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Crosby's goal is to keep teams guessing

Wednesday, 09.22.2010 / 5:52 PM / 2010-2011 Season Preview

By Shawn P. Roarke - NHL.com Senior Managing Editor

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Crosby's goal is to keep teams guessing
Last season Sidney Crosby focused on shooting more and ended up with 51 goals. This season? He's not talking about plans, telling NHL.com, "... you have to keep guys guessing."
This was not a typical summer for Sidney Crosby.

One year removed from his first Stanley Cup championship, the Pittsburgh Penguins' captain had a longer-than-planned summer after his team was upset by the Montreal Canadiens in the second round of the playoffs.

Crosby suddenly had more time on his hands -- almost a month more -- than he had grown accustomed to during back-to-back marches to the Stanley Cup Final the previous two seasons.

Crosby says he spent the extra time wisely, not only catching up on offseason hobbies but also changing his focus when it comes to preparing for the 2010-11 season.  

Recently, Crosby visited with NHL.com in New York and discussed his offseason and his thoughts about the Penguins as they prepare for the upcoming season.

NHL.com -- Everyone has talked about the conscious effort you made last season to shoot more and the resulting increase in goals. Is there something you concentrated on working on this year?

Crosby -- No, nothing in particular. I think I try to make the most of summer as far as off the ice is concerned, but still try to get quicker and stronger. I think as far as shooting and all those things, I think the biggest thing is to just keep guys guessing.

It's pretty easy now to scout guys and get guys' habits and tendencies down now. So in order to create things consistently, you have to keep guys guessing. For me, I want to continue to improve and shoot the puck, but it doesn't mean I will score 50 goals just because I shoot the puck. I want to make sure I'm creating things, and if I am doing that, hopefully it will go in.

NHL.com -- So even if you were working on something in particular, you wouldn't tell me, right?

Crosby -- There's really nothing as far as that is concerned. I just want to continue to develop those parts of my game. I work on the faceoffs because that is something where you really have to stay on that, and it's not going to happen overnight. You have to work on it. Shooting the puck is the same thing. Guys in the first 30 games aren't going to be surprised if I shoot a little more, so I have to make sure that I keep them guessing.

NHL.com -- You mentioned faceoffs. Do you scout faceoff guys?

Crosby -- A little bit. I mean, if somebody's really good and there is something that they do that I think I think I should see. But for the most part, you have to be comfortable with what you do. Everybody is different. Some guys feel they are more successful by learning about the other guy; but for me, I just try to worry about myself. I think if you go in there with a mindset and you prepare for it and you've practiced at it, then you should be fine.

NHL.com
-- Do you practice at it? Rod Brind'Amour was great at faceoffs, yet he refused to practice them; he said it wouldn't help him because it wasn't a game-realistic simulation.

Crosby -- I do practice it, but that's a perfect example of what I am talking about. He's somebody who is really strong in the faceoff circle and he did it for a number of years and it's just another example of how everyone is different and everyone has a mindset for that. For me, repetition is good. I like doing that. But I think the more you worry about yourself, that is probably the most important thing. You can know as much as you want about the other guy, but if you are not quick enough or strong enough, it's not going to matter.

NHL.com
-- Did the fact that you had a little more time this summer change the way you trained?

Crosby
-- It definitely changes things -- both good and a little bit bad. On the good side of things, I think you are energized, rested and strong going into camp. The last couple of years when you play long seasons, I think you are fortunate in that it feels like a progression. You know, those two years feel like one long year because there was so much hockey played in those years. I think you forget when you come back after a full summer that timing takes a little bit of time, and adjustments. So in that case, I have to make the most of camp to get my timing back because the last couple of years it probably came a little bit quicker.

NHL.com
-- Are you hungrier this year because of what happened last year in the playoffs?

Crosby
-- I think we are all eager, excited. I'm not saying we weren't before, but I think we are  more focused on how we are going to manage our year and how are we going to be rested in December. I think there are so many more unknowns coming into a season like this when you are coming off a full summer. I think there is less thought about those kind of things and you are more focused on just having a good camp and starting the season well and kind of letting the season come to you instead of trying to forecast how it is going to be. Like I said, we're not Eastern Conference champions or we are not the team that is defending, but I would say we are in that group. But we are not in that same situation we have been in the last couple of years where everyone is kind of gunning for us. We have to prove that we are right there, too.

NHL.com
-- A big part of that is going to be your revamped defense. What do you think about the changes? You lose a guy like Sergei Gonchar, but you bring in a Paul Martin.

Crosby
-- It's obviously tough losing a guy like Gonch. He is a guy that if you have seen him play or played with him, he's special -- a special player. I don't think the guys coming in need to be Sergei Gonchar. We certainly got some really good players there in (Zbynek) Michalek and Martin. You look at our (defensemen), they can block shots and skate and that is exciting. I think we are definitely a team that improved over the summer and it is up to us to go out and show it.

"It's pretty easy now to scout guys and get guys' habits and tendencies down now. So in order to create things consistently, you have to keep guys guessing. For me, I want to continue to improve and shoot the puck, but it doesn't mean I will score 50 goals just because I shoot the puck. I want to make sure I'm creating things, and if I am doing that, hopefully it will go in."
-- Sidney Crosby

NHL.com -- Are you excited about a guy like Paul Martin, who appears to be built for a transition game like you guys play, coming into the system?

Crosby
-- For sure. Our game is a speed game. We want to play at a high pace. That means not spending a lot of time in our own end. That's the best way to play if you want to play that game, so with the guys that we have, they are good at retrieving pucks, good at avoiding checks to make plays and making that pass that is important when you want to go the other way and play offense. We're definitely going to be really strong there. When games get closer and you play really good teams, they are going to help a lot. Martin and Michalek are really good in (the skating) area. When you look at our D, we have Orps (Brooks Orpik) and (Kris) Letang and (Alex) Goligoski, all of those guys can skate, get the puck quick and that is certainly a strength of our team.

NHL.com
-- Part of the dynamic of Sergei leaving is that Evgeni Malkin loses that security blanket of having a Russian mentor on the team. Are you interested to see where Malkin is going to go from here?

Crosby
-- You don't like to see Gonch leave, but I'm sure Geno (Malkin) is really thankful that he had Gonch. I know I am. I didn't have to learn a language like Geno had to, but I'm happy I played with Gonch for the time that I did. I learned a lot from him. So as much as it is sad to see guys leave like that, you have to take something away. I think (Geno) has learned a lot and he is probably excited to apply those things on his own. Like you said, this a good challenge for our whole team when you lose guys, but it is also a challenge for Malkin individually. I'm sure he is more than ready; he's probably been ready for a couple of years. I think he is probably better off because of Gonch -- as we all are.

NHL.com
-- You've had a couple of years to digest your trip to Europe. How important do you think it was in the growth of your team?

Crosby
-- I think it was important to get us all together. Usually in camp you are all over the place. You go (to Europe) and you spend time together as a team and you have a different atmosphere. You're seeing a different place and everyone is excited to be together. So I think from a team point of view it is good. Not only that, but it is a little bit of a bigger stage -- you're playing in Europe and there is only a couple of teams that do that every year and you kind of get that feel that there is a little more attention to those games. It's not the playoffs, but it is similar. You look at those things -- that or the Winter Classic -- those kind of things are always good for teams as far as building and going through experiences.
 
NHL.com -- Is the bonding for a team on a trip like that all it is cracked up to be?

Crosby
-- Yeah. I don't think it is a bad thing. It would be tough to do that every year with the schedule, but I think if teams have the opportunity to play in Europe, the people are excited to have the teams there and the players are excited to play and be with your team. I don't think it is a bad thing at all; it's a great thing, actually. I think teams try to make the most of it when they do it.


Quote of the Day

I think I'm lucky to be here and you definitely don't take very many things for granted, if you take anything for granted. I definitely put my family and my wife and my close family in perspective, that they're the most important thing in the world. I want to do whatever I can to play hockey, but like I said, under the right circumstances.

— Stars forward Rich Peverley to "The Musers" radio show on The Ticket 1310 AM in Dallas