Best quotes from media day focus on appreciation: for Sidney Crosby; by Joe Thornton

ByJoe McDonald via ESPN logo
Monday, May 30, 2016

PITTSBURGH -- Friends become foes when the puck drops on the Stanley Cup finals between the Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks, Monday at 8 p.m. ET at the Consol Energy Center.

Sunday was the annual media day on the eve of the finals. Management, coaches and players spewed comments about respecting their opponents and how much they value their contributions to the game of hockey.

Blah, blah blah.

When Game 1 gets under way, all those flowery comments go out the window because hockey's ultimate goal is at stake. Over the next two-plus weeks, the Penguins and Sharks will battle, claw and chew their way for the opportunity to hoist the Stanley Cup in victory.

Here are some of the most interesting quotes from media day:

Joe knows: There's so much love for the Sharks' "Jumbo" Joe Thornton. After 18 seasons in the NHL, the 36-year-old forward has finally arrived in the Stanley Cup finals. It was something most thought would never happen because of his laid-back attitude. Many believe Thornton is one of the best players in the world; he has been outstanding for the majority of the season and his teammates are feeding off his energy and production (maybe it's the beard). But Thornton is ready to do whatever it takes to accomplish hockey's greatest goal.

"Here we go," he said. "Let's do this. It was [worth the wait]. It would have been nice when I was younger, but you definitely appreciate this. You realize how hard you've got to work to get to this point and I'm happy to be here."

During his career, there has been this stigma that he didn't care enough about the game. That's not the case and here's why:

"If you know me, it doesn't affect me," he said. "I know I'm a great player. I know we've had some great teams, [they] just didn't mix. It does take 20 guys and that's just the reality of it. I know this year's team, one, two, three guys isn't going to make us get here and to win it. So, it takes all 20 guys and I realize that."

Make the most of it: The Penguins' Matt Cullen, 39, won a Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006. He was 29 at the time and had been in the league for eight seasons. He understands this opportunity doesn't come around too often and when it does, you must seize it with your very best effort without leaving anything in the gas tank.

"It's easy to be proud of yourself for doing what we've done, but we can't afford to sit back, pat ourselves on the back and take a breath," he said. "We've got a long summer ahead of you after this series, and you're on the doorstep, and this is what we've worked our whole lives for and it's an opportunity you can't let slip by without putting your very best hockey out there. You can't always control the result, but if each guy is worried about bringing his individual best game, we're in good shape. But it's one of those things you can't just stop and take a look around because it's gone in an instant, and the series is over. You've got to bring your best from the beginning of it, stay focused on your job and bring your best game."

Super Crosby: Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic on what it's going to take to stop the Penguins' Sidney Crosby: "Sidney Crosby does everything well. In the first three rounds, put all their top players together and that would be Crosby. It's going to be a lot harder but a lot more fun."

Penguins forward Carl Hagelin doesn't say much, but when you ask him about playing on the same team as Crosby, safe to say you'll get an honest answer.

"I'm fortunate to play with one of the best players in the world," Hagelin said. "It's fun to see him in practice and that's something people may not think about. He's a real grinder, always out there trying to get better. He skates extremely hard in practice and for me to come to a team like this, he's welcomed me with open arms and has been great. He's been extremely kind to me and has definitely made this whole transition easy."

No matter which Penguins player you asked about No. 87, work ethic was a major topic of discussion.

"That's the reason he is the best player, just the way he grinds," Hagelin added. "Every shift, every practice. He's got the hands and hockey sense not many players have. The reason he is where he is right now is because of how he grinds every day and probably all summer as well."

C changes: San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski didn't shy away from the questions about the leadership core and all the changes, ebbs and flows during recent seasons. Now, that the team is ready for the Stanley Cup finals, everything has fallen into place nicely for the Sharks. They are only four wins shy of hoisting the Cup, but the captain is quick to slow things down.

"There's a lot left to accomplish," he said. "You never want to have to go through something like that to get to where you are now, but that's what we've done. You don't stop. We just stayed with it. We've had that chance to stay together and, whether it was going to happen or not, we stuck together and stayed with it and the team this year has really come together and played well, so we're here now, so we'll try to stay focused here for the next few weeks."

Penguins get their Phil: Penguins' Phil Kessel, 28, has become a folk hero for his contributions in the Steel City, which is his first with the organization. After disappointing stints with the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs, the highly talented but often misunderstand forward arrived in Pittsburgh during an offseason trade. It took him awhile to get going and he finally hit his stride late in the season, along with new linemates Nick Bonino and Hagelin, better known as the "HBK" line.

Kessel had this to say about his first trip to the finals:

"It's been fun," he said. "Obviously, I never got a chance to play in the Stanley Cup like this. I've never been on a team that has felt like this. I don't even know how to describe it, to be honest. I'm so excited to play for the Stanley Cup."

As for his time in Toronto:

"I loved my time in Toronto," he said. "I loved the city. The fans. I have a lot of friends there. I loved the experience. This is a whole different ball game. We have a great team here and have a chance to play for the Stanley Cup."

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