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The hardest trophy to win in sports is four to seven games away from being handed out, and for the fifth straight season, it won’t be hoisted by the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Penguins were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs for the fourth season in a row. Despite a lack of black and gold in the Finals, Penguins fans have plenty to root for.

As the Tampa Bay Lightning and Colorado Avalanche prepare to battle, let’s run down a Penguins’ fan guide to cheering during the Stanley Cup Final.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Most Pens fans are probably rooting against the Super, and there is a fair reason for it.

The Lightning need four more wins to become the NHL’s first three-peat champions since the New York Islanders won four straight from 1980 to 1983.

If Tampa Bay wins, they beat out the Penguins as the longest Cup streak in the salary cap era, and no one can be better than the Penguins, right?

There is also a former Penguins player on the Lightning depth chart; Tampa Bay’s third-string goalie is Maxime Lagace.

Bet you didn’t think you’d hear that name again, but here we are.

Lagace only played two games with the Lightning during the 2021-22 season and finished with a 1-1 record; he hasn’t played in the postseason.

With only one round left, the odds are stacked against Lagace seeing ice time in the postseason.

But as the Penguins found out this postseason, have your third-string goalie at the ready just in case.

Lagace is one of only two goalies in franchise history to suit up for the particular Penguins and maintain a perfect 1 . 000 save percentage.

Mike Condon is the other who made 7 saves on as many shots in a relief effort, while Lagace stopped 29 of 29 last season.

Colorado Avalanche

As Penguins fans, you always want to see Sidney Crosby succeed, but what about his best friends?

The Avalanche have two of Crosby’s most notable buddies in Nathan MacKinnon and former Penguins defender Jack Johnson.

Despite an eight-year age gap, MacKinnon and Crosby are some of the closest friends in hockey.

Both are from the same town of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, they both played at Shattuck-Saint Mary’s in their high school days, and they share an agent in Pat Brisson.

MacKinnon and Crosby workout extensively together during the off-season, and there are plenty of stories and interviews where the two talk about their drills.

The two have even done promotional advertisements for Tim Horton’s, so it’s safe to say MacKinnon and Crosby are total BFFs.

Now a harsh transition in order to Crosby’s other BFF on the Avalanche, Johnson, who performed two seasons with the Penguins.

Crosby plus Johnson began their friendship at Shattuck-Saint Mary’s within 2002-03 on not just the hockey team but also the particular baseball team.

The two would eventually become selected first and third overall in the 2005 NHL Draft.

In the summer of 2018, Johnson joined Crosby and the Penguins when he signed a five-year contract worth $3. 25 million per year.

The Penguins bought Johnson out of the deal after two seasons and are still paying the buyout.

At a little over a million dollars, the Penguins are currently paying a player on the Avalanche roster, so it feels like they have the stake in their team.

Manley has played seven online games for the Avalanche in the postseason, not yet recording a point.

It’s a safe assumption that Pens fans are pulling for that Avalanche, but all hockey fans should be excited for a Stanley Cup Final that is sure to be thrilling.

Make sure you bookmark Inside the Penguins for your latest news, exclusive interviews, breakdowns and so much more!

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