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Talbot and Fleury go back a long way. They grew up a half hour from each other, outside Montreal. They played some peewee hockey together. They were opponents in the Quebec Major Junior league. In 2004, because of his percolating energy and his ability to blend into a group, Talbot made Canada's world junior team as a spare forward, joining Fleury the year the goalie banked in the gold-medal-losing goal off the rump of his own defenseman, Braydon Coburn. The play traumatized Fleury, who for years was discomfited by handling the puck. To him Talbot is part pal, part psychologist. "Max keeps him confident," Penguins winger Bill Guerin says.
Fleury's level of confidence graphs like the rolling countryside outside Pittsburgh, but after a Game 5 trough—coach Dan Bylsma excused him late in the second period after five goals whizzed by him—he steeled himself. Fleury stopped 48 of 50 shots over the last two games. With the Red Wings pressing at the end of Game 7, Fleury flicked out a pad to foil a Zetterberg shot and then, with one second left, pushed across his crease to take a Lidstrom drive off his right shoulder. Talbot sprinted to the party in the blue paint when the siren sounded. "This is the best day of my life," he said later. "And I love saying that."
Talbot was so sanguine in the postgame handshake line that he didn't even tweak Marian Hossa, the gifted right wing who last summer spurned a chance to return to Pittsburgh in favor of a one-year deal with the Red Wings because he said it would give him the best chance to win the Cup. If Hossa had scored in the finals or been even moderately effective, maybe it would have. Instead, in the History of Bad Ideas (hockey category), file this one above the Oakland Seals' white skates and below Fox's glowing puck.
Crosby was not loquacious in the handshake line, probably because he was slow getting to it. While the Red Wings waited on the man the NHL has been waiting on since the Penguins won the right to draft him first in 2005, Crosby was hugging some teammates. He joined the line late and greeted Zetterberg, among others, but never shook the hand of the Red Wings' captain, Lidstrom. "Nick's there, one of the greatest defensemen ever, and he's waiting, waiting, and Crosby doesn't come over to shake his hand," said Detroit veteran Kris Draper, still fuming 90 minutes after the game. "Make sure you put that in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED."
The next day Crosby said the perceived slight was not intentional. The solecism—if it was indeed that—is probably best ascribed to unbridled joy, but Crosby is bound to improve in the all-important handshake department. In a career that stretches before him the way the parade route stretched through downtown Pittsburgh on Monday, this probably won't be the last time he shakes hands after a Stanley Cup finals.
Crosby was not a parade-time decision. On Friday night he proclaimed himself 100% for a joyride through the city of champions.
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