A public person
in Canada since adolescence (like Gretzky), Crosby has grown inured to praise.
He frets about his flaws and picks at his shortcomings as if they were scabs.
He wants to become as dangerous a scorer as he is a passer. He had improved his
45.5 face-off percentage as a rookie to 49.7, but he realizes that, given his
strength and smarts, break-even on faceoffs is not good enough. And more than
anything he wants to be on the ice in the last minute of a one-goal game,
protecting a lead. Forget Gretzky comparisons. Drawing this defensive
responsibility is the compliment Crosby craves. Says Therrien, "He's done
it a little already. He's about there."
second-period power play at Buffalo in early January, Crosby was yo-yoing the
puck between the right half boards and the point, waiting for the moment he
could abuse Jason Pominville, a Sabres penalty killer who had the misfortune of
losing his stick. As the power play ticked down, Crosby skated two strides
toward the right face-off circle, puckhandled and saucered a cross-ice pass--a
hat trick of patience, vision and creativity--to Ryan Whitney, who buried the
puck in an open net. The Penguins beat the Eastern Conference leaders 4--2, and
later Crosby, full lips pursed, eyes locked on questioners, deconstructed the
game with a polite earnestness.
Then, when the
interviews were over, he stood at his stall and flipped an empty Gatorade
bottle at a trash can 15 feet away. The bottle hit the front rim and bounced
over. "Fleur, Fleur, throw it back," Crosby called to goalie Marc-Andr�
Fleury, who complied but then impishly dangled his hockey pants over the mouth
of the can. Crosby's next toss struck Fleury's pants and bounded away.
"That was going straight in."
Crosby shouted, using a Quebec epithet that he learned in Rimouski.
wandered away, Crosby tried it again. The bottle soared end over end and ...
nothing but net. Then hockey's best player, not 19 going on 29 but, for a
moment, 19 going on nine, grinned and pumped his fist.
his sophomore season, 19-year-old center Sidney Crosby's statistics were on par
with those that Wayne Gretzky (right) put up in 1979--80, the season that he
turned 19 as a first-year NHL center. However, while 7.02 goals were scored per
game in Gretzky's season, the average for 2006--07, through Sunday, was only
5.95. After adjusting Crosby's production to reflect that disparity in offense,
his numbers climb even higher.
contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
TOTALS (79 GAMES)