Sid The Kid's putting on a show
Since being dissed by Alex Semin, Sidney Crosby has led the NHL in points
Crosby's nightly displays of dazzling skill make even Mark Eaton look slick
Sid The Kid is the anti-Avery, humble and carefully choosing his words
Have you caught the latest installment of the Sidney Crosby Show? The run of multipoint nights, the lifting of the injury-wracked Penguins, the on-ice act that also features the artistic stylings of sidekick Evgeni Malkin and his stick of fire? You don't know what treats Sid the Kid will provide these days. Last week, he scored an empty net goal from his belly.
For all of Crosby's statistical bounce -- 13 points in six games, 22 in his last 13 -- he is hardly to be evaluated by points alone. He may have risen to second in the NHL in scoring, but he is also second, to Magnificent Malkin, on his own team. What we are seeing now, as Crosby delights his homies in Pittsburgh, stuns the crowd in Hockeytown, incites the masses in New York City, is the Kid at 21. The man-boy is now officially a man, all grown up, not just by the measure of the nation's bartenders, but in his dignity and his resolve.
Grounded? Crosby, the youngest MVP in NHL history, was asked whether he felt envy at the hoopla over LeBron James' impending free-agency, and the speculation (not shushed by LeBron, mind you) that King James might be headed for brighter lights in a bigger city. The Kid (okay, he'll always be that) from Halifax applied a little wisdom beyond his years.
"It depends on your personality, on what you want, on what's important to you," he said. "For me, I live a pretty simple life." He feels fortunate, he added, to play in Pittsburgh, where the hockey is fine and the love is real.
Proud? Crosby's scoring binge comes on the heels of a few words by a large-mouthed man in Washington, the prodigiously talented Alex Semin, who said in late October that he didn't get all the fuss about Crosby. "I don't see anything special there," said Semin, later adding, "If you take any player, even if he is dead wood, and start promoting him, you'll get a star."
Around the league, folks said Semin was barmy, but Sidney wouldn't bite back. "I don't think I really have to defend myself with words," he said when the topic was put to him last week. "I play the game and play the way I feel I have to."
Since Semin spouted, Crosby has led the NHL in points. In putting up a hat trick against the Devils on Nov. 29, he scored a goal after effectively passing the puck to himself.
Even if the spotlight is not what Crosby seeks, he sure knows how to behave when he's in it. In Detroit last month, in what has been the NHL's game of the season, Crosby started things off with a goal. He added two assists, whipped off six shots, and pushed his team to a 7-6 overtime win.
On Wednesday night, Crosby skated into Madison Square Garden, where the raucous fans began pairing his name with expletives before the National Anthem was done. In the first period, Crosby got tangled up in Broadway Blue, grappling with Ranger menace Colton Orr. Pens defender Brooks Orpik rallied to Crosby's defense, Orr drew a penalty, and the crowd hooted. Moments later, this: Crosby, forechecking, picked off a pass, scurried down the right wing, curled behind the net and threaded a nifty pass onto Mark Eaton's stick. Goal. That's one this season for Eaton, who hadn't scored in almost three years. Crosby could make a tow-truck look slick.
Crosby took a hammering all night against the Rangers -- as he so often does --but he kept bounding right up, ready to make a play. No whining for Sidney. (Remember his rookie kvetching?) This guy is physically engaged.
If there's a characteristic that hockey players most revere, it is humility. Crosby is the anti-Avery. Here he is after it was pointed out that early All-Star voting does not have him among the Eastern Conference starters -- a product of ballot-stuffing by Canadiens fans: "It would be nice to be at the All-Star game, period," Crosby offered. "If I'm not a starter, that's fine. I'll be happy to be there."
Sure, that's a bit too sweet to be true -- Sid polishes his words -- but you get the sense that he means it. In any event, hockey fans will be delighted to have him in Montreal next month, and to see just what's next on the Crosby Show.