Pens' Crosby hits road block at Ottawa
By Karen Price
Saturday, April 14, 2007
OTTAWA - This playoff series is not Sidney Crosby against the Ottawa Senators.
Because of that, Penguins coach Michel Therrien is miffed at all the focus being placed on the 19-year-old center.
"That's got to stop a little bit," Therrien said Friday, when asked if Crosby needs to do something different heading into today's Game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals series at Scotiabank Place. "For us as a team, we have to play a better game, and we will."
Still, there is no denying the Penguins need Crosby to produce in order to win a seven-game series, or that the Senators have been good at shutting him down over the course of his young career.
Crosby had one apparent goal called back and scored one that actually counted in the third period of Wednesday's 6-3 loss. The disallowed goal happened seconds after the Senators' fourth goal, and his power-play goal came in the final minute of the game.
In the four regular-season meetings between the two teams this year, Crosby was limited to one goal and three assists, all on the power play, and was a minus-4, tied with Nils Ekman for the worst on the team.
In seven career games against the Senators coming into the playoff series, Crosby had only one goal and four assists. Of the 10 Eastern Conference teams outside of the Atlantic Division, he has the fewest career points against the Senators.
Part of the reason why the Senators are the opposite of the Philadelphia Flyers (against which Crosby has 30 points in 16 career games) is the defensive pairing of Chris Phillips, the nine-year veteran and No. 1 overall pick in 1996, and Anton Volchenkov, a four-year veteran and another first-round pick (21st overall) from 2000.
"I've played against (the Senators) for a couple years now where it was either them or (current Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno) Chara," Crosby said. "It's not something that I go into a game and think about a whole lot. I play against tough defensemen all year. They're a good pairing, there's no doubt. You can't take anything away from them. But that's part of hockey is going against challenges like that."
The challenge is especially great in Ottawa, where Senators coach Bryan Murray can dictate pairings and matchups.
But playing against the opponent's top defensive pairing and top forward lines is nothing new to Crosby, who's been drawing such matchups for as long as he's been playing hockey.
So do the Senators do something different against Crosby, or do they just do the job better than most?
"A little bit of both," Penguins radio commentator Phil Bourque said. "Obviously, Volchenkov and Phillips are talented guys, and they're mobile guys, so they can skate with Sid. The biggest difference that I see right now - and it's going to be hard for them to maintain it throughout the series - is limiting his time and space. They have a very tight gap up against him, so it makes it difficult for him to generate speed. And when he has full speed, I don't care who you are, I don't know if you can defend against him.
"He'll find ways. Maybe he has to come in a little deeper into his own zone so there's a bigger gap between him and the defensemen. That will hopefully give him the ability to build up more speed as he enters the Ottawa zone."
The Penguins were 3-1 against the Senators in the regular season this year, with two shootout wins. They were 0-4-0 against them last season.
Crosby said the fun part is adjusting and making plays against big, physical defensemen.
"At the end of the night, it's rewarding if you're able to create things and help your team win, especially when you're getting tested like that," he said. "They're out there doing their job, and as an offensive player, you have to try and go out there and do yours."