Marc-Andre Fleury is, of course, a fan favorite, so it was fitting that Fleury spent what will likely be his final night as a Penguin with the fans. Fleury signed autographs at Dick’s Sporting Goods in Cranberry. Many fans lined up early this morning for a chance to get the wristband necessary to get into the event. The fans were happy, and Flower was a bit overwhelmed with the attention, and the affection from the Pens faithful, “it’s very flattering you know. I heard there was a lot more waiting in line too. I know that’s crazy, didn’t expect that and I don’t know, it’s very touching.”

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby on going for the three-peat, “yeah I think that’s gotta be your mindset, you can’t go in there expecting anything different. Our expectations are always high. I think for all the guys who are going to be back that should be our goal.”

Today was the most open and emotional we’ve seen Marc-Andre Fleury as the Penguins cleaned out their lockers. Fleury is a three-time Stanley Cup champion, and played a pivotal role in the Penguins keeping the Stanley cup this season. He says Pittsburgh “feels like home,” and got a little choked up when talking about the nine wins he contributed on the Stanley Cup run, and how the fans cheered him on, “you knew things were going to change after this season for me and I had the chance to play here at home the support I got here it was fun to win, fun to play those games.”

 

Mini-camp continues for the Steelers, and the team announced today that it had come to terms with first-round draft pick TJ Watt. The linebacker gets a four-year rookie deal, and he told me he’s getting used to his new surroundings, “it’s a gorgeous city, every once in a while i’ll just get out and take drives, a lot of it reminds me of home with the trees and the grass. I like getting out getting out of the city, and coming into the city and seeing it, especially coming in through the tunnel, and seeing how gorgeous this city is and all it has to offer.”

 

Last night at PNC Park, with his teammates standing behind him in the middle-infield grass, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby threw out the ceremonial first pitch to his teammate Ron Hainsey. Umpire Jerry Meals got into the act, calling a definitive strike after Crosby’s pitch crossed the plate. After the first pitch, the Pens went up a few levels to and watched the game as a team. In addition to Crosby, Fleury, Murray, Kessel, Kunitz, Hagelin, Cullen and Sheary were all there (just to name a few), and Sid, and the Stanley Cup, even joined fans in right field in the 8th inning. What a night! Exciting for the fans, and the Pirates. Clint Hurdle felt the rush, “Seeing the cup never gets old, it will jazz up the players…I actually had a few players text me toward the end of the game. We had a little running thread going, it was kinda cool. I stayed up, Christian stayed up. I watched the game, Christian hung out and he liked watching the skate-around at the end more.”

 

The best-of-seven Stanley Cup Final is now a best-of-three, or, if you listen to Mike Sullivan, a best-of-one, “our focus is really, quite honestly, on one game. That’s the approach that we have to take. We’ve got to keep our mindset just focused on that short-term approach, just that on-task mindset of just controlling what we can and staying in the moment. That’s where we’re at. That’s all we’ve talked about with our team over the last couple of days, is our focus is just on one game. We’re going to try to put our best game on the ice.”

Mike Sullivan knows he has someone special as his owner. Sullivan had this to say about Mario Lemieux, “he’s at a lot of the games. He comes down, shares his insight. We certainly value what he brings. Obviously he thinks the game on a certain level that most people don’t think the game. We value his input. Mario is great because he does entrust us with making the right decisions. He does empower us to do our jobs, which we’re very appreciative of.”

A big reason the Pens lost Game 4 was the performance of the opposing goalie. Pekka Rinne was on it! The Pens had several chances from point-blank range. Sidney Crosby. Jake Guentzel. Then Chris Kunitz on a breakaway. 24 shots but only one goal. Despite the drought, Mike Sullivan is staying positive, “we’re confident our team will respond the right way, as they always have all season long. I believe we’ve got great leadership in our room. We’ve got good players. They understand the circumstances. We felt as though, with each game we played here, our team game is getting stronger. I thought the game last night, certainly our coaching staff felt as though the game last night, might have been our best overall game in the series to this point.”

Defenseman PK Subban has guaranteed a Predators win in Game 3. On Thursday, Subban said, “there’s no question, we’re going to win the next game, and then we’ll move forward.” Sidney Crosby and the Penguins, meanwhile, are taking it all in stride, “Nobody has really talked about it, to be honest. I think we know that this time of year, there’s no shortage of motivation. I think going into this situation, we expect their best game. We expect a desperate team. It’s not something we’ve discussed. I think at this point you’re motivated enough.”

If you didn’t know what had happened in Game 1, and you saw the postgame interviews, you might have thought the Penguins had lost. But if a team can get a win when not playing its best, perhaps that’s a good sign. The Pens scored five goals, but only had 12 shots. The Predators more than doubled the Pens in shots. Nashville also outhit the Pens, and scored two power play goals. Sidney Crosby and the Pens know they have to get better, but they’re also aware that a win is a win, “we found ways to execute. I don’t know if it was perfect. We got a good bounce there on one of them, made a couple of good plays, I mean, you have to be able to do that sometimes, and we were able to last night (Monday night). That’s not necessarily the way you want to play the game every night.”