The Penguins captain is trying to pull his team from the abyss and into the postseason. Pittsburgh has won six consecutive games and climbed from the No. 10 spot in the Eastern Conference to No. 8.
“It’s a good thing for us that we’ve been playing well lately because we see how competitive things are even with the success we’ve had recently,” Crosby said. “Our mentality has to stay the same. We need to stay on track.
“We all realize that we’re still in a big fight. We’re playing good hockey but it’s not like we’ve moved too far (in the standings). We’re playing well and we’re happy with the wins but it’s still a battle right now.”
At an age when most young adults are making plans for spring break, Crosby is gearing up for a critical juncture in the Penguins’ season with the weight of a team, an organization and a city on his shoulders.
Pressure is something I’ve dealt with for a long time. That’s why it’s not easy being a captain. That’s why there’s only one on every team. It’s easy when things are going well. You also have to deal with the tough times. - Sidney Crosby
“Pressure is something I’ve dealt with for a long time,” he said. “That’s why it’s not easy being a captain. That’s why there’s only one on every team. It’s easy when things are going well. You also have to deal with the tough times.”
Crosby has battled various obstacles this season, from the flu to varying linemates to injuries that sidelined him for five games. Crosby has handled these with his usual poise and maturity.
“We’ve had stretches this year that have been tough,” Crosby said. “I’ve had stretches this year that have been tough. These are things you deal with whether it’s hockey or life in general, everyone faces adversity. It’s not a fault to have to deal with adversity. That’s a part of life. Hopefully, you learn from it and are better for it.”
Despite the adversity, Crosby is having an incredible season. In 62 games, the Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia native has tallied 25 goals and 57 assists for 82 points.
Crosby is third in the league in scoring (82 points), second in assists (57), second in points per game (1.32), second in even-strength points (60), second in road points (45), second in points against division opponents (27) and third in average ice time for a forward (22:18).
But that doesn’t meet the lofty standards that Crosby has set for himself.
“It’s been alright,” he modestly said of his season. “I would have liked to have played a little bit better and not missed five games. That’s the way the season goes sometimes but a season is not 67 games. So it’s better if we talk about it when 82 games are done.”
Crosby returned to the ice after missing four consecutive games with a groin injury to help his team win two crucial games at Florida and at Washington. In those two games, Crosby scored two goals, tallied an assist and converted the game-winning shootout goal against the Capitals while playing with two new linemates – Bill Guerin and Chris Kunitz
He sees the ice so well and knows where you’re going to be before you know where you’re going to be. He’s almost unpredictable on that point because he sees the ice so well. So you have to be ready and look for the puck coming to you even if you’re not expecting it. - Chris Kunitz on Crosby
“He sees the ice so well and knows where you’re going to be before you know where you’re going to be,” Kunitz said. “He’s almost unpredictable on that point because he sees the ice so well. So you have to be ready and look for the puck coming to you even if you’re not expecting it. He has that vision to put the puck in those areas. He puts the puck in places that helps us be successful.”
"He's just a great player," Guerin said. "The more he has the puck, the better he's going to be. When you get (the puck), you try to find him and he's going to make some things happen."
Crosby, Guerin and Kunitz played very well together – combining for three goals, five assists and eight points in two games – and should only improve as they learn each other’s tendencies.
“I can think of a lot worse things than (playing with Crosby),” Guerin joked. “It’s been a lot of fun playing the last two games with Chris and Sidney. Hopefully we can continue.”
“There’s a little bit of a learning curve but not much,” Kunitz said. “You can go out there and work as hard as you can. If you get the puck to those guys good things are going to happen. I keep it fairly simple and try not to do too many crazy things out there. I think it will work well for me. Sid coming back and scoring goals in every game, he makes everything a lot easier.”
“We still have to correct things out there,” Crosby said. “They’re two great players and we want to create things. We’ve executed well on a few plays but we can do better.”
And that is Crosby’s modus operandi: get better. No matter how well things may be going, Crosby is constantly striving to improve with every step.
“I’ve learned some things over the last few years but I’m still learning,” said the 21-year-old sage. “If you’re talking to a guy like Billy Guerin, he’s learned a lot of things over his career. But I’m sure to this day he still learns things too. I don’t think you ever stop learning. Certainly experiences help you to get through difficult situations.”