-- Playoffs is the time of year when teams need their best players to be their best players.
For the Pittsburgh Penguins
, their best player is Sidney Crosby
, and without question, he's been the best player for either team in the Penguins' Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Washington Capitals
Crosby is tied for the League lead with 9 goals and 16 points, and has at least a goal in three of the first four games of the series.
Teammates who have been around him for years have seen Crosby dominate in the past, but they continue to marvel at just what he's able to do.
"I've played with Sid for four years now, and I guess I've become used to it," defenseman Rob Scuderi
told NHL.com. "Not that it ever becomes routine, but when you see some of the amazing things he can do so often, you start to expect it."
It hasn't just been on the score sheet that Crosby has contributed the most.
"For all the great moves and great chances he's set up, he's still in the corners, he still battles hard, he hits," said Scuderi. "He's everything you want in your captain.
"That's what you're looking for from your leaders. You want them to play the same night in and night out, and even if it's not their night with points or chances or whatever, you still want them to play hard and to play the right way, and he's done that for us ever since he's been here."
Crosby sets the example away from the TV lights too.
"I think what he does in practice is even more impressive," defenseman Brooks Orpik
told NHL.com. "That's the stuff people don't see. I think why he is one of the best guys in the League is his work ethic."
"In practices he always comes out, he's always the hardest-working guy," added teammate Maxime Talbot
. "He never takes off. We have an optional, and unless the coach tells him you're not going to skate today, he's going to go out there. He wants to be there, he wants to play, and it's nice to have that kind of leader, because you have no choice but to follow."
Crosby may be all business on the ice and in front of the camera, but there is a playful side to him that also makes him popular among his teammates.
"He's really easy-going, likes to play pranks," said Talbot. "He's a normal 21-year-old kid. Yes, he's serious when he's in front of the camera; that's his role, he's the leader. And he loves the tradition of the game and he shows that to the media. But for us, we all know he loves hockey -- he's a hockey geek. Outside of that, he's great."
For the Penguins to continue in their quest to defend their Eastern Conference title, Crosby will have to keep being great.
"This is the time of year you need your best players to be your best players, especially the way (Washington's Alexander) Ovechkin's been playing. You need to counter-punch, and Sid has provided that."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com.