Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Oh my Gary, the playoffs are coming!

(From the Canadian Press, TSN.ca)


Sidney Crosby would have never admitted this a year ago but on the eve of his second NHL playoffs, the Pittsburgh Penguins superstar centre revealed just how awestruck he and his young teammates were when the puck first dropped last spring in Ottawa.

''The first 10 minutes,'' an introspective Crosby said Tuesday. ''I mean, it felt like they had eight guys out there. We were just watching, trying to feel it out. They weren't. They were taking the play to us.''

Even the great ones have to learn for themselves. No matter how much veterans such as Gary Roberts had warned his young bucks, the intensity and emotion of the NHL playoffs is something players must experience first-hand before knowing how to prepare for it.

''You can watch as much as you want but being in that atmosphere, being in that environment, knowing how to react and things like that - just having that sense of `I've been through this before,''' said Crosby. ''It's very emotional when you're in the playoffs so the more you're prepared for what can happen, the better you are.''


''Nobody likes to lose,'' said Crosby. ''We have a lot of guys who have a lot of pride and character and don't accept losing. We want to be better for that experience and hopefully this is our chance to prove it.''

Roberts has noticed the difference in his young teammates a year later.

''Mentally I think we're a stronger team this time around just because of what we went through in the playoffs last year and the adversity that we went through this season to finish second in the conference,'' said Roberts.

Crosby also points to the adversity his team faced this season as another growth factor. Both he and Fleury were among the long list of key injuries but the Penguins never lost a beat.

''It would have been easy to have a lot of excuses for not winning this year,'' said Crosby. ''We lost our goalie for three months. Myself, Roberts, (Mark) Eaton. The list goes on. We came out of that, which I think says a lot about the character of our team. I think we're a stronger group than we were a year ago.''

Crosby was flying on the ice during his team's practice ahead of Wednesday night's opener against the Senators in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final (CBC, 7 p.m. ET). Anyone who saw him skate Tuesday would not believe all the rumours suggesting the 20-year-old native of Cole Harbour, N.S., is still hampered by the high ankle sprain that knocked him out of 28 games from January to March.

''I'm fine,'' he said. ''I think there's a lot of speculation with my ankle because they sat me out on Sunday (in Pittsburgh's regular-season finale). But that's really not the case. It was more of just getting a rest and just making sure that I'm ready for the playoffs.

''But the ankle is giving me no problems whatsoever.''

That's a scary thought for Senators fans who saw him collect five points (3-2) in his first five career playoff games last spring despite, it was later revealed, playing on a broken foot.

Now he says he's healthy this time around, until that is, a Senators player gives him a two-hand chop a la Bobby Clarke on his ankle. That was the suggestion of a columnist in Tuesday's edition of the Ottawa Sun, a story that quickly made the rounds of the Penguins dressing room.



Get ready, Ottawa Senators, because it's payback time.

Twenty-four hours until puck drop.

[Hossa - Crosby - Fleury - Malkin]


DaBich said...

I am so pumped for this game!

Ashley said...

I know!! I'm so glad that CBC is broadcasting the Pens/Sens and the Sharks/Flames so that I can watch from here. I believe Gary Roberts had something to do with that.