Sidney Crosby might not be thinking in terms of back-to-back trips to the Stanley Cup Final, but that's where the Pittsburgh Penguins find themselves at the start of this week's edition of Showtime Sports' "All Access: Quest for the Stanley Cup." The third episode is set to air on Friday (8 p.m. ET).
The Penguins have taken down the Ottawa Senators, and a return trip to the Final is ahead of them, another chance to be the best of the best. And while their path may have been a bit different than that of the Nashville Predators, who are making their first-ever trip to the Final, that hardly matters.
As narrator Bill Camp says, "What does matter is that you are here."
Because both teams have ended up in the same place: on hockey's biggest stage.
The show opens with Predators coach Peter Laviolette, who has already won the Stanley Cup, back in 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes and has been to another Cup Final, in 2010 with the Philadelphia Flyers, and his dog, Stanley. Yes, Stanley. The family rescued the dog during the Cup run with Carolina, a tiny puppy who got to be a part of all the excitement and who, as Laviolette said, "is probably waiting for another one."
The dog and the city get their chance this year.
There is, clearly, a different feeling in Nashville, a bursting of pride and focus on the Predators, a groundswell of support for a team in one of the newer NHL markets.
"All year we've built this belief in each other that we could win any game, we could win any series, we could win ultimately the Stanley Cup," Predators forward James Neal says in an after-practice huddle before the Final begins. "It's been a lot of hard work, but it's all going to pay off and it's going to be an unbelievable journey for us in this last series. And no better team to beat than the Penguins."
But that is matched with the anticipation in Pittsburgh, with even Crosby himself reflecting on how quickly it has all gone, on how momentous the events of the past year have been.
There are more ahead, as the teams get through Stanley Cup Final Media Day, through Games 1 and Games 2, as they head back to Nashville for more hockey, into the biggest games of the year and, for some, of their careers. There is a long way to go before a team hoists the Cup this season, and a lot to learn before they all get there.