It was a relatively quiet off-day for the Penguins and New York Islanders, the calm before the storm 24 hours before Pittsburgh goes for the kill on Long Island in Saturday's Game 6 (7 p.m. ET).
But it was a noisy day for the best player on each team.
Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby and Islanders centre John Tavares were named two of the three nominees for the Hart Trophy, given annually to the league's most valuable player.
Crosby would have been the runaway choice for the Hart Trophy before missing the final 12 games of the regular season because of a broken jaw. The Penguins still think he is more than worthy of winning the award.
"He's the best player in the world," said defenceman Kris Letang. "And everyone knows it."
Crosby said on Friday that he was appreciative of the nomination, particularly when considering what he had been through during the previous two seasons. He missed 101 games during a 15-month stretch because of multiple bouts with concussions.
This season, he broke his jaw.
"It's been a long couple of years," Crosby said. "You appreciate being nominated for this."
Even though Crosby only played 36 games, they were a magnificent 36 games.
He was only blanked eight times all season, and one of those games occurred on March 30, when he left after his first shift against the Islanders because of a broken jaw.
Crosby produced multiple points in 17 of his 36 appearances this season. He led the league in scoring by a dozen points at the time of the injury and was seemingly on the verge of running away with the Hart vote.
Now, it's anybody's guess who will win the award.
Crosby won the Hart Trophy in 2007 while Washington's Alex Ovechkin, the other nominee, won MVP honours in 2008 and 2009.
Tavares's outstanding offensive season led the Islanders to the post-season for the first time in six years.
Crosby is highly impressed with the youngster's work.
"He came into the league at a young age with a lot of pressure on him," Crosby said. "From that standpoint, I can relate with him."
Crosby was then asked if Tavares reminded him of a younger version of himself, but the Pittsburgh captain didn't want to take anything away from the Islanders' star.
"He's his own player," Crosby said.
So, too, is Crosby.
The Pittsburgh captain needed only 36 games to produce 56 points. His 1.56 points per game were by far and away the best in the NHL this season.
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