Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 04/09/07 at 05:24 PM ET
Sidney Crosby took part in an NHL tele-conference today…
Q. I think everybody knew that the Penguins with the young talent they had were going to be good, but I don’t think anybody knew they would be good this quickly. Can you give us your idea why the Penguins have come together so quickly with the young players they have?
SIDNEY CROSBY: I think it’s been a long time. Starting in goal, I think you have to have a great goalie in order to be successful. Marc has done a great job. Jocelyn, when he’s had the chance to go in, has. Starting there, I just think the young guys that we have really put the pressure on themselves to learn quick. I think everyone has the right attitude on our team, you know, just put a lot of pressure on themselves to learn faster than maybe typically younger guys would have to learn. They’ve really made an impact at a young age. Our veterans, guys like Recchi, Gonchar, Roberts, guys like that have really stepped up and led the way. I think it’s been a combination of things, but all those things combined.
Q. Historically playoff experience has been very valuable for players; players who have been there before seem to perform better. You’re a unique player, a young player, have accomplished a lot, won a scoring championship, had a lot of pressure on you. Going into your first playoffs, do you feel like you don’t quite know what to expect or do you feel like a veteran? How do you feel going into your first playoffs?
SIDNEY CROSBY: I think it’s probably mixed. Like you said, you can’t make up for the experience unless you’ve actually gone through it. But I think I’ve been fortunate to be in situations before, not maybe in the NHL, but in Junior or World Juniors, things like that, that I’m going to try to use to prepare me. You know, it’s a similar situation, but it’s not the same thing. All I can do is try to prepare myself the best way possible. And I think I don’t have a sense of being nervous because of that. I think I have probably a better sense of being focused, expecting a little bit more out of myself.
I think as a team, that’s the feeling we have, is just trying to be sharp and make sure that if we don’t have the experience, we’re going to try to make up for it with our energy, with our attitude.
Q. Have you ever tried growing a playoff beard before? What do you think it might look like? How much have you taken from Gary Roberts, him being around since the trade deadline? Any sort of tips or pointers from him, maybe an example?
SIDNEY CROSBY: Playoff beard, I made an attempt in Juniors. Ended at a moustache; that’s all I could get. I was able to get a little bit more on my face since then. We’ll have to see how it pans out. Hopefully we’ll be there for a while, and I’ll give it a chance. Besides that, I think Gary has just added that physical play, that experience. I think the thing that sticks out with him is how he comes to play every night. He’s there, he’s battling every night. I think it rubs off on everyone. Everyone sees that. His attitude is I think amazing for us to see, especially at his age. Off the ice as well, the way he prepares himself and trains. I think that rubs off on everyone. I think especially with the young guys that we have, you couldn’t get a better guy to really learn from.
Q. In terms of guys that you played with before, how does his grittiness match up against anybody else that has been a teammate of yours?
SIDNEY CROSBY: He’s probably the greatest I’ve ever seen. I mean, he’s a warrior out there. Those are guys you need to make the difference. He does every little thing possible. Maybe things that don’t always get noticed, but those are the things that are the difference in hockey games, whether it’s finishing hits, chipping the puck, not relying on making a move or fancy play. He keeps the game really simple. Like I said, when other guys see that, they know it’s the right way to follow and the right way to lead. I really think it’s contagious.
Q. You as a young team must be going in pretty relaxed as compared to Ottawa, with a lot of playoff pressure. Is that going to work to your benefit? Most people are probably thinking Ottawa has been there so they’re the favorites. Will it be much different for you now probably seeing the same players in your face for a seven-game series, the same two defensemen, same line against you that you wouldn’t necessarily see over an 80-game season?
SIDNEY CROSBY: Yeah, I think as far as how the two teams match up, like you said, they’re the favorite going in. They have a lot of experience. Like you said, we don’t have a lot of guys with experience. You know, it will be interesting to see how that matches up. But as for seeing the same guys, that is something new. That’s part of adapting and adjusting to the playoffs. I think that is something that is really important over the course of a playoff, is trying to get to know your opponent and trying to adjust your game, finding ways to be successful. I think it’s a challenge for both teams. Especially when you’re seeing the same two defensemen, I’m sure they get used to your tendencies. That’s part of the challenge, trying to find ways to get chances or create goals.
Q. How has Georges Laraque been there?
SIDNEY CROSBY: He’s been great. His presence has been felt since day one. He’s really created a lot of space for guys out there. He can play. He grinds it down low very well. I think he’s just got that physical presence out there. When he can battle down low, keep pucks alive, uses his size to his advantage. He’s a hard guy to play against.
Q. What do you expect from Ottawa? How will it be different playing a team over and over again? What do you see as their strengths?
SIDNEY CROSBY: Well, I think they’re a complete team. They definitely have a strong offense. They have a lot of guys that can score. They’re deep. Every line can produce. On defense obviously they have some strong defensive players, too. I see them as a complete team. They have a lot of depth. I think it’s going to be intense. If you looked at the last game, it was a playoff atmosphere. I think that’s pretty much what we expected. You know, I expect it to be really intense. I’d say it’s a pretty good match-up. All the games have been tight. As for seeing guys over and over again, like I said, you just have to adjust. I think that it’s the same for every team in the playoffs. Whatever team can adjust quicker can really make that difference in a game and I think that it’s going to be to their advantage.
Q. With the attention you’ve always had on you, can you help some of the other young guys focus on the game, don’t worry about all the other distractions? Is that something that you do or you would do to help them?
SIDNEY CROSBY: I probably won’t really say much. I think everyone has their own way of dealing with things. To be honest, I don’t think it’s really too difficult for me anyway. I don’t know how those guys feel. I think sometimes the way you act or handle things can sometimes be better than having to say anything. If you’re out there practicing with a purpose, we all know the media and things like that are part of hockey and you have to deal with those things. We also know there’s going to be attention on the series. But we’ve worked hard all year to get ourselves in the playoffs. As far as any distractions or having our mind on anything else, I don’t see it really being a big deal. We know that we fought hard to get here. There is a little bit of pressure obviously. This is where we want to be. I don’t think that anything is really going to change our focus.
Q. We’ve seen in the past two years that Calgary and Edmonton made runs in the finals from the bottom half of the seeding. You’re in at five. You have two Atlantic Division teams at six and eight who had strong runs to get into the playoffs. How dangerous do you think those three teams in the Atlantic Series can be in this run?
SIDNEY CROSBY: I think every team’s dangerous. You always look at the teams who finish off strong, like you said, because momentum is so important going into the playoffs. It’s a lot about timing, getting balanced and things like that. To be honest, it’s so hard to tell who the favorites are. You can look at the final standings and make your opinions, but at the end of the day, anyone who gets in has a chance. You saw an example of that last year. Definitely the teams representing our division have made a good fight to get there and prove themselves. But I really think it could be anyone.
Q. Does it validate the division, how so many teams got in from that one five-team group?
SIDNEY CROSBY: Yeah, I think it says a lot. Obviously Philly had a tough year. It was a competitive division. To see the Islanders battle it out in the last game. You saw that around the league a lot. Nothing was set till the last game. The whole league’s been competitive. With respect to our division, it’s been really competitive as well. I think it says a lot.
Q. There’s always been a lot of top prospects coming into the league, Lecavalier, Thornton. It’s always talked about how important it is to insulate them with veteran guys. Can you talk about how important it is to also be surrounded by the quality guys that are closer to your own age? They might be going through a lot of the same experiences you are.
SIDNEY CROSBY: Yeah, I think it’s great to have the situation we have. Like you say, we have that leadership and that experience that can really teach us how to approach things, the way things go. But also to have guys that are going through similar situations, you can help each other, just by observing each other and seeing how each guy deals with it. You also know there are guys next to you that are dealing maybe with similar pressures. You can be there to help them or talk to them if they really need it. But I think everyone’s learned together and they can also see the different things that each guy has to do to be successful. Every guy is not a goal-scorer. You look at a goalie like Marc-Andre, he deals with different pressures, too. But I think it’s nice that we’re all in it together and we’re all able to learn together.
Q. Early this week, Vinny Lecavalier was talking about how in his first playoff he came out with extra energy, and it might have actually been detrimental. Can you talk about that? What are some of the pitfalls that a young superstar like yourself might have to face?
SIDNEY CROSBY: It’s hard to say. I mean, I’m not going to lie and say I know exactly what to expect ‘cause I don’t. Like I said, I’m just going to try to do the same thing that’s made me successful in the past, and that’s preparing the same way. You know, just really trying to approach it for what it is. It’s a playoff game. It’s going to be more intense. It’s going to be more physical. Your focus has to be there. You have to be sharp. To say that you’re going to use more energy and things like that, I think it’s just going to happen if you’re getting hit more and things like that. I don’t think I’m going to go out of my way to change anything. I’m just going to try to do the same thing I would in the season and prepare myself for maybe a little more physical play, just trying to be sharp because, you’re probably not going to get as many chances. You want to make sure you take advantage of them.
Q. Has Mario Lemieux talked to you about what to expect?
SIDNEY CROSBY: We haven’t talked about it. Haven’t seen him around lately actually. It’s not something that we’ve really talked about. If I see him, I’m sure I’ll have a few questions or be anxious to talk about it. But I think everyone’s different. Everyone deals with it different. You have to find your own way, your own approach, and that’s important. That’s part of gaining experience. Hopefully it will work out.
Q. You’ve been to the playoffs before in Juniors, Dartmouth. What are you going to take from those experiences?
SIDNEY CROSBY: Just the grind. I think it’s always known, when you think of the playoffs, you think of the grind, the toll it takes on your body, the importance of not just being physically tough but mentally tough.
You have games that are physical, they’re a battle. Sometimes you don’t always win those. It’s tough mentally the next game or the next night, you have to bounce back and match that same intensity, make sure that you do everything it takes to win. Like I said, that’s tough mentally sometimes. So I think mentally is where I’ll try to take the lessons I’ve learned from the past and make sure that my focus stays.
Q. On your regular season, your point total, are you getting a lot of reaction from home about it? Obviously your parents must be hearing about it.
SIDNEY CROSBY: Yeah, it’s been great. People have been so supportive, not just now but since I’ve got to the NHL and even before that. It’s nice. Obviously I’m always trying to check up and see what’s going on at home. The support is always there. They’ve got some positive feedback from there. They’re always updating me. I think everyone realizes my ultimate goal is to win championships, and those things are always bonuses. But it’s a nice accomplishment.
Q. Anyone in particular, old coach or anything?
SIDNEY CROSBY: I haven’t talked to many people. It’s been busy the last couple days. With so much riding on the last few games, I’m sure people just wanted to let me focus on hockey. I’m sure I’ll get a chance to catch up when I get home at some point.
Q. Looking back seven or eight months ago, did you think you had a shot to become the youngest Art Ross Trophy winner? Is it special know that Wayne Gretzky was the previous youngest to do it?
SIDNEY CROSBY: I didn’t really think I had a chance. Once I was first there, after a game against Philly, six-point night, I remember them saying I moved to first place, I kind of told myself, Oh, there’s maybe a chance. That wasn’t something that I tried to pay too much attention to. I don’t think it changes anything, the fact that it’s beating Wayne Gretzky. It’s always the comparisons and things like that, but it’s an accomplishment. To pass him is nice, but I don’t think it adds anything to it or was something I was trying to do.
Q. People are obviously loath to compare anyone to Wayne Gretzky. I can certainly see why. But when you look at what you did this year, at the same age as Wayne, taking into account the fact that there were a lot more goals per game when Wayne put up his 137 points, you’re both pretty close in terms of what you accomplished at the same age. I’m wondering in the back of your mind, do you think you might be able to be the guy that actually challenges his records?
SIDNEY CROSBY: No, I don’t. I mean, in the situation, like I said, it might be easier to compare. I’m proud of the accomplishment this year. I think it’s really tough. I’ve played in the league for two years. What he did was over a whole career, I think it’s something that you have to prove year after year. It’s not just one or two years. It’s year after year. For me I think I’ve realized that early, and that’s important. You have to be consistent. That’s something I’ve always tried to be. But I think it’s just important to realize that. For me, like I said, it’s a nice accomplishment this year. Who knows what next year will hold or the year after. I try to take it in stride. At the same time, like I said, I’m proud of it. Not trying to overlook it or anything like that. It’s a nice accomplishment. That’s where I leave it.
Q. Winning the Art Ross, you’re in the race for the Hart Trophy, how do you see it? Do you think you have a good chance to win it? Who will be the other guys running after you for that trophy?
SIDNEY CROSBY: I don’t know about my chances. I think there’s a lot of guys who have the opportunity to win it. A guy like Brodeur, the season he had is pretty unbelievable. He’s a big part of the team in New Jersey. Luongo, he’s obviously made a huge impact in Vancouver. There’s a few guys there. We’ll see Thornton again. He was a big part of San Jose.
You look at a lot of guys, and that’s something that I don’t really think about a whole lot. That’s up for other people’s opinions, up to them to decide. There’s been a lot of guys who have really impacted their team and made a difference.
Q. What about your coach? He started the season with the Penguins. Does it make a difference this year to last year when you had to change coach and system?
SIDNEY CROSBY: Yeah, I think we’re all comfortable with him. We were fortunate enough to have some guys who played in Wilkes Barre where he coached the year before and for a couple years before that. I think that made a difference. Definitely the comfort level, we all know what to expect. I think that really helped. The attitude coming into camp, everyone knew what to expect. We were trying to develop a lot of young players as the season went on. He’s been great. He’s really enabled us to kind of fast-track that learning curve.
Q. I covered Wayne Gretzky when he was about your age. He said you can play the regular season, but until you actually play in the playoffs, you can’t really measure either yourself or your team. Is that the way you see it, too? Is it a matter of progression?
SIDNEY CROSBY: Yeah, I think so. I don’t think you play hockey to play regular seasons, make the playoffs. You play to win the playoffs. I think the regular season is the process of getting there. As you can see through the past, it doesn’t matter if you’re one through eight, you just got to get there an anything can happen after that. Obviously the teams who can gain momentum and gain confidence are probably better off. You see that with a lot of teams, that they gain confidence through the first round, they get on a roll, end up making a fight for the Stanley Cup. I think that’s a great way of looking at it. Really the regular season is what it is. When it comes playoff time, that’s when the best teams and the best players have to rise to the occasion.
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