PITTSBURGH — There’s a saying around the Penguins’ dressing room.
If Sidney Crosby says it, it’s news.
Understandable, considering his prominent place in this league and in this sport. But, honestly, it makes for a real pain in the ass for reporters when Crosby is at the center of the action, as he was in the first two games of this playoff series against the Flyers.
To set the scene, when reporters are allowed into the Penguins’ room after home games, there are usually several players seated at their stalls, available for questions. Almost always, Crosby is there, expecting a group that quickly arrives. In the playoffs, that means about 10 reporters, five TV cameras, a couple of interns and maybe a PR representative in the back to monitor the ‘scrum.’
So, if you want to ask Crosby a question, as I did after Friday’s loss, you have to be a) quick, and b) willing to get boxed in and possibly miss other players you want to interview.
Throwing caution to the air conditioning, I high-tailed it for Crosby’s stall at the far end of the room. I ended up pressed chest-to-chest with the Post-Gazette’s Jason Mackey, but I managed to get a prime spot next to Crosby, whose hat was pulled down low to shield the TV lights.
While waiting for an opening to fire away, I happened to catch a glimpse of what Crosby sees after every game … and it is terrifying. Nothing but blank faces, lifeless camera lenses and blinking voice recorders, all directed at the man in the middle.
It’s coincidental I noticed this suffocating view on a night like this when Crosby went from hat-trick hero to a big ol’ zero in 48 hours. I exaggerate, of course, but he did have a zero in the goal category despite two gilded chances in the second period.
And all of us gathered around Crosby wanted to know how in the world he missed the net on that gorgeous Phil Kessel dish in the dying moments of the second period:
There’s something that doesn’t happen very often. pic.twitter.com/VVsF2YU1eV
— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) April 14, 2018
“I was in between trying to stop it or one-time it,” Crosby explained, a semi-annoyed look still on his face. “Still, you have to find a way to put in regardless. If I find a way to put that in, it’s 2-1, it’s a different game. That one and the breakaway was a big turning point in the game.”
You know it’s an odd game when Crosby has not one, but two egregious failures to score to recall afterward. And, no, he’s not immune to looking back in frustration.
“Yeah, you always look back,” he admitted. “It’s the what-ifs. That happens sometimes. That’s the way the playoffs go, you play well, generate some chances and sometimes it doesn’t go your way. Just some execution (has to improve). … I look at that one late (in the period) and it would’ve turned momentum. They would’ve been important goals.”
Although he couldn’t follow up his 2016-17 Rocket Richard Trophy, Crosby got hot late in the regular season, putting together a five-game goal streak to finish with 29 on the year. Then came the three-goal burst in Game 1, his third playoff trick and his first of the natural variety.
Maybe it was the confidence renewed by his recent hot shooting. Perhaps he believed that the Penguins did more good than bad despite the four-goal final margin. Either way, by the end of the group interrogation, he expressed the kind of nonchalant certainly you’d expect from a surefire Hockey Hall of Famer.
“The chances were there,” he said. “I’ll put those in most times.”
Much like every phrase that emanates from Crosby’s mouth, that statement resonated, whether you were all up in his sweaty mug or struggling to get within earshot.