2017 Stanley Cup Final: Hungry, resilient Penguins on verge of second straight championship

Back in April, before the Stanley Cup playoffs started, two current National Hockey League players told me each believed the Pittsburgh Penguins were the best team in the tournament, but likely would not win the title.

Sidney Crosby assisted on Phil Kessel’s power-play goal 50 seconds into the third period with a slick behind-the-back pass. It was the 100th helper of the captain’s playoff career, making him the 22nd player in NHL history to reach the mark.

Western Conference finals: Ducks at Predators, Game 6, 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN ‘ In Nashville’s latest biggest hockey game ever, the Predators are on the precipice of their first Stanley Cup Final trip in franchise history. Both teams are riddled by injury, but John Gibson’s status looms largest. The Ducks will need their No. 1 goalie healthy and in form to force a Game 7.

Ellis (11), Subban (10) and Josi (10) rank Nos. 2-4 in points among defensemen, trailing only Karlsson’s 18.

Not to mention Pekka Rinne, at age 34, is enjoying one of the best postseason runs by a goalie in history. His .941 save percentage is tops among netminders who saw at least 16 games since Mike Smith in 2011?12.

If that continues against the Penguins, Rinne will be mentioned with the likes of Cup winners Jean-Sebastien Giguere (2002-03) and Jonathan Quick (2011-12).

It’s a unique challenge, Crosby said Sunday. When you’re thinking about playing teams, you’re talking about usually forwards, snipers. You don’t usually think of a group of defensemen as guys that finish as well as they do. Usually one, maybe two guys do that in a D-corps. They have the luxury of having a number of them.

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