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Stanley Cup Final

Sidney Crosby solidifies place among greatest ever with third Cup win

Another championship, second Conn Smythe Trophy put Penguins captain 'in that conversation now, without a doubt'

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

NASHVILLE -- Sidney Crosby is one of the all-time greatest players in the history of the NHL.

Crosby, the decorated captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins, was already on the long list of the best players of all time. He cemented his name onto the short list Sunday by winning another Stanley Cup, his second in a row and third overall, and another Conn Smythe Trophy, his second in a row. 

Crosby is the third player in NHL history to win playoff MVP in consecutive seasons. He is the sixth player to win it twice in a career.

He finished the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs with 27 points in 24 games. The Penguins became the first repeat Cup champions in 19 years with a 2-0 win against the Nashville Predators in Game 6 at Bridgestone Arena.

 

[RELATED: Complete Penguins vs. Predators series coverage | Sidney Crosby wins Conn Smythe trophy]

 

"He's now in that group of top three, four all-time greats," Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford said. "He's in that conversation now, without a doubt. It's very special."

Rutherford's comment may seem jarring at first. Top three or four seems too high when other candidates to be included in that group, the Mount Rushmore of the NHL if you will, are Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, Mark Messier and Jean Beliveau, just to name a few.

But why can't Crosby be in the mix with those greats? Why shouldn't he be? His resume is good enough. He's good enough.

Video: Crosby discusses winning back-to-back Stanley Cups

In addition to now being a three-time Stanley Cup champion and a two-time Conn Smythe Trophy winner, Crosby is a two-time Hart Trophy winner as the regular-season MVP, a two-time Art Ross Trophy winner as the regular-season scoring leader, and a two-time Rocket Richard Trophy winner as the regular-season leader in goals.

The 29-year-old, having just completed his 12th NHL season, has won the Olympic gold medal twice and helped Team Canada win the World Cup of Hockey 2016, where he was voted the best player in the tournament. He also has won the IIHF World Junior Tournament and the World Championship.

He may be the most decorated hockey player of all time. 

"I would think it would be hard not to have him in the conversation (about being one of the greatest of all-time) with the body of work that he's put together here in his career to this point," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "He has an insatiable appetite to be the best player. What separates him from others is his willingness to do what it takes. His work ethic is unmatched by anyone that I've witnessed around the game. We marvel sometimes at his willingness to control everything within his power to be the very best."

For his part, Crosby hates talking about his legacy and his individual accomplishments. Every answer he gives circles back to the team. That's part of what makes him great too. It's never about him, even though the Penguins' success is all about him.

"I am just really happy to be part of this group," he said while sitting at the press conference podium with the Conn Smythe Trophy to his left and the Stanley Cup to his right. "It's a pretty special group, I'll say that."

He drives it.

Video: PIT@NSH, Gm6: Crosby speaks about third Stanley Cup

Take Game 5 for example. The Penguins came home after losing back-to-back games here. They needed a win. They needed Crosby. He delivered on his first shift, turning a 1-on-2 into a breakaway, a shot off the post and a penalty drawn that led to a power-play goal.

It was the first of six goals the Penguins would score. Crosby had an assist on three of them.

"He took this team on his back and he willed a win for us," Sullivan said. "That's the capability that he has."

That's the capability Gretzky and Lemieux had and showed. Messier did the same. Orr, Beliveau and Howe did too. And Crosby. He's been doing it for years, just like those legends did.

"He's a guy that can capture the hearts of so many people just by the way he plays, with the passion and the tempo of his game and his skill to get better," said Penguins forward Chris Kunitz, who has played with Crosby since 2008. "Every single year he's changing himself to do something different. The game changes and he plays with more speed and he collects more points and has more awareness on the ice. It's unbelievable to be a part of, just to be on the ice with a guy that has that much character and talent."

And drive. Don't forget drive. That's what defenseman Kris Letang first noticed in the days after the Penguins won the Stanley Cup last year.

Video: PIT@NSH, Gm6: Crosby receives Conn Smythe Trophy

"Right after we won the Cup he said, 'I'm going right back skating and I want to win the World Cup, and I want to keep that momentum going into the season to win another Cup,'" Letang said. "The way he came into training camp after the World Cup, we knew he wanted to accomplish something. I knew right away this could happen."

Not long after it was over Crosby was asked what drives him, what drives his will? It was a good question considering everything he could possibly accomplish in the NHL, in his hockey career, he has accomplished. A lot of it more than once. What keeps him going?

"This feeling right here," Crosby answered with a smile befitting a champion. "You can't match this. This is what it's all about. 

"You have a small window to play and have a career. You just want to try to make the best of it."

He's done that by being the best of his generation. He's done it by being one of the best of all time.

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