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Crosby, Nash make impression beyond their skill

Friday, 03.26.2010 / 5:00 PM / Ice Age

By Phil Coffey - NHL.com Sr. Editorial Director

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Crosby, Nash make impression beyond their skill
Watching Sidney Crosby and Rick Nash go about their business for Team Canada gave Martin Brodeur, Jacques Lemaire and Mike Babcock a special appreciation of their skills.
Hockey is a sport that produces tremendous talent and, thankfully, egos that remain in tune with the team goal of the sport.

So, you are not going to get Sidney Crosby to blow his own horn. Not in a million years. Ditto for Columbus' Rick Nash. Just not going to happen.

Now, we all know how impressive the two stars are, but two of the smartest guys in any room, New Jersey coach Jacques Lemaire and Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, came away from their time with Team Canada at the Olympics with quite the appreciation for what both Crosby and Nash bring to the table.

"I watched him a lot, the way he conducted himself," Brodeur told Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record about Crosby. "He's a pretty impressive young kid. He not young anymore (22), but, again, there was a lot of pressure on him. I saw a lot of his focus. It's one thing when you play in the summer (at the Team Canada orientation camp) and when you play in the all-star game and you get to know him. Now, we played for real together and you see his game-day focus, how organized he is. His eyes -- it was a little like Scotty (Stevens) was. He looks through people on game days.

"He's not the best for no reason.”

Lemaire also like Crosby's game-day focus.

"You're always impressed with the preparation these guys do," Lemaire told Gulitti. "But you know that they have to prepare for games. When I was there, I was watching and you could tell he focused before games. He's trying to get everything he can so he can play the best he can. He just doesn't go and wait for the signal and jump on the ice and start to play. You can tell that he focuses on the certain things."

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock was equally impressed with what makes Crosby special beyond the skills.

"I had a pretty good appreciation for him, played against him lots over the last few years," Babcock said. "I have a pretty good understanding of what he can do. The big thing when you're around him is you just see how competitive he is and how bad he wants to be good. I think that's all the great players. People talk about talent all the time but to me, it's soul, it's about how bad you want to be special. There're lots of talented players in the game but the real superstars have something that drives them and he obviously has that.

"The other thing is he's obviously been touched by a wand, he makes things happen when it matters and that's a belief in himself and that's a skill level, it's all together. Obviously I have some real fond memories of him and I have some that aren't that great."

"He's been always a great example for kids and his teammates," Lemaire said. "He's a guy that works all the time. He wants success, tries to play at the top of his game every night and, at the Olympics, that's what he tried to do."

"Sid, I knew him from before, but I think when you win together, you always have that bond,” Brodeur said. "Simon Gagne for me, he was my roommate when I won in '02 (in Salt Lake City). I roomed with Gretz (Wayne Gretzky at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan).  He was the GM (in 2002 and 2006). I played with him. You get to know these people at a different level than just playing against them. So, it changes a bit with these people and the respect. You always have a good respect, but when you know how effective they are, I think you elevate that respect when you play with them."

As for Nash, Brodeur knows how dangerous he can be.

"I played with him on World Cups and the Olympics and he's quite a hockey player," Brodeur told NHL.com's Mike Morreale. "He's a big man who loves to score goals and get in those dirty areas to do those things. He was part of a line that shut down those tough Russian players and played well. When he scored that first one, you saw a different Rick Nash out there. He wants to be good and wants to be the best player and you have to respect that."

Lemaire said Nash surprised him during their time in Vancouver.

"I never thought he was that type of player; it was as good as I've ever seen him play," Lemaire told Morreale. "I knew he was a powerful winger, but I didn't know that he had that much energy. He wasn't only physical, but such a team player. He paid attention to all details. I know (Mike) Babcock was asking for certain things and he was right on top of it; in every single aspect of the game he was there. He was used at a time to balance a line, which is a great, great quality. I was very impressed."

Speaking of special -- Belated congratulations to Teemu Selanne on becoming just the 18th player in NHL history to score 600 goals in his career.

Selanne reached the milestone last Sunday against the Colorado Avalanche. He is just the third European-born player to reach 600, trailing only Jaromir Jagr and Jari Kurri.

"There are only 17 other guys that have done it before, and it's a very unique, special group," Selanne said. "You need a lot of luck, hard work and great players to play with. I have had all those things."

Selanne's teammates seemed happier than he was, but that's not unusual.

"I don't like big ceremonies. Even tonight, [Jason] Blake and a couple of my teammates were pushing me, like go out there, enjoy it," Selanne told reporters. "I felt embarrassed, stealing the show or something."

"There was a little underlying feeling when you're on the ice with him," Scott Niedermayer said. "You want to at least give him the opportunity. It shows what kind of teammate and person he is. He is a great guy and we were definitely pulling for him."

Despite the countdown to the milestone, Selanne still was surprised he got there.

"If somebody had told me at that time, you're going to score 600 goals in this league, I would call the doctor," he said.

Lundqvist steps up -- Henrik Lundqvist broke an NHL record Thursday night, earning his 30th victory of the season in a 4-3 triumph over New Jersey. Lundqvist has now won 30 or more games in each of his first five NHL seasons.

But excuse Lundqvist is he isn't taking any time to savor the achievement.

"I haven't really thought of it," Lundqvist told reporters. "Right now, I need over 30 wins, at least 35, to really have a chance at the playoffs."

Slip, sliding away -- Things are not going well for the Philadelphia Flyers at present, what with key players like Michael Leighton and Jeff Carter out of the lineup, but more troubling is the play of the guys in the lineup.

"You've got to know where we're sitting and where we're at and how late in the season it is," Chris Pronger said. "Every team is getting better and tightening things up and getting prepared for the playoffs. We seem like we're going in the opposite direction."

And coach Peter Laviolette isn't close to happy with things, noting after a players-only meeting following Thursday's loss to the Wild, "That's a meeting. That's talk. Let's see if it translates to the ice."

Well Said I -- "We need to find that desperation, find a way to win games. It's got to come together, and it has to start really soon." -- Pittsburgh's Jordan Staal

Surprises among the surprise -- By now, we all know the Phoenix Coyotes have been one of the most pleasant surprises of the 2009-10 season. But to coach Dave Tippett, two players are surprising among all the surprises -- defenseman Keith Yandle and center Martin Hanzal.

"There's some players that I knew well," Tippett told Jim Gintonio of the Arizona Republic. "Two of the young guys that I really think have played a huge part in our team this year have been Hanzal and Yandle.

"You knew them a little bit, but they were still young players and until you get to see them every day, those are two guys for me that have really stepped up, and that's no disrespect for anybody else."

Yandle has scored 11 goals for a defense corps that tops the NHL with 38 and Hanzal plays a hard-nosed game that Tippett likes.

Yandle said the secret to his success has been taking advantage of the extra minutes some injuries provided for him.

"(It's) playing strong and hard in your defensive zone at all times, not giving teams second opportunities, getting the puck in when you can, getting it out when you can," he said.

As for Hanzal, he has 11 goals and 22 assists, and Tippett sees better days ahead.

"I think he's still got some room to grow," Tippett said. "His offensive production probably isn't as high as he would like it. ... When I say 'surprise' with him, he's a young player who does a lot of things very well on both sides of the puck.

"I think there's probably more growth on the offensive side. He's a guy that plays a very smart game, very determined game, uses his size very well. I just think he's a very solid player."

Well Said II --
"It has been a long time coming that something like this was going to happen. When you give up a goal on the first shift it just shows we weren't ready to play. I don't think this is an isolated incident. I think it has been a trend in our game for the last couple of weeks." -- Chicago's Patrick Sharp on Thursday's 8-3 loss in Columbus.

Fil 'er up -- Talk about an unexpected benefit. Mike Babcock thought moving Valtteri Filppula to a line with Henrik Zetterberg might get Zetterberg going in the right direction.

But the move has benefitted both players, with Zetterberg scoring 4 goals and 6 assists in their time together, while Filppula has 2 goals and 4 assists.

"I don't know who sparked who and I don't know if it had anything to do with it," Babcock told Dana Wakiji of the Detroit News. "None of us do, we just assume. But it's working, so we'll leave it that way.

"So far so good," Filppula said. "It's been fun to play. Good things happen, and you get more confidence when things work. Definitely I think as a line we've been doing pretty well."

Anderson angry --
Atlanta Thrashers coach John Anderson expected better from his players than a 2-1 overtime loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday, especially when every point is precious for the Thrashers.

"I'm disappointed and really dismayed," Anderson said. "After we played so hard this weekend to put forth an effort like that one, with the playoffs on the line, we have to be better. Collectively, we have to be better. And if we play like that, we'll be out [of the playoff race] in two or three games from now.

"We've got to be better. We've got to be smarter. We've got to play harder. We've got to show that we want it. We can't let teams like this hang around."

Sullivan steamed -- Count Nashville Predators veteran Steve Sullivan as an angry man too. He was more than a little peeved that the Preds blew a 3-1 lead against Phoenix on Thursday and had to settle for a shootout win.

"I'm (angry) about that," Sullivan told the Tennessean. "There's no good reason for us to give up two-goal leads in our own rink coming down the stretch here. That's definitely not playoff hockey."

"I don't think it's hard because it's reality. We are where we are, and every game is such a big game for us."
-- Flames coach Brent Sutter

Well Said III -- "I don't think it's hard because it's reality. We are where we are, and every game is such a big game for us." -- Flames coach Brent Sutter

Winning strategy --
Ilya Kovalchuk may have hit on the right strategy to combat New York Rangers' super pest Sean Avery.

"I think we send too much time talking to him," Kovalchuk said of his New Jersey Devils. "He's that type of player you have to leave alone. He's not a factor in the game. He just walks around and talks."

Lay off Lalime --
The Buffalo Sabres would like to make a polite point to their fans. We win as a team and we lose as a team, so leave Patrick Lalime out of it.

Lalime, a very nice guy by the way, took a lot of abuse from the fans in a 3-2 loss to Minnesota a couple weeks back.

"My issue ... with the fans is they singled out one player," defenseman Steve Montador told the Buffalo News. "I've played in basically every market this league has to offer, and our fans are as passionate as any fans in the League. I think when we played Minnesota with Patty, they could have shown some compassion because Patty's our hardest-working player every day on the ice. There's a couple tough bounces that game, and I think there could have been a little bit of compassion that could have been shown.

"Having said that, if the team's not playing the way they've seen us play and want us to play, then you can boo the whole team, you can boo the coaches and all that. I was just a little upset they had singled out one player.

"Having said all of that, I truly love our fans."

Kudos for Zajac -- On a team that boasts a fair amount of talent, coach Jacques Lemaire says Travis Zajac is the New Jersey Devils' most complete player.

"I think Travis is probably the most complete player we have right now," Lemaire told Rich Chere of the Newark Star-Ledger. "He can play well offensively and defensively. He's a guy that can play in any situation. He's one of our key men when we get a penalty and he's on every power play."

Luongo: I'll be there --
As Jason Botchford pointed out in the Vancouver Province, Roberto Luongo is the NHL's most scrutinized goalie. So Luongo's recent inconsistency has fuelled some concern about his game.

Not to worry says Luongo.

"I know I will be there when it counts," Luongo told Botchford. "I am not worried about it, although I know that people are panicking all over the world. That's how I feel, anyway.

"It happens to everyone," Luongo said of his bouts with inconsistency. "(Evgeni Nabokov) is going through it in San Jose, (Martin Brodeur) went through it before the Olympics. I'm just in the spotlight every day so you notice it more. But, really, I am just frustrated with myself, because I want to be at the top of my game."

Keep in mind that Luongo is "recovering" from leading Team Canada to Olympic gold in Vancouver. Think that was a little pressure packed?

"It was really intense. The most intense thing I have ever been a part of," he said. "I am human, like everyone else and I went through a lot in the last month and a half. After it all, it's hard sometimes emotionally to get back up for things."
Quote of the Day

A piece of scar tissue breaks off, pinches the nerve, and every time you move your leg it's almost like having a root canal in your stomach and groin.

— Detroit Red Wings center Stephen Weiss on his sports hernia surgery