This post, by Chris Johnston, first appeared in Sportsnet. Read the full story here.
SAN JOSE, Calif. – In hindsight, it’s hard to believe how much doubt the greatest player of his generation has had to contend with.
Even during a playoff run that ended with him lifting the Stanley Cup and accepting the Conn Smythe Trophy, there were plenty who questioned Sidney Crosby.
Once and for all we know his place. With plenty of runway left on a Hall of Fame career, he’s going down as the best of the bunch in the NHL’s initial salary cap era. Everything is gravy from here.
“I think it places him up there with the greats of the game of all time,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said Sunday. “He’s that good in my mind. … I could tell as we went through this post-season that he knew that our team had something special.
“He was going to will this thing.”
That’s what the greats always do.
After San Jose delayed the Penguins celebration by stealing a Game 5 win earlier this week, Crosby was determined to see the Stanley Cup Final end here. In private, he told a few people close to him that he was going into “beast mode” at SAP Center.
Talk about calling your shot. He finished with a team-high 10 shot attempts and went 13-4 in the faceoff circle. He earned the primary assist on Kris Letang’s game-winner and blocked a shot before feeding Patric Hornqvist for the empty-netter that sealed a 3-1 win.
“Beast mode, baby,” Penguins goalie Jeff Zatkoff told Sportsnet. “He’s a winner, he’s won everything. We just followed him. He told me before Game 6 that he was going beast mode, and he went beast mode.
“He was dialled in. He wanted it.”
It ended up being the kind of spring that will leave an indelible mark on the history of the sport.