This morning, Sidney Crosby got on the ice early – he was the first one, in fact – to do shooting drills with assistant coach Rick Tocchet before the game-day skate began.
Tocchet would pass it up to Crosby in the right circle, where he would catch it, settle it and quickly let it rip.
It looked like Crosby was working on elevating it, as he was getting off too many low shots in each of his previous games and goalies were easily getting their pads on them.
Well, his work this morning paid off, as he scored from that exact spot with a top-shelf shot to earn his first goal of the season and snap his five-game pointless streak (which tied for a career-long). Crosby then went on to assist on both of the Pens’ other goals in their 3-2 overtime win over Florida.
“It’s funny how things work sometimes,” Crosby smiled. “That’s not the first time that’s happened. So you just try to stick with things and continue to do the things you normally do and trust that it will go in. You try to remind yourself of that; it’s not always easy when it goes awhile. But hopefully I can build off of this and put some more in.”
It’s not just that Crosby exploded points-wise – it’s how dominant he was in the game.
First of all, Crosby had NINE shots (including five more attempts that were blocked or missed the net) – tying his career-high.
“Just to be aggressive, to attack D, to continue to go to the net,” Crosby said of his mindset when it came to putting pucks at the cage. “Not pass up any shots. But I mean, it’s easy to shoot when you have the puck more. That’s obvious. I thought as a line, we had the puck a lot more and when you do that, you’re going to generate more shots. So I just thought our in-zone play was a lot better because of that. A lot more opportunities to get pucks to the net.”
In addition, Crosby was winning every battle he was in. He was beating defenders in foot races. Overall, he just looked incredibly motivated and just on another level out there.
“I felt good,” he said. “Some nights your legs feel better than others and I think I had some jump. I thought as a whole line, we did and the way our team played in the first period, I felt like everyone really got into the game early on and generated a lot. So it always helps when you’re able to do that.”
“His game, 200 feet, I thought was outstanding tonight,” head coach Mike Johnston said. “He was really good start to finish. He was good physically, in the battles, I really liked his game.”
Here’s a few notable examples from each period:
In the first, there was a sequence where he busted through a pair of Panthers defenders, got dragged down on the play to draw a penalty, AND still managed to get a decent shot off while laying prone on the ground.
In the second, while out on the PK, he pickpocketed the puck from reigning Calder Trophy winner Aaron Ekblad on the boards and carried in for a shorthanded scoring chance.
In the third, Crosby sprinted between two defenders and beat them to a puck on the boards, dug it out of the corner and fed it to Rob Scuderi for a shot – where Phil Kessel picked up the rebound and put it home.
And in overtime, he helped set up the game-winner. Nothing more needs to be said there.
After an uncharacteristic start to the season, that’s the Crosby we know. And his teammates knew it was only a matter of time before he broke through.
“He was all over the ice, protecting the puck, making plays,” Kris Letang said. “You knew he was coming. Yes, it’s frustrating when you don’t score goals. But he’s got his head on straight, so it was a matter of time. He’s a great player. He finds a way all the time.”