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Blues' Stanley Cup repeat won't be easy, Crosby says

Center helped Penguins win back-to-back titles, sees high expectations among obstacles

by Mike Zeisberger @Zeisberger / Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- Sidney Crosby said he'd love to switch places with the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues even though their quest to defend the title this season will be daunting.

The Pittsburgh Penguins center knows how tough it is for a team to repeat as champions. Pittsburgh won the Cup in 2016 and 2017 and is the only team since the Detroit Red Wings (1997, 1998) to win back-to-back championships.

"It's a good position to be in," Crosby said of the Blues at the NHL Player Media Tour on Friday. "That's what everyone wants to have going into the season.

"I think it's a challenge for sure. There are understandably going to be high expectations and you're going to get every team's best. I think early on, your mindset is still kind of where it left off in June and I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. But it still takes some time to get into that form. There will be different challenges. 

"Like I said, it's definitely a good position to be in."

Video: 31 in 31: St. Louis Blues 2019-20 season preview

The Penguins' back-to-back championships might seem like a lifetime ago for Crosby and his teammates, who were swept in four games by the New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference First Round in April. The Pittsburgh captain said the shock and bitterness over that result provided him with plenty of drive for this season.

"We knew what kind of team we were facing and the challenges that were going to be there," said Crosby, who also won the Cup with the Penguins in 2009. "It's one thing for games to shape out the way they do but I don't feel we did as good a job as we could have in terms of giving ourselves a chance to win."

Crosby said many of the Penguins' problems against the Islanders were self-inflicted.

"We were probably guilty of beating ourselves at certain points," he said. "That's not taking away anything from the Islanders. They did what they're supposed to do. But I thought we were guilty of not doing enough of the things we were supposed to do. Lots of motivation. That's the challenge you face every year. There's lots of challenges and adversity you are looking at from last year."

The Penguins will have a new look after finishing third in the Metropolitan Division (44-26-12). They traded 31-year-old forward Phil Kessel to the Arizona Coyotes for 25-year-old forward Alex Galchenyuk and 20-year-old defenseman prospect Pierre-Olivier Joseph on June 29, two weeks after trading 25-year-old defenseman Olli Maatta to the Chicago Blackhawks for 24-year-old forward Dominik Kahun and a fifth-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.

Video: 31 in 31: Pittsburgh Penguins 2019-20 season preview

"There are some question marks," Crosby said. "We're younger, but in some ways we might be a little older too. 

"Like any team, you have to form an identity. And it will be up to us to do that. Like I said, we're younger, so we're probably going to be a quicker team, a more energized team. We have some guys that are pretty excited to be in the positions they're in. We have to see what we can do with that."

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