Video: Crosby has an ‘insatiable appetite’ to get better

14 Comments

Remember when Sidney Crosby was publicly criticized by some members of the media — here’s one particular example — as the Pittsburgh Penguins faced elimination in the Eastern Conference Final?

Well, the Penguins’ captain set the tone for the Stanley Cup Final, as Pittsburgh grabbed a 1-0 series lead with a thrilling 3-2 win over the San Jose Sharks on Monday.

Crosby had an assist, setting up Conor Sheary for the second goal of the evening. He had four shots on goal in almost 21 minutes of ice time and his line with Sheary and Patric Hornqvist was, for the most part, dominant in possession.

(On the ice together for 13:37 at five-on-five, Crosby and Hornqvist had Corsi For ratings of 56.52 per cent, as per War-on-Ice.)

“He steps up in big games and he always has and he always will. He’s the leader in this locker room and on the ice, and you expect that from him in games like this,” Sheary told reporters.

On the Sheary goal, Crosby was able to win a race with Sharks’ defenseman Justin Braun to the puck, turn on a dime as Braun lost an edge and slid to the ice, and find Sheary wide open in the slot. With Marc-Edouard Vlasic preoccupied dealing with Hornqvist in front, Sheary ripped a shot stick side on Martin Jones.

“He sees you all over the ice. They overbackchecked a bit and I found that soft area. I was looking far side (on Jones),” said Sheary.

“That’s what Sid is always great at — getting guys to overplay him so he can find the other guy that can get open to give you more time and space with the puck, because us other guys, we need that time and space,” added Chris Kunitz to NHL.com.

That was part of a long night for Braun and Vlasic in trying to at least contain the Crosby line.

Sheary and Hornqvist both benefited with sterling possession numbers against both Sharks’ blue liners, who seem to have drawn the main assignment against No. 87.

Here’s a look at those numbers (again, from War-on-Ice):

Hornqvist vs. Vlasic: 62.5 per cent Corsi For, five Events For versus three Events Against, in 6:49.

Hornqvist vs. Braun: 63.64 per cent Corsi For, seven Events For versus four Events Against, in 7:56.

Sheary vs. Vlasic: 58.33 per cent Corsi For, seven Events For versus five Events Against, in 6:45.

Sheary vs. Braun: 60 per cent Corsi For, nine Events For versus six Events Against, in 7:33.

(In fairness to Braun, he is also dealing with a personal issue after losing his father-in-law, NHL veteran Tom Lysiak, after a battle with leukemia prior to Game 1.)

The Penguins now go for the 2-0 series lead on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, as the Penguins held an optional skate, Crosby was apparently one of two regulars on the ice.

“I don’t think he’s as good as he is by accident,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan told reporters.

“As long as I’ve been associated with this league, I don’t know that I’ve been around a player that has the same work ethic as Sid does as far as that insatiable appetite to just try to get better and be the best. I think that’s why he’s as good as he is.”

 

 

Crosby, Rust and Sheary lead Penguins’ early charge

Getty
7 Comments

Generally speaking, the strategic talk heading into Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final focused on the San Jose Sharks’ deeper defense vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins’ blinding speed.

It’s very early, but so far: advantage Penguins.

Pittsburgh came roaring out of the gate in front of a boisterous Consol Energy Center crowd, but it took them a while to break through.

Once the Penguins did, they raced ahead to a 2-0 lead thanks to goals just 1:02 apart.

First, Bryan Rust kept his red-hot streak going with the 1-0 tally.

Moments later, Sidney Crosby made a beautiful pass to Conor Sheary to put the Penguins up two.

There were a few other moments in which the Sharks looked like they were really struggling with the Penguins’ speed, but Martin Jones made some saves that could be big if San Jose can gather its wits.

Vlasic on the unenviable task of matching up against Crosby

Getty
1 Comment

Plenty of people believe that the San Jose Sharks’ defense is superior to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ personnel, but it’s one thing to be better on paper. When you’re on the ice, against a speedy and talented team, can you really stop the Penguins?

All signs point to sorely underrated Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic drawing the difficult assignment of trying to slow down Sidney Crosby.

Vlasic, a former Team Canada teammate of Crosby (as you can see from this post’s main image), realizes that he’ll have his hands full. In fact, he seems to believe that this will be an even tougher challenge than trying to solve St. Louis Blues sniper Vladimir Tarasenko.

The fantastic all-around defender isn’t exactly expecting to reinvent the wheel in his strategy against Crosby.

“It will be the same as in the first three series,” Vlasic said, via The Hockey News. “We’re playing against the top players on every time – Sid, (Evgeni) Malkin and those types of guys for Pittsburgh. Me and (Justin Braun) will just keep doing what we did, taking away time and space and hopefully it works out.”

The two players have had glowing things to say about each other for some time, but don’t be surprised if this high-level competition turns those happy thoughts into hard feelings.

It stands as one of the matchups to watch in what could be a fresh and fascinating Stanley Cup Final.

PHT Morning Skate: What superstition? Crosby, Malkin, Kunitz grab the Prince of Wales Trophy

11 Comments

PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Sidney Crosby decided to buck the trend and touch the Prince of Wales Trophy. (Top)

–Former NHLers look back at their Game 7 battles. (Sports Illustrated)

–A Q&A with the newest Panther Jared McCann. (NHL)

–Watch the highlights from last night’s game between the Penguins and Lightning:

Joe Pavelski went from not being able to skate and not being big enough to becoming a Conn Smythe Trophy favorite. (TSN)

Bryan Rust accomplished something pretty rare this postseason:

–Some teams still need to sign some of their prospects or risk losing them.

Penguins’ HBK Line has ‘given us a lot of momentum,’ says Crosby

Getty Images
3 Comments

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Few NHL teams have the quickness, speed, skill and depth to overwhelm the Tampa Bay Lightning, which the Pittsburgh Penguins have done through three games of the Eastern Conference finals.

Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and a talented supporting cast that includes the sizzling line of Phil Kessel, Carl Hagelin and Nick Bonino have outplayed the speedy Lightning for significant stretches of each game to gain a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven matchup.

Game 4 is Friday night at Amalie Arena, and the Penguins are looking to turn up the pressure even more.

“When you’re playing such good teams at this point, you know you can’t afford to look past the game in front of you,” said Crosby, who’s scored the past two games after going eight straight without a goal.

Related: Rutherford says Fleury’s ‘absolutely not’ done in Pittsburgh, but logic suggests otherwise

Malkin assisted on Crosby’s power-play goal that proved to be the winner in Game 3 on Wednesday night, Malkin’s first point since Game 2 of Pittsburgh’s second-round victory over Washington.

While the Penguins’ biggest stars were trying to get back on track, Kessel, Hagelin and Bonino heated up at precisely the right time.

The trio had a huge impact Wednesday night, as well, with Kessel delivering his team-leading seventh goal of the playoffs off a nifty pass from Bonino after earlier setting up Hagelin’s goal that snapped a scoreless tie.

“You don’t win consistently without (depth). That line’s been great all playoffs long,” Crosby said. “You look at the way Phil’s playing … he creates so much. Haggy’s got a ton of speed. And Bones is a really smart player. He works really well with those two guys. They’ve given us a lot of momentum.”

Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper acknowledged line has been tough matchup for a team that’s accustomed to wearing opponents down with its own deep roster.

“You look at their team, Phil Kessel probably doesn’t get near the respect he deserves. I mean, he’s scored a ton of goals in this league. Bonino’s kind of one of those underrated players. … You look at the teams he’s playing, and there’s always been named stars ahead of him. Hagelin’s won everywhere he’s gone, the teams he’s played on. But they get overshadowed by the big name guys,” Cooper said.

“When you can go three and four lines deep – and something we’ve been able to do – it’s a tough matchup for teams,” the coach added. “They’re just another case – and plus they’re feeling it, too. They’re in one of those playoff runs where they’re feeling it, and when you are going like that, good things are going to happen for you.”

The Penguins have outshot Tampa Bay 124-70, a trend the Lightning can’t allow to continue if they expect to win the series.

Andrei Vasilevskiy has filled in admirably since replacing the injured goalie Ben Bishop during Tampa Bay’s victory in Game 1. In addition to generating more scoring chances, Cooper stressed the Lightning also have to play better in front of Vasilevskiy, who faced 41 shots in Game 2 and 48 Wednesday night.

“That’s unacceptable. I just feel bad for the kid that he’s keeping us in there and we’re not finding a way to bail him out,” Cooper said. “The way things have gone these (last) two games, it doesn’t matter who’s in net. You know, we could have Bish and Vasi both playing at the same time, and they might have squeaked a couple in.”

Tampa Bay won all three regular seasons meetings between the teams before taking Game 1 of this series on the road, so coaches and players say there’s no need to panic.

Cooper reunited the “triplets” line of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat during the third period of Game 3, and the trio that was instrumental to Tampa Bay’s run to the Stanley Cup final a year ago produced two late goals.

Bishop practiced Thursday and said he remains hopeful he’ll return at some point in the series. Cooper said he doesn’t expect it to be for Game 4.

With Vasilevskiy playing as well as he has, and Tampa Bay’s track record as a resilient team, the coach remains confident this still will be a “long, tough” series.

“It’s not something where we’re sitting here saying: `Oh, we can’t beat this team.’ We couldn’t beat them in the last two games, and that’s the way we’re looking at it,” Cooper said.

“But in saying that, Pittsburgh’s put us in a position to be like that,” the coach added “Now it’s we served, they volleyed back. Now it’s our turn to send it back to them.”