The Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders have developed some animosity during their East Division first-round playoff series. There is more than likely some underlying professional respect there, too.
But one thing is clear coming from the Islanders: Coach Barry Trotz holds Penguins center and team captain Sidney Crosby in high regard. The highest regard, actually.
That’s not something new. Trotz has complimented Crosby as a hockey player and as a person many times.
But it’s worth mentioning because Trotz, during the Islanders post-practice media availability Sunday (the Penguins had a day off), gave one of his better soliloquies on Crosby.
The context was the way the Islanders — who tied the series at 2-2 Saturday with a 4-1 win going into Game 5 Monday at PPG Paints Arena – have held Crosby and his linemates fairly well in check.
Crosby’s only point this series is a goal in Game 1.
Trotz didn’t get into much in terms of the on-ice details of Crosby’s performance in this series or, really, overall, although he did mention that this is his fifth time coaching against Crosby in the playoffs – and that would be with two different teams.
The Islanders coach also didn’t specifically mention Crosby’s two big-time defensive plays this series, once when he poked away a puck that had gotten behind goaltender Tristan Jarry and was headed for the goal line, and once when he lunged to get his stick on a shot by Brock Nelson to send it wide of a gaping net beside Jarry.
His praise of Crosby came more in generalities, and even more so crossed into the person he perceives Crosby to be. It’s not the first time Trotz has spoken about Crosby’s character. While coaching the Washington Capitals in a 2018 series against the Penguins, Trotz recounted a touching interaction between Crosby and Trotz’s son.
Sunday, among other things, Trotz touched on Crosby’s time as the face of the NHL and even hockey, noting that he and Washington’s Alex Ovechkin, early in their careers, helped the NHL regain its footing after a season lost to a work stoppage and teams adjusting to what then was a new salary cap.
Here is Trotz’s full take on Crosby from Sunday:
“He’s had one goal, but he’s dangerous. He’s an elite player who plays an elite game night in and night out. We just hope to contain him.
“The top players like him … I have so much respect for Sid as a player and a person. I think this is the fifth time we’ve been going against Sid in a playoffs, for myself, and he’s an exceptional, exceptional player and a great example of what an NHL player is in this league.
“He’s a gold standard. He’s carried this league – him and Ovi. When the league really needed it, him and Ovi carried it. He’s been a great example and a great example for the NHL.”
You can watch Trotz’s full media availability here:
🎥 Trotz Practice Availability 🎥 pic.twitter.com/EcNL7cVajt
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) May 23, 2021