PITTSBURGH -- Although this has hardly been a normal season for Sidney Crosby, the Pittsburgh captain insists he feels nothing different as he approaches his first playoff series in two years.
“No. I don’t think anything’s changed as far as mindset or anything like that,” Crosby said after the Pens’ practice Tuesday in anticipation of Game 1 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Philadelphia Flyers Wednesday night. "Playoffs are an exciting time, and when you try to be the most focused and it’s all about winning, that’s what makes it so fun. As far as I know, I don’t think anything’s changed."
Crosby came back twice from concussion-related issues and was on fire, recording 25 points in the final 14 games of the regular season.
He missed last season’s first-round loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning because of the concussion issues, but he insisted the motivation remains the same, regardless of his absence from last season’s playoff series.
“It’s always there, whether you’ve missed two years or not. I think you’re excited to play in the playoffs; that’s why you work so hard. It’s to get to this point,” he said. "It’s pretty simple, pretty clear -- everyone cares about winning, they don’t care about anything else. That’s what I like most about it."
Coach Dan Bylsma said he thinks the 14-game stretch at the end of the season was critical for Crosby in terms of getting his timing back, sharpening his mental game, working in different situations that he hasn’t been in because of his injury.
“He wanted to play 14 games. He thought it was important to play 14 games to get ready for the postseason, to get ready for the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs,” Bylsma said. “I think you see a guy who’s really, really excited, really focused on getting back and playing in a Stanley cup playoff game, which starts tomorrow.”
While the Penguins are considered one of the top contenders for the Stanley Cup given their health and skill set, Crosby cautioned that talent alone isn’t a recipe for success in the spring, but that the determining factor is in the details and how teams execute them.
“That’s what separates teams. Everyone has the will to win the Cup. Everyone wants to do it, but execution and details end up being the difference," he said. "There’s a lot of good hockey teams in the playoffs. A lot of good hockey teams that don’t win the Cup, and that’s for a reason.
“If I were to talk about our group, though, I think we’ve really focused on those details and all those different things throughout the season. It’s not something that has to be just turned on a switch when the playoffs come. So I think we’re confident in that area and we feel like we’ve done the right things leading up to this point to give ourselves a chance to do it,” he said.