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'Crosby Effect' sets agenda for Pens' success

by Shawn P. Roarke /

"I have to, just to keep up. I'm not kidding either. That's the God's honest truth. He goes so hard in practice, he pushes me and he pushes Chris (Kunitz, the other wing on Pittsburgh's top line). I think it makes us better."
-- Bill Guerin, on playing with Crosby

PITTSBURGH -- With his playoff beard sporting more grey hairs than he might like, Bill Guerin looks like a 38-year-old.

But these days, he feels much younger.

"This organization has given me an opportunity to go far in the playoffs," Guerin said after Wednesday's practice. "The guys have been fantastic and have had a big hand in rejuvenating me and keeping me young. I'm a pretty happy guy right now."

Asked to pinpoint why he is feeling so spry these days, Guerin had to look no further than a few stalls to his left, where Sidney Crosby, not visible because of the media scrum around him, was hosting his daily press briefing.

"Yeah, Crosby has had a little something to do with it," said Guerin, who has been a fixture on Crosby's wing ever since he arrived with the Penguins, from the Islanders in a late-February trade. "Having him in the middle has been really good. He's fun to play with every day -- practice, games, all the time. He's a good guy to be around."

Sure, Guerin likes being on the receiving end of Crosby's pin-point passes and he loves the open ice he enjoys as opposition players make futile attempts at double- and triple-team coverage of Crosby. 

But it is also just Crosby's love of the game. The zest with which he attacks practice and all the other stuff which players must do when they are not actually playing games was the tipping point for Guerin.

"It's his attitude toward the game," Guerin said. "He's competitive. He's got a lot of drive."

How much drive? Consider that Guerin admitted Wednesday that he is practicing harder than he has in years.

"I have to, just to keep up," he said, breaking into a smile. "I'm not kidding either. That's the God's honest truth. He goes so hard in practice, he pushes me and he pushes Chris (Kunitz, the other wing on Pittsburgh's top line). I think it makes us better."

Guerin might be relatively new to the "Crosby Effect," but he is not the only vet to experience it.

Defenseman Hal Gill, 34, has been in the League for a dozen years. He has been with the Penguins for the past 18 months or so, arriving at the 2008 trade deadline from the Maple Leafs.

He noticed right away that Pittsburgh was different from most teams he had been around. It had a younger vibe. It was not the veterans that were setting the tone, but more the youngsters that form the core of this team; guys like Crosby, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and Evgeni Malkin.

"We have a young nucleus and we know where we are headed," Gill says. "I think management has clearly shown that this is a young team and guys are going to be together for awhile. I think the younger guys feel comfortable. It's different. Sometimes older guys carry the feel (in a room). Here, the way we act in the locker room, it's younger. It's a younger team. We feed off them, we feed off their energy. I think that's nice."

Pittsburgh Penguins Playoff GearThere is no denying that Crosby has become more and more of a ring leader in establishing that feel, according to Gill.

"I think Sid is going to grow up a lot as a player," he said. "He is already way more mature than I am -- that's not saying much. He's pretty structured in his whole life and focused on his goals, but he's going to want to balance his time a little more as he grows. I think he has done that this year.

"He enjoys coming to the rink, not just for the fact that he is going to do everything he has done and will do, but also for the fact he's coming as a guy who likes to play hockey and have fun with the guys."
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