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Penguins

Penguins' Sidney Crosby eager to start new championship quest

Jonathan Bombulie
| Monday, Sept. 10, 2018, 8:33 p.m.
Penguins captan Sidney Crosby shares a moment with Joey Madison as his parents Gina and James look on at season ticket holders Tony and Betsy Villiotti's home Monday, Sept. 10, 2018 in Greentree.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins captan Sidney Crosby shares a moment with Joey Madison as his parents Gina and James look on at season ticket holders Tony and Betsy Villiotti's home Monday, Sept. 10, 2018 in Greentree.
Penguins captan Sidney Crosby sneaks the puck just inside the post as Joey Madison, Sidney Villiotti and Sophia Madson play defense at season ticket holders Tony and Betsy Villiotti's home Monday, Sept. 10, 2018 in Greentree.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins captan Sidney Crosby sneaks the puck just inside the post as Joey Madison, Sidney Villiotti and Sophia Madson play defense at season ticket holders Tony and Betsy Villiotti's home Monday, Sept. 10, 2018 in Greentree.

Camp countdown: With three days left before the Penguins open training camp Friday morning in Cranberry, beat writer Jonathan Bombulie highlights three things that have changed for captain Sidney Crosby and his teammates since last season.

The last time Sidney Crosby shot a puck in anger was May 7. That’s when the Pittsburgh Penguins saw their three-peat hopes come to an end with a Game 6 second-round loss to the Washington Capitals.

The next time Crosby takes to the ice in an official capacity will be Friday morning. That’s when the Penguins open training camp at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry.

That’s a 129-day summer.

A lot can happen in 129 days.

Here’s a look at three offseason developments that will affect the Penguins and their captain.

1. Time passes

A 129-day summer is extraordinarily long for the Penguins given the standards they set recently. After winning the Stanley Cup in 2016, they had 102 days off. After repeating the following June, their summer was only 95 days long.

Crosby used the extra time this year to go on a European vacation. He celebrated his 31st birthday. He hit the gym and the practice rink religiously, just like he does every summer.

He appreciated the time off, but enough is enough. As he visited a home in Scott Township to deliver a family’s season tickets Monday afternoon, he clearly was ready to get going.

“It’d be nice if it started tomorrow, to be honest,” Crosby said. “At this point, you’ve trained all summer. Everyone’s back in town. You’re just counting down the days now.”

2. Losing the bull’s-eye

When the Washington Capitals raised the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history in June, the Penguins officially went from hunted to hunters. They no longer are the defending champs.

The last time that happened, after the Penguins won the 2009 championship, it took them six frustrating years — including a new general manager, two coaching changes and a near-total total roster overhaul — to get back to the top of the mountain.

Crosby said the six-year drought taught him the idea shouldn’t be to try to copy the previous championship blueprint. It’s to put together a new winning plan.

“Regardless if you have a lot of the same personnel and expectations are the same, no year every really goes the same,” he said. “To try to replicate something isn’t always the best way. You want to have habits. You want to have a way that you go about things, but understanding in some way, shape or form, it’s going to shake out a little differently.”

3. Favored nations

Two events that occurred during the offseason dramatically changed the landscape of the Eastern Conference.

First, the Capitals won the Stanley Cup, forever shedding their playoff underachiever label.

Second, the Toronto Maple Leafs made the NHL’s biggest free-agent signing in years, prying top-line center John Tavares away from the New York Islanders.

The Penguins might have the most talented roster in the league, but when pundits start making a list of Cup contenders in the East, they’ll probably start with the Caps and Leafs.

Crosby doesn’t disagree.

“I like to think we’re right in that mix, but I think those two teams are probably the favorites right away, with Washington not losing a lot of guys and Toronto doing what they did. They become a pretty big favorite right away too,” Crosby said. “There’s always teams that are in the mix, and at this point, with how close the league is, you’ve just got to find a way to get into the playoffs. That’s the most important thing. But yeah, I would say those two teams, it’s fair to say, are probably the biggest favorites.”

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.

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