Sidney Crosby said he's doing his best to treat it like he would a Tuesday in December against Nashville.WASHINGTON -- On the morning of one of the biggest games of his professional career,
Except there's far more on the line than two points in the standings.
"We all realize what's at stake," he said. "But I don't think you prepare any differently or change anything. I think if anything you try to focus a little bit more and you try to do everything you normally do to prepare. That's all you can do -- make sure that you go out there and you're intense and you don't let anything hold you back."
That means going through the same game-day routine. Crosby didn't detail his routine, but he has a prescribed time he gets to the arena, a certain time he tapes his sticks, a certain time he gets dressed. It's all done the same way, every game.
"That's why you have routines, that's why you have preparations, for games like this, to know that you're ready when you step on the ice," he said. "That's a matter of every game, but it couldn't be more true in a game that's even bigger. You need to know you've done all the right things to be ready."
While this will be Crosby's first Game 7 of any kind, he has played in win-or-go-home games internationally. He said each one is an educational experience for every player involved.
"It's different for everyone how they handle it," Crosby said. "At some points in guys' careers before they reached the NHL they've played in big games. They've tried to find a way to deal with it emotionally and physically. It's different for every guy. The main thing is you bring your best. However you do that it doesn't matter, whether you're a little more relaxed or a little more focused, whatever the case is, just bring your best."
For Crosby to bring his best, he said he focuses on big moments he watched as a kid, including Steve Yzerman's memorable series-clinching goal against the St. Louis Blues in the second round of the 1996 playoffs.
"I think every kid growing up has those moments," Crosby said. "You're watching games hoping to be in that circumstance or you're playing with your friends, things like that. These are moments that as a hockey player you dream of being in. … For me growing up I always enjoyed seeing Steve Yzerman score that winning goal against St. Louis in the playoffs. It's always a moment that's stuck with me."
Crosby has a chance to have his own moment tonight, when he leads his team onto the ice for Game 7 of what's been one of the most memorable playoff series in recent memory. It's a series that's had a little bit of everything, and has served as a wonderful advertisement for all that's good about NHL hockey.
"I think it's been a good mix of skill and physical play, as well," Crosby said. "There's been a great mix of all that. I see it being an interesting series from the outside looking in, for sure."
It's hard for Crosby to see the outsider's point of view, considering he's in the center of the battle. He only knows he wants to give his playoff story a happy ending.
"It doesn't matter how we get it done, it'll be nice just to win it," said Crosby.
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org.