It came though on Sunday, as the speedy Penguins, a team that relied on defense overcame the resilience and physicality of the Sharks to win the Cup.
Crosby, who assisted on the decisive goal by Kris Letang in the second period, which came less than a minute and a half after San Jose had evened the score, and on the empty net goal of Patric Hornqvist with only 1:02 left on the clock, was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs’ most valuable player.
The Penguins had a good core of players before the season began and added to that with acquisitions during the offseason of Matt Cullen and Eric Fehr and during the season of Carl Hagelin and Trevor Daley.
They promoted minor league players such as goaltender Matt Murray. Mario Lemieux the owner of the team and a Cup winner of the Pens in 1991 and 1992 said the young players really helped the club down the stretch.
Mike Sullivan was given the head coaching job December 12 after the Penguins fired Mike Johnston and he was clear with saying he would not settle for less than excellence for each of his players. That is just what they did.