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Crosby and Penguins need to put frustrations aside

May 12, 2010, 5:15 PM EDT

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Crosby5.jpgI’ve written before how Sidney Crosby’s obvious frustration was a
good sign for the Canadiens
, and as the series has worn on you’re seeing
that frustration more and more. Crosby was able to get his first goal
of the series in Game 6, although he was held to just three shots in the
game and overall has just five points in the series.

Not that big
a deal if the rest of the team was picking up the slack, but with
Crosby and Evgeni Malkin struggling we’ve yet to see the secondary
scoring of the Penguins truly step up.

At the heart of the matter
is the emotional makeup of the Penguins as they gear up for tonight’s
big game and whether Crosby’s outbursts have been a detriment to the
team. The Penguins have played at times like a team that is scared to
make a mistake while the Canadiens continue play loose, knowing that
they were never expected to make it this far.

The pressure is all on the
Penguins at this point, and it’s showing.

This isn’t so much
about the Habs’ ability to keep Crosby in check as it is about some of
the troubled signs we’ve seen at times as he’s been continuously
frustrated by the Canadiens. There’s no doubt that the Habs are playing
Crosby as physical as they possibly can and those that feel that the NHL
and the officials are all on his side don’t have much of a leg to stand
on as he’s constantly grabbed, hit and taken down to the ice.

We’ve
seen Crosby unleash a two-handed slash with his stick at the goalpost,
angrily throwing the broken stick away. Last game we witnessed Crosby
take on a few Canadiens after time had expired in the team’s 4-3 loss.

While
I think his complaints to the officials are a bit overblown — every
player in the NHL does the same thing — the issue here is how visible
Crosby is and how every action he takes on the ice is intensely
scrutinized.

He’s an incredibly talented player who has been
elevated to divinity status in the hockey world, aided by being named
captain of the teams he’s on. Winning the Stanley Cup and an Olympic
gold medal as captain have seemingly made Crosby into an infallible
leader on the ice, where no matter what he might do it’s perfectly fine.
He’s won a Stanley Cup and a gold medal, there’s no use in questioning
his leadership ability.

But this is a new season, a new team and a
new run for the Stanley Cup. What he’s done before was great, but
seeing him come close to falling apart at times has been troubling.
There’s no way to tell whether his actions are affecting the rest of the
team but we’ve yet to see the Penguins come completely apart. But as we
approach tonight’s game, and the feeling of how each team is
approaching the game, you have to wonder if the pressure is getting to
them.

The Penguins, like the Boston Bruins, need to put use their
emotions more efficiently. It’s fine to be angry, it’s fine to be ultra
competitive and frustrated, but when you aren’t putting that energy
towards your actual play on the ice is when the problems start.

The
Edmonton Journal has a good blog entry today on this subject, taking
excerpts from the book Simply the Best: Insights and Strategies from
Great Hockey Coaches. I
thought this quote was exceptionally relevant:

*
Pat Quinn:
“I think body language and self-talk are really
important and revealing. I used to watch a young Trevor Linden in
Vancouver come to the bench like it was the end of the world, and I’d
say, ‘Wake up. If you’re afraid of mistakes, don’t show the rest of the
world.’ Davey Keon was not much older than me when I first started
playing in Toronto, but he was very accomplished at a young age. One
night I came back to the bench and banged my stick after a shift that I
didn’t like. Dave told me, ‘If you do that again, I’m going to give you
the stick. You don’t show 20,000 people that you’re unhappy with
yourself, and you don’t show the other bench either.’ It made a lot of
sense to me.”

Well said.

Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. K. Hayes (1827)
  2. R. Johansen (1725)
  3. S. Crosby (1664)
  4. J. Spezza (1438)
  5. A. Ovechkin (1326)
  1. C. MacArthur (1222)
  2. D. Alfredsson (1220)
  3. S. Mason (1216)
  4. J. Giguere (1202)
  5. R. Malone (1157)