PITTSBURGH (AP) -Sidney Crosby surprised some Pittsburgh Penguins fans last week by knocking on their front door and handing them their season tickets.
Quite the delivery man, the NHL's reigning scoring champion and Most Valuable Player.
Now that he's the Penguins' captain at the grizzled age of 20, Crosby wouldn't mind being on the receiving end of a handout himself next June. Namely, when the Stanley Cup trophy is presented to the NHL champion.
"Certainly, our confidence is there," Crosby said Thursday as the Penguins opened training camp, five months following their first-round playoff elimination by Ottawa.
A year ago, a realistic goal for the Penguins when camp started was a winning season. They did a lot better than that, with a 47-point turnaround from the season before, fourth best in NHL history.
Not only did the Penguins make the playoffs, their 47 victories were the second most in club history. Nobody would have expected that after they failed to win more than 28 games in any of the previous four seasons, even when Crosby scored 102 points as a rookie in 2005-06.
Now, a realistic goal is the Stanley Cup, and the Penguins are one of the popular picks in the preseason. They've added two former Cup winners, defenseman Darryl Sydor and forward Petr Sykora, to one of the best collections of young scoring talent (Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal) in NHL history.
Crosby understands a lot more is expected of these Penguins, even if it might not be until the playoffs.
"There's expectations, whether it's individually or as a team," he said. "But if you look back to last year, our focus was getting off to a good start and proving ourselves as a young team. It's only a year's difference and we have to keep doing that."
That's where Sydor and Sykora should help.
In 2004, when Tampa Bay also had several relatively young and talented scorers (Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards, Martin St. Louis), Sydor proved to be a difference-maker during their Stanley Cup run.
Sykora has been to three Stanley Cup finals and won one, with New Jersey in 1999, but he said he has never played with offensive talent like Pittsburgh possesses.
"I think I can bring a lot of playoff experience, especially playing with Sidney," Sykora said. "Even when I scored 25-30 goals, I never played with a player like Sidney or Malkin."
Sydor said the Penguins have everything needed to win the Stanley Cup only two years after their 22 victories ranked them 29th in the 30-team league.
"Obviously a 47-point difference is quite a year, but there's going to be a lot of people around the league that think the Pittsburgh Penguins have a chance to win," he said. "One thing you have to deal with is that expectation and, sometimes, that brings out the best in you."
The Penguins ran through conditioning tests Thursday at the South Side facility where the Pittsburgh Steelers practice. Not surprisingly, some Penguins gave into temptation and picked up some footballs and began tossing and kicking them on the Steelers' indoor practice field.
Staal certainly didn't play much football back in Thunder Bay, Ontario, but he showed off his athletic talent with a punt that nearly hit the roof before landing 50 yards away in the end zone.
"We've got some skill that's exciting," forward Maxime Talbot said - and he wasn't referring to football.