Monday, 19 June 2017

Penguins Win Back To Back Cups

Pens Make History
History is not made in one game. History is not made in one day. History is not made in one year. History is built on the accumulation of time. It is as elusive as it is magnificent. The 2017 Pittsburgh Penguins, just like the 2016 version before them, has etched their names in history, both literally and figuratively, after winning their second straight Stanley Cup championship with a 2-0 victory in Game 6 against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on Sunday night. Literally, the names of these embattled warriors will be carved into the metal surface of the Stanley Cup, onto the final blank spot of the bottom rung.

Figuratively, the legend of the Pens' accomplishments - back-to-back Stanley Cup titles, the first team to repeat as champions in the NHL in 19 years, the only team in the salary cap era to win consecutive Cups and winning three Cups in the past nine years - will outlive all of our lifetimes.
The Pens' achievements over the last two years will live forever. The names of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Matt Murray will be spoken in the same breath as Mario Lemieux, Ron Francis, Jaromir Jagr and Tom Barrasso.
Crosby and Malkin have fulfilled their promise as franchise players, delivering multiple championships, and will finish their careers in Toronto's hallowed hall.
Crosby has solidified himself as the greatest player of his generation. He has led his team to three Stanley Cup titles, besting even his owner, Lemieux, as a player. Crosby was twice named the most valuable player in the playoffs and was the youngest captain to win the title at 21 years old in 2009. He already has a trophy shelf filled with Olympic gold medals, NHL scoring titles, NHL MVPs and goal-scoring titles. Malkin may not have made the list of the NHL's Greatest 100 players, but do not doubt his legendary status. Malkin also has three Cup titles, which ties for the most-ever by a Russian-born player. Malkin was also the playoff MVP in 2009, while also collecting NHL scoring titles and MVPs of his own.
Over the past nine years the Pens have gone through multiple general managers, head coaches and an ever-changing cast of players. But the one staple has always been Crosby and Malkin. They are the legs of the beast.
It's unimaginable now that a year-and-a-half ago - January of 2016 - the Pens were in danger of missing the playoffs and a black cloud of underachievement and disappointment hovered over the collective head of Crosby and Malkin.
But the story of these Pittsburgh Penguins isn't about two players. It's about a team in every sense of the word. It is a story, written with blood and sweat, of overcoming in the face of adversity.
Last season their offense grinded to a crawl while their record and confidence slumped and forced a coaching change. Head coach Mike Sullivan pulled this team from the gutter and led them to the heights of Mount Olympus.
This year offered no less in the way of adversity, mostly in the form of injuries. The Pens suffered 286 man-games lost during the regular season, yet still finished with the second-best record in the NHL.
Pittsburgh has played the entire postseason without its top blueliner in Kris Letang. In fact, the Pens have been without Letang, one of the best players in the league at his position, since mid-February. The Pens even started the postseason without their No. 1 goaltender when Murray suffered a lower-body injury during warmups before the opening game of the postseason. Marc-Andre Fleury, the team's faithful franchise goaltender for the past decade-plus, rode in on his white horse to save the day and helped them defeat two of top four teams in the NHL in Columbus and Washington. The defensive corps, without its leader, banded together to fight, scrape, claw and gut out shift after shift after shift.
The Pens, who have played in 213 games over the past two years, staved off fatigue and the arduous grind. That grind has killed every other team that has tried to repeat as champions in the past two decades. Sullivan, who is the first American-born coach to win two Stanley Cups, squeezed every ounce of juice out each and every man until the drip ran dry. It was enough. The Pens are one of only two franchises to pull off the repeat in the past 29 years - Pittsburgh (1991-92, 2016-17) and Detroit (1997-98). With many of the same players returning for next season, it's hard not to think of the capital D. Dynasty.
After all, the pillars of Crosby and Malkin are still solid. Add in Kessel, a healthy and fully healed Letang, and a cast of young stars headlined by Murray, and this year's breakout stud rookie Jake Guentzel. And just as importantly, the man steering the ship will also return - Sullivan. The future is bright in Pittsburgh. But the present is blinding. This season the Pens celebrated their 50th year of existence in the National Hockey League, and ended the year by celebrating their fifth Stanley Cup championship in team history.
The details may be forgotten. But the emotion will forever remain. It will be ingrained deep in the soul of this generation. You may not remember who scored the winning goal in Game 5 against Columbus in Round One (Bryan Rust). You might not remember how many saves Fleury made in Game 7 against Washington in the Second Round for a shutout (29). You may not remember Conor Sheary scoring in overtime of Game 2 against San Jose in 2016, or that Letang scored the Cup-winning goal in Game 6 against the Sharks. But you'll remember where you were when you watched Crosby lift the Cup, not once, not twice, but thrice. You'll remember how you felt seeing years of turmoil - bankruptcy, threats of relocation, three consecutive seasons of finishing in last place - evaporate as the Pens returned to the mountaintop. After all the tears and frustrations over the years, you'll remember that the elation and ecstasy was worth the pain.
With each passing year those feelings will only grow stronger. Soon, the ice will melt, the equipment will be packed away and the arena will be empty. As time passes by, all that will remain is history. This Penguins group has left its mark on history. The legacy of these Penguins was built over the past 14 years. In one night, it was immortalized.

Unbreakable Bond
The other day I asked Mike Sullivan about what he's seen in regards to the closeness of this group, the bond they've built over the last two years after making two Stanley Cup championship runs.

"I've been around a lot of teams both as a player and a coach now," he replied. "This team, I think, has a unique chemistry. They're a great group of people. I think they enjoy playing for one another. They've accomplished a lot in their time together. They have a unique chemistry. I believe it's a competitive advantage for our team. I think these guys really enjoy one another, and they play hard for one another.
"I know our coaching staff doesn't take it for granted. We talk about it a lot. We've got a great group of guys. These guys are a privilege to coach. We push them hard because we think so highly of them, we're trying to get the most out of them. By no means does our coaching staff take for granted the quality of the people that we have an opportunity to work with every day."
For those of us that have been on this ride with them, we couldn't agree more.
After winning the Stanley Cup in 2016, the Pens got a chance to defend their title with mostly the same group. Of course, they had some key additions - Jake Guentzel being the biggest one - but for the most part, there weren't huge departures, which doesn't happen often in the salary-cap era.
However, they are not going to get a chance to go for a three-peat with this same group. They are more than likely going to lose a key player to the Las Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft. As I write this, I'm getting a lump in my throat thinking that Marc-Andre Fleury - who will always be one of the absolute best human beings I will ever meet in my life - may not be back. Matt Cullen and Chris Kunitz have big decisions to make about their futures. Nick Bonino and Trevor Daley are set to be unrestricted free agents. The list goes on.
But for now, let's not think about that. Let's reflect back on just how special this team is, especially the players who have been here for both runs.
*** Let's start with Fleury. I can't say enough about how he handled his situation the last two years. He had been the franchise goalie since 2003, starting his career during dark days for the franchise, and had done so much for the organization in his years here. To see the starting job he'd held for so long slip away last year because of an injury - something he couldn't control - had to be incredibly frustrating. But not as frustrating as taking over for Game 1 of the First Round, backstopping the team into the Third Round and then losing his job, again. But Fleury remained the consummate teammate. He always came to the rink his usual positive, smiling self, continuing to have fun during practices (despite having to utilize them differently than he did in the past), and always being willing to talk and laugh and joke with anyone who wanted to have a conversation in the locker room.
*** He was also willing to be a mentor and a friend to Matt Murray. Seeing how the two of them handled this situation is the definition of teamwork and sportsmanship. It wasn't easy, but they did a fantastic job. Matt is a special kid and a special goalie who has blown everybody away with what he's done as a rookie. For him to come in and do what he did is nothing short of amazing.
*** Murray is part of that group who came up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton together, and I've got to be honest, I personally feel a lot of pride having watched them grow up these last few years. They all took different ways to get here, but once they all arrived in the AHL together, they became so close. And that carried over into the NHL. They all lived in a hotel together last year, and once they were told to get permanent housing in Pittsburgh, they all chose to live in the same complex. They've even formed a bunch of little superstitions and traditions together.
For example, watch when the team takes the ice right before puck drop. Most guys like to hit the ice and do a few laps, but Rust, Sheary, Scott Wilson and Tom Kuhnhackl all just go straight to the bench, sit down together and link arms. They even have a specific order, which, as Sheary told me, gets messed up when one of them is in the starting lineup - which throws them all off.
"A lot of times, people say in pro sports there's not much of a team aspect, it's more about making money," Sheary said. "But I think for this group, it's been a lot different just because we have had to go through so much together starting with the coaching change last year and then making it to two straight Finals. I think you grow as friends and you grow a chemistry to the room, and it's a lot of fun to come to the rink and be a part of."
*** Those kids are a mature bunch, as all of them are in long-term relationships and living with their significant others. They have their own families, just like the veteran guys here do, so the bonding with their older teammates is not over beers and going out. It's more done here in the arena, with Fleury pranking them when they first arrived or Sidney Crosby making sure that they feel comfortable in the locker room. That's exactly what the veterans did for Guentzel, who came in pretty much on his own. Unlike the second-year guys, who had played together for two pro seasons, he got called up to Pittsburgh much earlier in his career and he didn't come up with a bunch of teammates. But his new teammates went out of their way to make him feel welcome.
*** Speaking of old souls, doesn't it feel like Olli Maatta and Brian Dumoulin have been here forever? Maatta, 22, and Dumoulin, 25, both just finished their fourth pro seasons. They're both so mature it's easy to forget how young they both are. On the ice, they're both so calm and steady back there on the blue line and have quietly gotten the job done for the Pens. Off the ice, Maatta is surprisingly outgoing while Dumoulin is such a good guy who also handles team DJ duties, and is always playing an awesome mix of songs for the boys.
*** Phil. Where to even start with Phil? He is a unique personality, to say the least, and one that has fit in so perfectly since he arrived here from Toronto. The guys absolutely love him and love to mess with him, always joking around with him and trying to get him going. Take the prank that Malkin pulled on him earlier this season. Kessel tweeted a picture chirping Malkin for having to get dressed on a chair inside the locker room at New Jersey because he wasn't playing, and Malkin got his revenge by moving Phil's equipment onto a chair outside the locker room complete with a case of Coca-Cola, a coffeepot and cups, some signs and a big one above it all reading "The Phil Zone."
"It's an indication of how close our team is," Sullivan said that day. "I think they enjoy one another. They're constantly running pranks on one another. I think that helps build the chemistry around the room. It's all in good fun. Phil always seems to be in the center of all of that. I think it's really good stuff. That's an indication of the type of chemistry that we have in our locker room."
Sometimes Kessel will have disagreements with his teammates, as we saw when the cameras caught him and Malkin getting animated with each other on the bench earlier in the playoffs. As Malkin joked to me, "We support each other. Not every day, I mean, sometimes we get confused." But these guys are a family. They figure it out and move on together as brothers.
*** I can't say enough about how the rest of the acquisitions over the last two years have fit in. It's actually remarkable how it feels like they've all been here forever, when actually, it's only been a few years at the most.
- Patric Hornqvist was the first player brought in, and with him came an unbelievable energy. The guy goes 100 mph at everything he does in life. He's so intense and passionate and wears his emotions right on his chest. He's someone who's always positive and his attitude is contagious.
- When Carl Hagelin arrived, he became best friends with his fellow Swede. They live close by each other and often drive to the rink together. But it's not just Hornqvist that Hagelin is close with. 'Haggy' or 'Hags,' as the boys call him, is someone who gets along with and hangs out with everyone.
- Ian Cole may not be as loud as Hornqvist, but he's also got a big personality. He's one of the smartest, funniest, most talkative people you'll meet and is just so personable. He definitely helps keep things light in the room.
- Last year Ben Lovejoy told me that Nick Bonino was one of the best teammates he's ever played with, and I've learned why. Bonino is someone who has a dry, deadpan sense of humor and he loves giving guys a hard time in the most loving way possible. His interactions with Kessel are by far the best.
- Trevor Daley and Justin Schultz may come off as quiet in interviews, but from what I've seen being around the team, I can tell you they're not quiet within the group. Like Hagelin, they get along with everyone and have awesome personalities. As Dumoulin said, he loves both of those guys "to death."
- And then Matt Cullen, or 'Dad,' as the guys call him. He's honestly just the nicest guy and is such a good person. He's been so invaluable with his experience and advice and is just such a pleasure to be around. The guys love him and his family, as his three boys are a constant presence in the locker room. They also love the quirky habits he's adopted that have allowed him to still play at such a high level at age 40.
*** Finally, the rest of the core after Fleury - Crosby, Malkin, Letang and Kunitz.
Those guys have played together for a long time, and they've been through a lot together. When people look back at these back-to-back runs, they'll see that they're the players who spent a lot of that time re-writing the record books. It all starts with them. As Hagelin said to me, "It's obviously a special group. I can't say I've been on a team where there's been a closer-knit group. It starts with our leadership. 'Sid' is the leader of this team, 'Geno' is the leader of this team, 'Tanger' is the leader of this team. And they're really good at bringing guys together. And a guy like 'Kuni' who's been around, I think we have a good mix of older and younger guys that mesh well."
* Kunitz is someone everyone in that room references when talking about how to win. They respect him so much for the three Stanley Cup rings he has and the veteran presence he brings. He's someone who's always right in the thick of things, too, as he's part of the card game on the plane with Bonino, Kessel and Malkin and just loves being around his teammates.
"I think we've always enjoyed coming to the rink every day," Kunitz said. "Didn't matter if it was after a win or a loss, that we knew the next day we were going to go work together, and you have fun doing it. It's not a drag on it. Even in kind of the most dark days in January of the season and things like that. I think the best part about being on the Penguins team is that we have fun going to the rink every day, and that's why you want to play as long as you can."
* Speaking of Malkin, he's just so much fun. He's always hooting and hollering and as he laughed the other day, "I'm not a quiet guy in the locker room." He's someone we always hear on the plane yelling and laughing and just having a blast. "It's so much fun to be here," he told me. "It's very close. Good players, good teammates. I love being here." But he hasn't just been vocal with his teammates. He's been vocal with the media as well and has stepped up and taken that burden off other guys during tough stretches and after tough losses.
* Letang was the Pens' most important player on the ice last year, and this year he embraced his role off the ice. He just loves hockey, loves being at the rink and loves being around the boys contributing in any way he can. He's someone who did an awesome job of keeping it loose around the room. His spirits have been high and it's contagious.
* And Crosby. Honestly, we could be here all night talking about him. As one of his former coaches told me, he's a better person than he is a player, which says everything you need to know about him. He's the captain and the one everybody looks up to and follows. He takes that responsibility so seriously and goes out of his way to make sure the locker room is a welcoming environment for everybody. From texting new teammates right after they join the organization - even taking them golfing or to dinner - to getting to know the young guys when they come up, he's the ultimate leader. That goes for the organization as a whole, as he's so great to the staff. And he's a fun guy, too. I've gotten to spend a lot of time with him the last couple of summers, and he's truly enjoyable to be around.
No matter what happens or where they go from here, this group will always have an unbreakable bond from their experiences together. As Bryan Rust said, "There's not a guy in there that I'm going to forget. I'm going to remember each and every one of those guys forever." And when they come back to Pittsburgh in the future for anniversaries of their back-to-back Cups, it's going to be so much fun reflecting on the memories. But for now, they're focused on making them.

Matt Cullen's Future

As the Pens players celebrated with the Stanley Cup in the locker room following Game 6 of the Final in Nashville on Sunday, they surrounded Matt Cullen while he held the trophy and chanted, "ONE MORE YEAR!"
That sentiment was echoed by fans along the parade route in Pittsburgh on Wednesday as Cullen passed by in the back of a truck with his wife and three boys. However, during locker cleanout day on Thursday the 40-year-old forward wouldn't disclose his decision to retire or continue playing, saying that while he has a pretty good idea of what he's going to do, nothing is finalized yet.
"I think I just need to give it a little bit of time," the Minnesota native said. "Head home and get away from the celebrations and everything, and just allow a little bit of time for it to sink in and put a little separation from it. It's a decision you only make one time, so I want to give it some time to be sure."
Cullen smiled that he's heard enough from his sons Brooks, Wyatt and Joey about whether or not to keep playing. He knows where they stand on the subject.
"They've already voiced their opinion," he said. "I don't need to hear any more out of them. I've seen and heard enough out of them. Everywhere I turn, look on Twitter, whatever, I see their faces. I've seen more than enough of those guys (laughs). We're going to go home and they're going to go to their grandparents' for a while. I know what they want to do. They've voiced that. So I'll take that into account."
Cullen said if he did decide to continue his career, which so far has spanned 19 seasons, 1,366 regular-season games and 123 playoff games, he can't imagine playing anywhere else but Pittsburgh.
"I love it here and this place has been great for me," he said. "Going through that experience of the parade yesterday, it's unreal, and I can't imagine a better place to play hockey."
It truly has been an incredible experience for Cullen here in Pittsburgh. The biggest reason he chose to sign with the Pens two summers ago is to have a chance to win again, knowing that at his age, he wouldn't have many more opportunities to make a run. And not only did he win twice - he did so as an impact player on the team.
Cullen's versatility allowed him to move up and down and around the lineup when needed. He chipped in offensively with 29 goals and 63 points over two seasons. He was a key member of Pittsburgh's penalty killing unit and arguably their best defensive center. And the player lovingly nicknamed 'Dad' was a mentor to everyone in that locker room, the rookies and veterans alike.
Cullen finished the playoffs with a terrific performance in Game 7, leading all forwards with 19:42 minutes and helping the Pens kill off four penalties, including a 5-on-3.
He said this is as healthy as he's felt at the end of a season in quite a long time, and added "I've got to be honest, I feel great. I really do." So the question is, if he feels that good, why retire?
"I've played the game for a long time," he answered. "I love the game of hockey, but at a certain point, you have to make the decision and I think there's more to it than just the hockey stuff. Obviously you want to be an important player to the team, I appreciate the opportunity to be that here. But again, it goes beyond just only hockey at this point in my life. It's weighing the balance and figuring out what is best for the family and what is best for you too."
And if that isn't playing, Cullen said it will be probably still be something around the game.
"I've never wanted to do anything other than this," he said. "Since I've been 2 years old this is the only thing I've ever dreamed of doing. I don't know. I haven't put any thought to it. In the season I'm pretty well dialed on what I need to do to get ready for the next game. So I haven't ever really stepped back enough to look at that.
"When I'm done, I would likely stay in the game of hockey. It's the only thing I know. I can't do anything else. So I would likely do something with the game of hockey. I love it. There's nothing I love more than the game. So I'll figure that out."

Injury List
When Nick Bonino went down in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final after blocking a shot from P.K. Subban during a 5-on-3 power play for Nashville and breaking his ankle, he was forced to use crutches to move around. However, not being able to use his hands was just not cutting it for the Pens center. So Bonino took it upon himself to find a better alternative - a hands-free crutch strapped to his injured leg like a peg.
"In Nashville I was fed up with having no hands when I crutched around," Bonino said. "I went to a medical supply store, did a little research online, and went and got it. After the first few comments from the team I got used to it. It's worked out well."
Bonino missed the remainder of the series despite returning to the game after the injury.
"Anyone would have tried," Bonino said about finishing the game. "It's easier when the adrenaline is going, and it's a big game. He told me right before that if this goes wrong, we would need surgery. Luckily it didn't shift enough over the next week when I did try (to play on it) a couple times to need surgery at this point. I'm happy with that."
But Bonino wasn't the only player dealing with an injury. The Pens have dealt with a lot of them over the years, and this season was no different as they suffered 286 man-games lost. As the season came to a close with a second-consecutive Stanley Cup championship, even more injuries were disclosed during locker cleanout day on Thursday - showing just how tough these players were during the long stretch.
"A lot of guys were playing through so much," captain Sidney Crosby said. "It's incredible what guys were playing through and that we were able to get through all of that and still find a way to win."
Winger Carl Hagelin admitted that he broke his fibula against the Winnipeg Jets on March 8, an injury that kept him out of the first round of the playoffs against Columbus.
"It didn't really heal the way it should," Hagelin said. "It should take 4-6 weeks, but after five weeks it wasn't healing much in there. I took another week off and stuff and going into the Washington series, I wanted to get back and play. It didn't feel great at first. It wasn't until probably the Nashville series where I actually felt like I could do what I wanted to do, where my leg felt somewhat normal."
Rookie netminder Matt Murray also confided that the injury that took him out of the lineup prior to Game 1 against the Blue Jackets was a torn hamstring. While Murray is unsure whether it was a former injury or if it happened during warmups, he admitted that he only looked toward recovery and never to what could have been.
"I was just thinking about what I needed to do to get back, and that's kind of what I focused on," Murray said. "I think I got back pretty quickly and I think I came back stronger than I did before. That was a positive out of everything."
Defenseman Brian Dumoulin suffered a hand injury in that same series, but didn't let it slow him down.
"My hand was injured pretty good there right after the Columbus series in that last game," he said. "It didn't seem to heal at all throughout the playoffs at all, so it's good now to give it some rest and figure out what's going on with it."
Winger Patric Hornqvist broke a couple of fingers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final that knocked him out for the rest of the series, while defenseman Justin Schultz fractured his rib in Game 2. He missed the next four games, returned for Game 7 and dealt with it for the rest of the run.
"It's something that you've just got to let heal and rest up here," Schultz said. "Luckily for me, it didn't get too much worse as it went on there. It didn't take too many hits, bad hits, that hurt it, so that's good."
It seems like injuries have just plagued the Pens for both of their Stanley Cup runs. But these Penguins thrive on overcoming adversity, and injuries are just another bump along the road on the journey to lift Lord Stanley.
"To win a Stanley Cup, to a certain extent, it's a little bit of a war of attrition," head coach Mike Sullivan said. "It's a testament to how hard teams play, how physical the playoffs are, how competitive the league is. There's a lot of good teams. And so we're a banged-up group right now. We had guys playing with broken bones, broken ribs, these guys have such an appetitie to win and be a part of it, they're willing to play through so much. I think I have so much respect for this group of players that we have and their appetite to win and their willingness to play through the types of injuries that we played through. And a lot of times, we're trying to protect our players through the playoff process so we don't always come out and tell the media or people what they're playing with for obvious reasons. But I just have so much respect for what this group of players has endured in order to win this Stanley Cup championship."

Post Cup Quotes
Here's what the Pens had to say during their final media availability of the 2016-17 season.
On what he will miss the most:
Fleury: "I don't know. It's been such a long time, a great ride. I've met a lot of good people. It feels like home, for me. Everything."
On Fleury:
Crosby: "It will be tough (saying goodbye). It's something that I don't even like having to talk about it. Playing with someone that long, going through what we did, it's pretty special. We've got some great memories and we'll see what happens with things here in the future."
Cullen: "It's pretty clear what he means to this town. He rode in the truck behind me in the parade yesterday and listening to the fans, everything that they said to him and the support they gave him, it's pretty clear what he means to this community. I know what he means to this team and I haven't played with many better teammates than him. I just remember when he stepped in in Game 1 of the playoffs, the way that he played and what he did for us and the way he stepped up. I know what he's gone through these last couple seasons, sitting next to him in the room. And you know, he comes to the rink with a smile on his face every day and does his best to support his teammates and it's never about him. He's a pretty unique person and a pretty unique teammate. Whatever happens for him, whoever gets him, is going to be very lucky."
Hagelin: "He's probably the best teammate you can have. He's always positive and just a great guy in general. I don't think you'll find a better personality in sports when it comes to being a good friend and a supportive, positive teammate."
Dumoulin: "It's sad. He's the type of guy I want in my life at all times. If I could follow that guy around all day, I'd be happy. He's such a fun guy to be around and I love that guy so much and he's such a great player he's going to be good no matter where he is."
Murray: "We had a unique relationship for sure, but a great one I think. He was a really big mentor for me and that moment on the ice after we won where he handed me the Cup, that's a moment I'm never going to forget. It's one that meant a lot to me, so that just says a lot about who 'Flower' is and anybody who gets to play with 'Flower' - much less a goalie partner with 'Flower' - is really lucky to have him around. He's just so selfless, I think. He puts the needs of the team and his teammates above his own and treats everybody with respect no matter who you are. He's just one of the best, most genuine human beings you'll ever meet."
On Cullen:
Hagelin: "He's an incredible guy. Cully, since Day 1, you could just see he's a guy who loves the game and he loves being around his teammates. He was always extremely nice to me and we're going to have a long friendship. Whatever decision he makes, its up to him. He's definitely good enough to play another 3-4 years. You could probably ask any guy in here or any GM in this league and they probably want him. Obviously, it's a decision he's going to have to make. Obviously he has three kids who love the game as well, and it was fun to see them get to be a part of it all year."
On being teammates with Cullen and Fleury:
Rust: "Playing with those guys has been unbelievable. 'Cully' has been an unbelievable asset for us young guys, just his presence, his demeanor, the way he just handles himself, the way he's kind of joking around but knows how to be serious, he knows what to say and when to say it. I don't what you could say about 'Flower' that isn't great. He's awesome. He's one of the best teammates you could ask for. He's always having a great time, he's always welcoming guys, he's always playing little pranks, but I think that helps build chemistry and having a guy like that on your team is special and makes everyone a little bit closer."
On Daley:
Dumoulin: "I remember the first day Dales got here and I picked him up and we were riding in the car and it seemed like it wasn't that awkward even though he was the new guy, he was just talking with me and we were just talking to each other and it was fun. I sat next to the guy for a year and a half and I loved just coming in the locker room and being able to talk to him, whether it be about hockey, we talked about hockey a lot, but we also talked about life and stuff. He's been through it all and he's an older guy and I mean, I love that guy to death. That's definitely a guy I'll keep in touch with for life."
On the parade:
Maatta: "It was a phenomenal time. Just seeing how many people and the support group we have, the fans, it's unbelievable. I think when you see how many of them show up, and just how excited they are about it, you see how big of a thing it is. It kind of makes you humble."
Dumoulin: "It was fun. It was exciting. You definitely learn from the parade before. This one was a lot of fun. You could see the excitement in the crowd, in the people and it carried through us. It was fun to go every block and to see waves of people. It gives you such emotion and you just want it to be the best time of your life."
Kessel: "It was a great time. The fans came out and supported us. It was unbelievable. How many people were out there? It was bigger than last year. It was a neat experience."
On the chance to three-peat:
Crosby: "It's a great challenge. It's great to be able to have that opportunity to try and do that. I don't see why we wouldn't try to do that and aim for that, but we'll see what happens. We've got a good chunk of guys that we know are going to be back, and who have gone through this, and some who have won back-to-back, so I think that will certainly help if we're going to try to do it."
Hagelin: "Nothing tops this. Nothing is better than winning the Stanley Cup. Once you do, you just want to keep doing it. We obviously have a great team to do it, but right now we're just happy what we did this year. We're going to think about this win for a while before focusing on next season."
Dumoulin: "Everyone here is as hungry as ever and we feel celebrations and after going through it twice now we want to do it again. It is the best time in the world. it is what everyone wants and obviously we want it again."
On what this week has been like:
Guentzel: "It's been crazy. It's hard to put into words. I mean, what it means to win the Cup, it's something you work for your whole life. Obviously hopefully next year do it again. This is awesome (laughs)."
On how much he's looking forward to the offseason:
Crosby: "It will be good. It was a long stretch of hockey there. Just physically and mentally, those are big games to be a part of, and I think getting some rest will be good. I feel really good. A lot of guys were playing through so much. It's incredible what guys were playing through and we were able to get through all of that and still find a way to win. I wasn't playing through anything close to what a lot of guys were, so I feel really good. I'm lucky that way. We'll try to use that time to recover and get ready."
On if he's reflected on his whirlwind journey since arriving here:
Schultz: "Not really (laughs). I've just kind of been enjoying it lately and I'm sure now it's going to start to wind down and I'll be able to, but I'm so happy for this group of guys. And to be a part of it, it's unbelievable."
On having the most Cups of any active player:
Kunitz: "I feel very fortunate, but the first thing that comes to my mind is being able to play on some really good teams with some great players. And then basically the luck of being part of that many teams that have gone to the playoffs that have won that much, I feel extremely fortunate to be able to win - but also to make all those friends and be part of other people's careers throughout your own career."
On knowing this won't be the same group next year:
Cole: "We've all become so close and have accomplished so much together, it's going to be tough to see guys go. Unfortunately that is the business side of things. We know that. But I think looking back, you can look back at pretty fond memories of what we have accomplished and knowing we'll be seeing each other for the Cup reunions, so that will be a plus."
On why the free agents fit in so well:
Cole: "I think it's a mix of everything. The coaches here are obviously fantastic, the team here is obviously very good. That certainly all helps. But I think a lot of it is just good players who were in not ideal situations. You look at Justin Schultz, who was getting booed on his home rink, and comes here and was very much the power-play quarterback that held our team together when Kris Letang went down. So enough can't be said about how good of a job our scouting staff and general managers have done at finding guys who are in maybe not as ideal situations, and getting them for pretty cheap and then having these decisions pay off."
On the blue line:
Dumoulin: "We had to go through a lot, whether it was in the regular season or playoffs. I think that made us strong. You saw, it seemed like after every game we were rallying together. It seemed like if we went through a game without an injury, we considered that a good game whether it was a win or a loss. It got to the point where all you could do was laugh at it and it kind of kept the room loose, it made everyone involved and everyone had to be ready at all times."
On the younger guys who were together in the AHL and came up as a group last year:
Rust: "It creates a special bond between all of us young guys. We kind of went through all of it together, from being ATOs in Wilkes Barre and playing there to getting our first call-ups to kind of just trying to establish ourselves here. Through the ups and downs I think we've all kind of been there for each other and I think that makes things a little bit better and it's a bond we're never going to forget."
On if he and the other young guys from last season can appreciate how tough it is to win the Cup:
Sheary: "Yeah, it doesn't seem too hard right now. I think a couple of the older guys were saying how it's not supposed to be this easy. I think we went through a lot this year and we had a lot of challenges to overcome. We can draw from that experience too. It's not always about learning from losing, I think we can draw from a lot of the experiences we had and hopefully we can keep it going."
On what it means to people back home in Sweden to see him and Hornqvist score in the Stanley Cup clincher:
Hagelin: "There was a lot of talk about that from my friends back home and Horny's friends as well. It was pretty sweet. I remember 'Cully' was telling me at the morning skate there - it was just me, Cullen and Horny on the ice with Flower and (Cullen) got off the ice and some of the media people asked him 'Do you think the team is ready for tonight? How was the morning skate?' He was like, 'I'll tell you this, the Swedes are ready.' And we ended up scoring two goals. He mentioned it to me that night, and it was pretty cool, especially to see Horny score that game-winning goal against his former team that shipped him away. I'm extremely happy for him."
On his youngest son Joey:
Cullen: "Man, that kid. It's funny, I always tell my teammates that with that one, you're going to see him on the news someday. I don't know what for, but you're going to see him someday (laughs). He's a little fireball, so he stirs the pot at our house. There's no stopping him."

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