Courtesy of Moon Golf Club

View from Ice Level: Sid the sportsman

As good as Sidney Crosby's game awareness is, his sportsmanship awareness and appreciation of the game of hockey is even better.

Crosby found Jake Guentzel to open scoring in the team's playoff finale. And he did it with one of those backhanded dishes that convinces you he has cybernetic eyes in the sides and back of his helmet.

After the game, with his heart sinking and his season over, the Penguins' captain bent over, sank to the ice to pick up the puck, took it to linesman Tony Sericolo and then skated to his team's handshake line.

I immediately thought of a View from Ice Level I'd written on Crosby making sure a retiring official was sent away from PPG Paints Arena properly. I knew picking up the puck wasn't for the same reason that was, but I also knew, in some way, it was connected to Crosby's awareness and respect of the game.

"It was for the Islanders," Crosby told me after the game, his eyes swollen from a first round exit -- by way of a sweep to make it worse. He told me how the winning team always wanted the puck, and it was his way of providing it for the Islanders.

Crosby looked me right in the eye as he told me this, just as he did with every other member of the media to come to him after the loss.

I could tell from those swollen eyes and the way he sat at his stall, by himself with his hands folded as he stared blankly, that Sidney Crosby is much more used to being on the receiving end of a puck when a series ends than he is at retrieving it for the winning team.

That scene. His swollen eyes. Staying in the locker room until most had left -- talking to anyone who needed him. Most of all, though, picking up the puck that prompted my question in the first place and making sure the right people got their piece of their own history.

It all adds up to one thing: In victory and in defeat, Crosby respects the game above all else -- just as he's always done.

The image of Crosby passing the puck along is at the top of this story, and the game's best images follow it for the final time this season.

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