PITTSBURGH – Last summer, the marketing people at the NHL came to Sidney Crosby with a somewhat unusual request.
As part of its excellent advertising campaign, it had a still photo of Crosby and his teammates after the Penguins lost Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final and had him step out of the picture to talk about the experience.
“I don’t want to ever have this feeling again,” Crosby says in the commercial.
Here we are a year later and one day before the biggest game of his life, Crosby reflected on the irony of that situation.
“Yeah, I’ve thought about that,” Crosby said. “That was something (the NHL) asked me to do and who would have known we’d be in that situation again? It’s kind of funny how it all worked out and I guess we’ll see in the next little while how things turn out.”
Crosby will almost certainly have a good amount to say about how things turn out in Game 7 and whether or not he has that same sinking feeling again. To be kind, Crosby has struggled in Detroit in both Stanley Cup finals.
On the flip side, Crosby has proved during this year’s post-season he is a big-game player who can respond positively when his team needs him most. He was very good in Game 7 against the Washington Capitals and his only goal of this series so far turned out to be the game-winner in Game 3 that got the Penguins back in the series.
But there must be pressure on Crosby to have a big game. It’s all well and good that Evgeni Malkin is a superstar having a superstar run in the playoffs, but Crosby is the face of the franchise. Should he and the Penguins manage to upset the Red Wings in Game 7, Crosby would join a pantheon of past Pittsburgh champions that includes Mario Lemieux, Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Terry Bradshaw and Joe Greene and a contemporary in Ben Roethlisberger.
Crosby tries not to let the weight of expectation consume him, however.
“There might be a sense of responsibility,” Crosby said, “but everyone feels a part of it.”
Crosby compared the Game 7 situation to his previous pressure cookers in the World Junior Championship, where he appeared twice for Canada. In 2004, he was a 16-year-old player who was not a front-liner on a team that included some of the biggest young stars in the league in Ryan Getzlaf, Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Brent Burns, Dion Phaneuf and future teammates Marc-Andre Fleury and Maxime Talbot. That team carried a two-goal lead into the third period before falling apart and losing to the USA.
A year later, Crosby played on a line with Patrice Bergeron and Corey Perry and helped Canada to the gold with an assist in a 6-1 win over Russia. Later that year, he played in the Memorial Cup final, but his Rimouski Oceanic was overmatched and tired, ultimately losing to the London Knights, one of the most dominant teams in major junior history.
One thing about Crosby is certain. His pedigree and his history suggest that if he is not successful against the Red Wings in Game 7, it will not be because of a lack of preparation or effort. Largely at Crosby’s insistence, the Penguins changed hotels in Detroit to the same one they stayed in prior to winning Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final last year.
“Now is not the time to have any regrets,” Crosby said. “You have to leave it out there and empty the tank and no matter what happens, you can hold your head high that you did the right thing.”
FLEURY'S TIME TO SHINE
Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has experienced his fair share of disappointments in big games. Fleury hopes to reverse that trend Friday when his Penguins face Detroit in Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup final. Ken Campbell reports from Pittsburgh. PRODUCER: Ted Cooper.
Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesday and Fridays and his column, Campbell's Cuts, appears Mondays.
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