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No doubt about it, Crosby is Pittsburgh's leader

Thursday, 06.11.2009 / 7:43 PM / 2009 Stanley Cup Final: Detroit vs. Pittsburgh

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

DETROIT -- Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma isn't so sure he's willing to reveal the one Sidney Crosby moment that stands out for him during these Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Who could blame him? There's still one more game to be played in this best-of-7 Stanley Cup Final against the Detroit Red Wings. It will be the most important game in the career of his 21-year-old star center and team captain.

"I'm not ready to tell you what my favorite is," Bylsma said of Crosby's best moments this spring. "But there have been a couple."

Defenseman Rob Scuderi was happy to pick up the slack for his coach.

"The best thing about Sid's leadership is he's just doing it on the ice," Scuderi said. "Some guys are good talkers in the locker room. He does that at times, but I think the best thing that he's done is just play the game."

Highly coveted prospect John Tavares, who will likely be the No. 1 pick at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft in Montreal on June 26, enjoys watching Crosby for that very reason.

"Sid is my favorite player because not only is he the best player on the ice but he's the hardest-working player on the ice," Tavares said.

For his part, Crosby recognizes the danger of trying to do too much when the puck drops Friday night.

"I haven't put that pressure on myself all playoff long," said Crosby after the morning skate Friday. "I'm not going to start in Game 7 of the Final. We've gotten this far because of the way we've played together."

In his fourth NHL season, there's no question about who the Penguins' leader is. Crosby wears the captain's "C" for a reason, not just for show. And though he's produced just 1 goal and 2 assists in the first six games of the Final, he's not worried about his lack of offense -- not when there's one game standing between the Penguins and the Cup.

"I think I always look to score more, but when looking back on some of the chances I've had, I also didn't get a whole lot of luck," Crosby said . "To be honest, now's not the time to be thinking about what could have been goals. What I look at here is a great opportunity (in Game 7) and I've got to try and go out there and play my best game of the playoffs. It doesn't matter whether I had one goal or 10 at this point."

Crosby has posted just one shot and no points in the last two games. The silver lining in this is that Crosby has gone two straight games without a point twice before in this year's playoffs -- and rebounded each time with a two-point performance in the following game.

Despite his offensive struggles in the Final, Crosby still has a League-high 15 goals, including two game-winners, and 31 points with a plus-9 rating in 23 playoff games this spring. He's also won 53.5 percent of his faceoffs while taking a League-leading 523 draws.

Bylsma believes people often forget how young Crosby is -- he turns 22 in August -- and says there is a learning curve associated with becoming an elite player in the NHL. Lessons are learned not only during the regular season but in the playoffs. This is Crosby's third playoff season and, of course, he'll be competing in his first seventh and deciding game of the championship round.

One thing Crosby feels will be important for Friday's game is to make sure he and his team are able to overcome all the hoopla surrounding Game 7 and, as much as possible, prepare as if it were just another game.

"You want to approach it as much as you can like a normal game," Crosby said. "It's probably a lot easier said than done but it's so important to focus on what you have to do out there. Personally, I'll just make sure everything's right as far as preparing, and when I'm out there, focus on what I have to do out there on the ice and believe that I'll get a good result from that."

That said, don't expect Crosby to rally the troops with a 1980-model Herb Brooks-like soliloquy prior to Game 7. As is his custom, he'll allow his play to do most of the talking.

"The best thing about Sid's leadership is he's just doing it on the ice. Some guys are good talkers in the locker room. He does that at times, but I think the best thing that he's done is just play the game." -- Rob Scuderi on teammate on Sidney Crosby
"I don't think we need it at this point," Crosby said with a smile when asked about making some mind of speech. "We've been through so much as a team, especially this year. Even guys who have been on the team for a while, even longer than me, have gone through a lot to get to this point. We've all dreamed of having this opportunity, so I don't think there's much that needs to be said. I think there's a strong belief in all the guys that if we all do our best, we have a great opportunity to do something."

Contact Mike Morreale at mmorreale@nhl.com


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