and the Pittsburgh Penguins
came within two wins of capturing the Stanley Cup last spring. Expectations were high coming into this season, but the Penguins struggled to overcome early injuries and inconsistency.
However, Crosby and the Penguins staved off a mid-season collapse with a strong surge through the final two months of the season under interim coach Dan Bylsma
, who replaced Michel Therrien
on Feb. 15.
Crosby and the Penguins have punched their postseason ticket and are looking forward to defending their Eastern Conference championship.
Crosby recently spoke about that and other playoff-related topics with NHL.com.
Here are our seven questions with Sidney Crosby
1. NHL.com: You're back in the playoffs once again. A third-straight postseason berth looked to be in doubt just a couple months ago when the team was lingering in 10th place. How was this team able to turn things around in such a short time?
"I think it was some hard work. It felt like it happened quickly, but there were a couple weeks building up to it where we were playing well and we weren't winning games; but we knew we were headed in the right direction. Then, finally, we were able to get some consistency and some good results."
2. NHL.com: This team needing to rally to get in the playoffs was a shock to many, especially after falling two wins short of the Stanley Cup last year. What do you think caused this team to struggle to find its groove earlier?
"It was a combination of a lot of things. Obviously the injuries weren't easy for us to deal with. Losing a guy like Sergei Gonchar
, who logs a lot of minutes, and Ryan Whitney
, who logged a lot of minutes, they were our top-two defensemen, in terms of playing. It was something we had to deal with. Our game wasn't where it needed to be, either, and we realized that. There were probably a lot of reasons why and we knew we had to elevate it and we were able to do that."
3. NHL.com: The Penguins added some new players around trade deadline, notably your linemates, Bill Guerin and Chris Kunitz. What do they bring to the team, not only on the ice but in the dressing room?
"Guerin has been through a lot of different scenarios through the course of his career. He definitely brings a sense of calm to the room, having been through what he's been through. When a guy like that comes in, he earns respect right off the bat. He’s a great guy to have in the locker room. Kunitz won a Stanley Cup in Anaheim. He’s been through a lot of things that guys experienced for the first time, pretty much, last year. We added more experience there and I think that has to do with our success as well."
4. NHL.com: What impact have interim coach Dan Bylsma and assistant coach Tom Fitzgerald, two former NHL veterans, had on this team?
"They are not that far removed from playing. Things haven't changed that much, so I am sure they are able to relate a bit. That’s never a bad thing."
5. NHL.com: They seem really passionate for teaching the game of hockey.
"They are really into skill stuff. They probably want guys to do creative things a little more and still remain responsible while giving guys the opportunity to work on their game and get better.”
6. NHL.com: Boston has the most points in the Eastern Conference, but this Penguins team has shown it can compete with anyone during the final month or so of the regular season. Does that make you excited for the playoffs, knowing that anything can happen?
"You just have to get in the playoffs. With how tight things are in the East, you’re looking at maybe 6-8 points difference in the race after the first couple spots. That’s still good for (Boston) that they've earned first and have home ice, which helps; but at the same time, teams are so competitive that it's just a matter of getting into the playoffs.”
7. NHL.com: How much do you think last year’s run to the Stanley Cup Final will help you in these playoffs?
"I think definitely going through that, it’s important knowing what to expect. You can prepare all you want, but until you have been through something, you really don’t know what it's like. We've been through it, so, hopefully, that experience will help us."