Greetings, hockey fans…
So, an interesting scene just took place at Consol Energy Center. There was a podium, there was Sidney Crosby, and there was Evgeni Malkin.
This might not seem like a big deal, but in reality, it is.
The Penguins have appeared horribly disjointed most of this spring. They never appear on the same page, have bursts of brilliance followed by bursts of grotesque hockey. Some nights, frankly, they don’t seem to show up to inexplicable extents.
This hasn’t been a spring of great accountability for these Penguins.
And yet, today was different.
Players don’t really enjoy press conference settings. In particular, Crosby and Malkin don’t enjoy them. And make no mistake, they didn’t have to today. They could have easily declined. But they didn’t.
Consider this: Malkin has spoken to the media twice all postseason and probably fewer than 10 times this season. He doesn’t enjoy it. The language barrier is still uncomfortable for him. He’s got some shyness in his personality and has grown comfortable leaving Crosby to absorb the brunt of the questions. Sitting at a press conference? That’s something he literally hasn’t done in years.
But there he was, answering all of the questions, pleasant or otherwise. And he did so with thoughtfulness and a touch of humor.
And then there is Crosby.
He took some very difficult questions from the Pittsburgh and New York reporters following Sunday’s Game 6. He handled them in stride, but almost certainly didn’t enjoy the experience. These are tough times for him. The greatest player in the world isn’t supposed to score one goal in his past 17 playoff games, and he knows it. He was bombarded with questions on Sunday. I’m willing to bet he would have enjoyed nothing more than a day off on Monday. (Oh, this needs to be mentioned. Crosby, arguably the world’s most superstitious man, hates speaking at the podium. No, he really hates it. He just won’t do it. It’s never been totally clear why he hates it so much. Some believe he doesn’t like special treatment, so he likes to speak in the locker room like everyone else. Others think it’s superstition. Whatever the case may be, he has only spoken at the podium in a non-medical press conference a couple of times in the past five years.)
But there he was, too.
The Penguins seem disjointed, out of sorts, not on the same page. At times, they don’t strike you as having an especially close locker room. Something just doesn’t seem right.
Crosby and Malkin, though, remain very much united. That has been clear all season, and it was especially the case on this late afternoon at Consol Energy Center.
Malkin pointed out a story from March when Crosby, sensing that Malkin was in a post-Olympics funk, pulled him aside and the two spoke about Sochi and other topics. Since that talk, Malkin has probably been the world’s greatest hockey player.
Here are some tidbits from the press conference:
= Malkin was in a particularly jovial mood. When Pens media relations head/Say Yes to the Dress Star Jen Bullano opened the press conference by inviting reporters to ask questions, Malkin responded, “I’ll ask the first question,” drawing some laughter. He never did ask a questions, but it was Malkin, so it was funny, because he is funny.
= Crosby wouldn’t bite on his conversation with Mario Lemieux following Game 6. I was the last reporter out of the locker room and saw Crosby and Lemieux having a conversation, the only two people left in the
locker room. Crosby said today that the conversation was no big deal, that they talked about the same things as usual. He also noted that Lemieux does indeed know what it’s like to be in his shoes. Crosby explained that, when things aren’t going well, he prefers not discussing them. A little serenity can be good, I suppose.
= Crosby said it doesn’t matter if he plays on a line with Malkin tomorrow or not. “We have to create offense one way or the other,” he said.
There will be far more about Crosby and Malkin – along with an enormous amount of coverage – in tomorrow’s Trib. If you’re up late, check out the website. You won’t be disappointed.
What will happen tomorrow? I don’t know. No one knows. But the team’s top two players are on the same page. And they showed it. There is something to be said for that.
Until tomorrow, nervous hockey fans…hang in there.