Sidney Crosby used to be called “Sid the Kid” when he came into the NHL, now it’s time to find him a new moniker. Whether it’s “Sid the Adult” or “Sid the Grown-up” I’m not sure. Neither one sound as good nor do they rhyme, but they both fit the transformation that the Pittsburgh Penguins captain has undergone since he entered the league in 2005.
He’s changed his game on the ice with his scoring touch, his ability to see teammates and read the game. Unlike some players, as he has aged his mentality has too. Never has this been more evident than in Game Two of the 2016 Stanley Cup Finals against the San Jose Sharks.
As we all know, Crosby has a history of concussions (2) and Joe Thornton obviously is aware of this and was trying to get after him. Late in the second period of Game Two with the Sharks already down 1-0, Thornton was pinned against the boards by Crosby and passed the puck out. After the puck leaves, Crosby kept Thornton next to the glass for a couple of extra seconds just as a “hey how ya doin’?” Thornton took exception/tried to egg on Crosby. With a quick left uppercut, off came Crosby’s helmet as the Penguins captain skated away only to be cross-checked in the back. As soon as the whistle blew a few seconds later, Crosby asked the ref, who was only a few feet away, if he saw the jumbo Sharks player give the Pens center the business. Crosby, as you can imagine, did not retaliate.
Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan has come into this Penguins team and preached turning the other cheek. When things haven’t gone their way in the past they have acted out. We saw Kris Letang lose his cool in the Washington Capitals series and take it out on Caps forward Marcus Johansson after Capitals’ head coach Barry Trotz had called on the refs to watch out for the Pens because he felt they were getting away with everything. As you may recall, that earned Letang a one game suspension and could have flipped the series in the Caps’ favor. If Letang didn’t learn his lesson there, he could have learned it in Game 4 of the Tampa Bay series when he shot the puck after the whistle and it hit Jonathan Drouin. Tampa Bay’s Brad Boyle tried to come in and re-arrange Letang’s face before the linesmen and refs stepped in.
However in the Finals it seems that either Sullivan and/or Crosby have changed the mentality of the team. You can try to get after this team but they aren’t taking the bait. In fact part of the problem is that San Jose is having a hard time catching this team. It’s enough for San Jose to keep the puck out of their own zone and keep possession much less control it in the offensive end of the zone. Watching Crosby keep his cool as Thornton beat on his head showed the determination and grit that this team has had since Sullivan took over. Yes, they are undersized and they may be young but what they lack in some areas they are making up for in heart, speed and the all out will to win. Whether you think that Crosby is over-rated or not, it doesn’t matter, he’s playing the best hockey of his career and if he continues he’s going to lead a group of rookies and speedy talented players with a take-no-prisoners coach to hockey’s ultimate prize. All because he figured out that he can’t play a kid’s game anymore, it’s time to play like an adult.