Unlike Lemieux and Gretzky, who slowed the game to their whims, Crosby is a wi-fi center obliged to carry some dial-up linemates. Crosby plays quickly. He bursts from his own zone as if he has been launched. If his wingers can't smartly hit his stick with a pass, or if they don't have the speed to get to the net for the rebounds, Crosby's conspicuous efforts can be wasted. "With Sid," Dupuis says, "you can't be asleep for a second." Dupuis has speed but flinty hands. Kennedy has the moxie to chase rebounds when Crosby storms the net, but his size (listed as 5'11", 183 pounds) is better suited to being Frodo's wingman than Crosby's.
Shero says that adversity is simply part of the learning curve for an organization coping with the exigencies of the salary cap. Pittsburgh has been built around the middle of the ice, with Fleury, centers Crosby, Malkin, Jordan Staal and defensemen Brooks Orpik and Whitney signed to long-term deals. "These are good kids who do care," Shero says. "With their talent level and game experience, I suspect they'll be fine."
Between shivers Crosby says, "We'll see what we're made of down the stretch," a self-directed challenge. Just as the young Eric Lindros didn't have to skate with his head up through the neutral zone, Crosby, who ultimately will be judged not merely by his goals and points but by those around him, hasn't had to nudge his teammates several rungs up the talent ladder. Until now. Sid the Kid will not be forever young, but at age 21, it is time to create a Warren Young.