CRANBERRY, Pa. — Sidney Crosby isn’t interested in a fairy tale ending for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Instead, the captain wants to get back to basics after fellow center Evgeny Malkin and defenseman Kris Letang signed new contracts this offseason.
“It’s not about, necessarily, the Cinderella story,” Crosby said at training camp Friday. “It’s about winning hockey games. I think those guys play a big part in that. Hopefully we can all, collectively as a group, do our part and help the team win.”
To Crosby, as well as forward Bryan Rust and general manager Ron Hextall, the Penguins feel they have a chip on their shoulder after failing to advance past the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs the past four seasons.
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Those losses haven’t caused added pressure, though. Crosby said his desire to win is unchanged from any other season.
“Every year, you have to have that mentality. It’s a new team,” Crosby said. “It’s nice to have some guys that were here last year that went through that, for sure. But it’s a new group and we have to prove ourselves again. I think experience is nice, but it’s what you do with it.”
A 4-3 overtime loss to the New York Rangers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference First Round after having a 3-1 series lead last season was the latest setback.
“I think you have to have that approach every year, regardless of how it finishes,” Crosby said. “You’ve got to learn from it. We feel like we didn’t close out the Rangers and probably left a sour taste. Everyone has a chance to start fresh and learn from that and be better for it.”
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Rust, who has played on Crosby’s right wing in years past, is one of those with a chance at a fresh start. He signed a six-year, $30.75 million contract ($5.125 million average annual value) on May 21.
“I think everybody wanted another chance,” Rust said. “I think the last couple of years, we’ve been close. Obviously, we haven’t gotten the results we’ve wanted. But we’ve had really strong teams going into the playoffs. Winning in the playoffs is such a fine line between winning and losing that, I think, we were right there.
“But this team is good. This team is capable of doing a lot of good things. … I think everybody’s coming in with a chip on their shoulder, knowing we have better, knowing we can do better.”
However, there’s only so much the Penguins are willing to focus on the past.
Even with Malkin at 36 years old, and Crosby and Letang each 35, Hextall said he remains confident that core can be the catalyst for another deep run. If he’s right, it would mark the first time the Penguins won a playoff series since Hextall was hired as GM on Feb. 9, 2021, and their first series win since 2018.
“There’s urgency. Every year is a new year,” Hextall said. “Like, ‘OK, we lost the last two years in the playoffs, since I’ve been here.’ We felt like we certainly could have won both series. But I think that’s what gives you the hope that it’s still there. These guys are still very good players.
“We felt like this group could still go on a run and do a lot of damage. We’re happy with our group. I’m really excited about where we are right now, as a team. The feeling around the room, there’s a lot of hunger. … I like where we’re at. So it’s hard to win in this League. It’s hard to win a round in the playoffs. It’s certainly hard to win the Stanley Cup, but that’s our mission.”