Players waiting for Crosby
Players waiting for Crosby
Will captain shine late like in Vancouver?
Right now he is not shining but tied with Finnish goalie Kari Lehtonen in tournament scoring - and Lehtonen has played one fewer game.
Captain Sidney Crosby is at it again. Another slow start just as it went in Vancouver four years ago. But given the historic ending to that 2010 Olympics in which number 87 emerged a hero for all time, can one expect or assume a similar ending will play out for Canada in Sochi?
Two major differences between 2010 and 2014 stick out. First, Canada has qualified directly to the quarter-finals here in Sochi, so it won’t have that precious extra game to develop team chemistry and work out the kinks.
Second, Crosby is wearing the “C” this year. Sure, he was looked on as a leader four years ago, but the actual captain, Scott Niedermayer, was able to deflect much of the overt attention away from number 87. Not this year. It’s Sid, first and last and every minute of every day.
It feels as though the entire Canadian offence is waiting for Crosby to lead, waiting for him to break out and score and set up a bunch of goals to show them the way.
That hasn’t happened, but for the grace of defencemen Drew Doughty (four goals) and Shea Weber (two goals), the team’s offensive output might be fairly compared to the anemic performance of the team in Turin 2006.
So what can coach Mike Babcock do to ignite El Sid? What can Sid do to self-ignite? Forthwith a few suggestions.
Be more selfish
Too often Crosby gets the puck and looks to dish it off right away. He has great speed and strength, great one-on-one ability, and a reputation such that he can draw penalties. Drive to the net more. Shoot more. Be physical with puck-handling and protect the puck rather than use the “pass first” mentality. Get shots on goal. If they don’t go in, they’ll create rebounds aplenty.
More ice time
Ya, ya, the bigger ice, a team full of superstars who all want more time. Roll over four lines. Whatever. A typical Crosby shift sees him often go up and down and off. That’s just not enough time to get creative, to be aggressive with the puck, or to get the puck. File this under point one - be more selfish. Crosby can’t skate for 40 seconds and sit on the bench for three more shifts before seeing the light of day again. Get him out with his linemates and also as centre for the fourth line.
Play the PK
Crosby is a great skater. One less man on the ice equals more ice. Babcock needs the same philosophy. Don’t have Crosby blocking Chara-like shots, but get him some PK time to keep him in the game.
Try Kunitz on the port side and Bergeron starboard. The Pittsburgh connection has worked well all year with Crosby and Kunitz, and Bergeron knows how to get the puck to Crosby through the neutral zone when 87 can explode up the middle and terrify the defence. They have a history, and that history not only served Crosby well but also Bergeron. Two for one. And Bergeron doesn't need to take faceoffs - Crosby is one of the best in the league, especially on his forehand side.
Ride him like a captain
Of the 30 captains in the NHL, 12 are in Sochi and an incredible seven are on Team Canada. Crosby is surrounded by leadership, but he needs to feel he is THE captain. All of the above are ways in which Crosby can be made to feel important. Sitting on the bench during a four-minute penalty kill won’t help. Forty-second shifts on one of four lines isn’t going to do it. Push him. Give him the responsibility not with a letter on the sweater but in the way he is treated on ice. “Captain” doesn’t mean “player who has to do all the interviews in the mixed zone.” Think Mario Lemieux in Salt Lake.
The last time Crosby played on the big ice was at his first and only World Championship, in 2006 in Riga. He was dominant. At 18, he became the youngest player to lead the tournament in scoring. Now is a good time to review some tape from that event to remind him of how he played and what he did so well.
The team needs Crosby if it is to win gold, and Crosby needs to get going in a big way. He needs to bet the puck in flight. He needs to drive to the net. That’s where goals are scored, that’s where he can create trouble, that’s where he can be most intimidating. He needs to be the leader. The team is counting on that.
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