New York Rangers v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game One

Sidney Crosby: ‘Maybe we got away with a bit too much on skill’

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Sidney Crosby has opened up, speaking about a season in which the Pittsburgh Penguins fell well short of their ultimate goal – the Stanley Cup.

The Penguins gave up a 3-1 series lead and were knocked out of the playoffs in the second round by an emotionally charged New York Rangers team. Crosby, despite playing well, produced only a goal and three points in that seven-game series.

Evgeni Malkin had only one goal and two points in the final three games of that series.

The premature post-season exit cost Dan Bylsma his job as head coach, and Ray Shero’s job as general manager. Crosby, who denied a disconnect with Bylsma, took his share of the blame, in conversation with Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.

“I think as far as finding that identity, and don’t get me wrong I think in the regular season it’s important to have success and we’ve proven that, but we have to find a way in the playoffs to elevate our game,” said Crosby, as per ESPN.

“It doesn’t mean change our identity, but we have to elevate it. We haven’t done quite as good a job at doing that. Me personally, I’m not taking myself out of that mix either, going pointless against Boston (in the 2013 conference finals) and not really doing a whole lot in the New York series, it’s not easy to deal with that in the off-season. You don’t like having memories like that.

“That being said, you have to find a way to elevate your game. I think for us, each round it gets tougher and tougher, there’s less space, it’s more physical, maybe we got away with a bit too much on skill during the regular season and weren’t able to grind teams down and play the way you see some teams have success in the playoffs. Keeping that in the back of our mind should help us going into next year.”

Video: Sidney Crosby scores that elusive first playoff goal

New York Rangers v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game One
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It took long enough, but Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby scored his first goal of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs in Game 3 against the New York Rangers on Monday:

With that, Crosby can knock the most irritating question off the long list of annoying potential questions he’ll face from the press, particularly after losses. Don’t worry, though; there will always be a new eye-roller (whether it’s for Crosby or someone else).

This came on Crosby’s 29th shot on goal of this postseason. It’s his first goal in his last 10 games at Madison Square Garden and second in his last 17 contests against the Rangers (according to a handy graphic from NBCSN).

For those who need help cooking up the next groan-worthy narrative, here are a few pointers:

  • The Rangers power play remains horrific; they’ve gone 0-for-32. Their offense is ice cold overall as they haven’t scored since OT of Game 1.
  • Hey, there’s always Rick Nash to pick on.
  • Uh … uh … Crosby hasn’t scored a power-play goal on the road in a while (saves that for Game 5).

Mike Babcock: ‘I evaluate Sidney Crosby on winning’

Ice Hockey - Winter Olympics Day 7 - Canada v Austria
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Sidney Crosby has yet to score a goal in these Olympics. You can imagine the horror this appears to be creating north of the border.

So far, the tangible results Crosby has put forward in Sochi amounts to a pair of assists. On the outside, it might seem like so little because he’s widely considered the best player in the game, and because of what he did in Vancouver four years ago – scoring the overtime goal in the gold-medal game against the U.S.

Crosby’s coach with Team Canada doesn’t seem overly concerned about a lack of scoring from the captain, who played most of Sunday’s 2-1 overtime win against Finland on a line with Patrice Bergeron and Jamie Benn. (We await word on possible further changes to line combinations and starting goalies.)

“Everyone evaluates Sid on scoring and I evaluate Sid on winning,” said Canada’s head coach Mike Babcock, as per Sportsnet.ca.

Canada has advanced to the quarter-final stage of the tournament, and will play either Switzerland or Latvia in that game. The winner of the quarter-final advances to the semifinal and a possible – emphasis on possible – date with the U.S.

Yet there is hardly a level of satisfaction in Canada, or with the nation’s media. Canada went 3-0 in the preliminary round, outscoring the opposition 11-2. Two of those wins came against lesser opponents, in Norway and Austria.

And don’t forget the expectations on this team, which is looking to become the first nation in the men’s hockey competition to successfully defend the gold since NHL players began competing at the Olympics in 1998.

In two of their three contests so far, the Canadians have faced opposing teams keen to try and shut them down, playing a stringent defensive style in hopes of keeping the game as close as possible.

“You definitely have to find ways to get to that net and compete for every inch of the ice out there,” said Crosby, as per the Toronto Sun. “I think that’s just kind of the nature of playing teams who have done that for a long time.”

Judging by external reaction alone, it seems the results to this point have been underwhelming.

And when the offence up front isn’t as dynamic – only five of Canada’s 11 goals have come from forwards – as one would think with a roster that includes the likes of Crosby and Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry and Matt Duchene and John Tavares, the criticism starts to come out.

“No one ever seems to be happy with us,” said Babcock.

Captain Canada: Sidney Crosby to wear the ‘C’ in Sochi

Sidney Crosby
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In today’s least-surprising news, Sidney Crosby was named captain of Team Canada for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Crosby, who scored the gold medal-winning goal for Canada against the United States at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, is the best player on Canada’s roster and as well as captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The bigger news here would’ve been if he wasn’t named to lead the team.

Joining Crosby as leaders will be Team Canada’s alternate captains — Chicago’s Jonathan Toews and Nashville’s Shea Weber. Both players are captains of their NHL teams as well giving Canada numerous character guys to take charge.

If the Olympics were based on the number of captains on a roster, Canada would be a heavy favorite there as well.

Tonight on NBCSN: Sidney Crosby one-on-one with Bob Costas

Crosby and Costas
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Be sure to tune in tonight at 11 p.m. ET on NBCSN for Sidney Crosby’s chat with Bob Costas in the latest edition of Costas Tonight.

A few excerpts from the interview:

Crosby on scoring the overtime goal against Team USA in the 2010 Olympics to clinch the gold medal in Vancouver: “Scoring an overtime-winning goal in your own country, playing for Canada, a country that’s so passionate about hockey – it’s pretty special…playing for Canada, we always know that expectations are high. But being in Canada, in the Winter Olympics, we knew we had to find a way.”

Crosby on Russian LGBT Laws and 2014 Sochi Games: “Growing up in Canada, that’s something I never even really thought about or discussed – it didn’t matter. Anyone had the opportunity to play a sport, and to go through that was something that was a learning experience for me. I never even thought that’s something that would come up.”

Crosby on his history with concussions: “I look back to the first time I came back from the concussion, and I almost overdid it. I almost hit guys more than I typically would. I went into those areas probably when I didn’t need to almost to prove to yourself that, ‘hey, everything’s good.’”

Image via the Penguins’ Instagram