BOSTON -- The bruised and battered Penguins received another blow with the loss of defenseman Kris Letang
for two weeks with a shoulder contusion.
Letang joins the growing list of Penguins sidelined with injuries, which contains reigning scoring champion and playoff MVP Evgeni Malkin
, the team’s top defenseman Sergei Gonchar, and energy forwards Maxime Talbot and Tyler Kennedy
With five regulars out of the lineup, the Penguins are missing 25 percent of their roster.
But there is hope because the Penguins still have captain and world-class talent Sidney Crosby
. And as long as Crosby is suiting up for Pittsburgh, the team can never be counted out.
And with the team’s recent struggles – which are only human given their loss of key personnel – there is added pressure on Crosby to elevate his already other-worldly level of play. And that is a challenge that Crosby accepts and thrives on.
“I don’t think it hurts me. Usually it helps," Crosby said. "I don’t think it’s more pressure in a bad way. I usually get more out of myself because of that. It’s something that has happened many times over the last few years in the NHL and juniors. I always felt like I’ve been better for it. It’s not been a negative effect.”
“At the end of the day when you analyze the great players there is a unique level that they are willing to put on themselves and expect of themselves,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “What comes with those expectations and with that focus is the willingness to work beyond what we think as normal. They’re focused on their game. They work on their game. They’re trying to get better in the games. From the passerby it’s evident. It really stands out.”
And for Crosby, it’s a matter of not trying to do too much and refocusing on the task at hand.
“It’s just natural. You make sure your focus is there more than ever because you know it needs to be. You just work on things. You can react to it one way where you’re squeezing the stick and trying to do everything yourself. That’s not that the case (with me). I’ve been through it enough to know that doesn’t work.
“Your focus is that much more. You make sure you’re sharper in practice. When you go out for every shift you make sure you’re doing everything you need to be doing. You need the absolute best out of yourself so you try to do it. If you think close to that anyway, it’s good when you are in situations like that because you’re used to doing it.”
But Crosby can only do so much on his own and he expects his teammates to elevate their games as well.
“Everyone knows what they need to do. When Gonch goes out on the power play, (Alex Goligoski) and Tanger have to be better. They have to raise their game. Do they have to be out of this world? No. They just have to make sure they’re sharp. For me it’s the same thing. I make sure I’m sharp and making good decisions. It’s not that you don’t do that when things are normal but you make sure that you focus on that.”
Besides, pressure is something that Crosby is used to. He’s dealt with external pressure ever since he laced up a pair of skates and was hailed as the next great superstar. But it is the inner pressure that he puts on himself to be the best player in the world that has helped him transcend his game.
“I always put pressure on myself. It’s not too much. Everyone needs to push themselves in different ways. That’s just the way it is.”