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Stanley Cup Final

Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin of Penguins on verge of third Cup together

Forwards can win another championship with victory against Predators in Game 6 of Final

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

CRANBERRY, Pa. -- Wayne Gretzky brought up the tandems, some of the greatest of all time in the NHL, during his press conference earlier in the Stanley Cup Final.

Jacques Lemaire and Guy Lafleur. Mike Bossy and Bryan Trottier. Himself and Mark Messier.

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. 

Yes, them too.

"I think they've cracked the upper echelon," Gretzky said of the Pittsburgh Penguins star centers. "I don't think there's any question those two guys deserve to be up there when you talk about [Jacques] Lemaire and [Guy] Lafleur, [Mike] Bossy and [Bryan] Trottier, Gretzky and [Mark] Messier."

 

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Crosby and Malkin are one win away from joining those tandems and a handful more in the exclusive fraternity of Hall of Fame or future Hall of Fame teammates who together have won the Stanley Cup at least three times.

Their first of potentially two chances at building on their legacy comes in Game 6 against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports). 

One more win this season and there will be no viable argument to counter what Gretzky said, although he could also have added Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay, Henri and Maurice Richard, Serge Savard and Larry Robinson, Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer, and Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to his original list.

"Their play puts them in that category, but there is always that extra-level category when you win a few," said Penguins center Matt Cullen, who also is trying to become a three-time Stanley Cup champion. "So if we were able to get it done, yeah, I do think [they belong in the category of elite tandems]. I really do think that. 

"If you can lead a team to [win the Stanley Cup] ideally three times, that's pretty unbelievable."

Video: Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin's growing legacy

For Crosby and Malkin, though, the word legacy and the natural comparisons people like to draw are non-factors right now. You'd even think the word legacy carried a negative connotation, because every time it's brought up, one of them, Crosby especially, shoots it right back down.

"Because nothing is accomplished," Crosby said after practice Saturday.

They won the Stanley Cup together in 2009 and again last year. Malkin was the Conn Smythe Trophy winner in 2009. Crosby won it last year. One of them probably will win it again if the Penguins defeat the Predators one more time. They are first and second, respectively, in points in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs; Malkin has 28. Crosby has 27.

Moreover, they've each won the Hart Trophy as NHL most valuable player (Crosby twice) and the Art Ross Trophy as leading scorer (each twice). Crosby has won or shared the Rocket Richard Trophy as top goal-scorer twice, winning it outright this season with 44 goals. They will be Hall of Famers as soon as they are eligible for induction.

But that's all legacy talk for another time. 

When Crosby says nothing has been accomplished yet, he means this year, this spring, even this weekend.

"I think we've come a long way and put ourselves in the position, given ourselves an opportunity, but it's what we do with that," Crosby said. "There's lots of time when you're done playing to think about that stuff [legacies and history]."

However, Crosby isn't without appreciation for where he is and who he's with. He's somewhat of a hockey savant, so he knows the history of the game and the great tandems that have come before him and Malkin. He knows how rare it is to be a part of one.

Video: Crosby's outstanding performance led to Game 5 win

"It's pretty unique," Crosby said. "We've been fortunate to play with each other for a long time and to win together. There is a certain level of appreciation. I think we both feel fortunate. I know I can speak for myself. I feel fortunate to have him this long."

Imagine how fortunate coach Mike Sullivan must feel. He gets to coach them when they're in their prime and as healthy and as determined as they are now. 

"We don't take it for granted, trust me," Sullivan said.

What's interesting is Sullivan, as an assistant coach with the New York Rangers from 2009-13, used to pick the brain of Glen Sather, now the Rangers' president, who coached Gretzky and Messier to four Stanley Cup championships in the 1980s.

Sullivan, of course, had those conversations without a hint of a clue he would one day be in the position he is now with Crosby and Malkin.

"They're great conversations to have," Sullivan said. "They're learning opportunities for young coaches like myself. I took every opportunity to have those types of conversations with Glen."

They've proven to be beneficial, most likely because Sullivan learned Sather didn't simply coach Gretzky and Messier the great players, he worked closely with Gretzky and Messier the people. There is a difference.

"When you have an opportunity to work with them every day like we have, I think you gain an appreciation for the people and the type of people that they are," Sullivan said. "They're both just terrific people. They care about the Penguins. They're good teammates. They want to win. They're very receptive to the coaching staff. They embrace challenge. And their work ethics are exceptional." 

Video: NSH@PIT, Gm5: Malkin picks the corner late in 1st

All of that is what makes them great individually, but like many of the legendary twosomes that have come before them, Crosby and Malkin have found a way to co-exist on the same team for years without a sniff of controversy between them. 

Neither has ever given thought to trying to branch out and do it on his own, and now they're potentially 60 minutes away from winning their third championship together. 

It may not be their last if they get it. Their legend is still growing. They're still crafting their legacies. They still have a chance to be the greatest tandem of all time.

"They've done everything you can do as a professional athlete," Gretzky said. "What they're doing now is adding onto it.

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