PITTSBURGH -- No doubt Sidney Crosby didn't figure it would
take this long.
No, not to score his first goal -- that came two weeks ago. Or to
enjoy his first multipoint game. Or to get comfortable with the
speed and physicality of the NHL after never previously playing
What Crosby hasn't done yet is win a game, and that's getting
old even for an 18-year-old.
Crosby said last month he felt lucky because most No. 1 draft
picks play for losing-record clubs, while he landed on a talented,
deep Pittsburgh Penguins team that rapidly rebuilt itself last
summer. Most rookies, he said, don't play alongside a Mario Lemieux
or Mark Recchi, a John LeClair or Sergei Gonchar or Ziggy Palffy.
Eight games and eight losses later, four in overtime, Crosby
still thinks the Penguins are a good team -- and, he insisted
Monday, a potentially great team. What they don't have is a single
victory to prove it in a league where every other team has won at
least twice and all but two teams have at least three victories.
"We're passed the stage of frustration,'' coach Eddie Olczyk
The Penguins aren't in danger of falling out of playoff
contention only one-tenth of the way through their season -- those
four overtime losses are the points equivalent of two wins. But the
slow start could force them to play catch-up all season in the
Atlantic Division, where every other team has at least four
"It's a little frustrating, but it's hockey -- you go through
skids and this happens to be a long one, but you have to look at it
and see it's a long season,'' Crosby said. "Once we get over this
hump we'll be fine.''
Maybe these aren't desperate times yet, but the Penguins realize
they dare not struggle again during a three-game home stand this
week that starts Tuesday against Florida, not with a difficult
five-game road trip awaiting them next week.
"Going through this is a lot of adversity -- let's be honest,
there is a little bit of pressure because we haven't been winning --
and if we can get through this, we'll be better for it,'' Crosby
said. "It's not an ideal situation but now we realize it's tough
to win and we have to be ready every night. We have to dig deep and
play determined and play desperate.''
And it's not even Halloween.
Crosby himself has been anything but a disappointment, with a
team-high 11 points on two goals and nine assists. He's creating
plenty of scoring chances for himself, though he's missing a lot of
shots, and he has often played long stretches where he was clearly
the best player on the ice.
But while Crosby, Lemieux, Palffy and Recchi have been steady
and productive, most of the other Penguins have flopped. Gonchar,
signed to a $25 million contract that was larger than the Penguins'
entire 2003-04 payroll, has only one goal. LeClair has one goal and
is a minus-6. And the defensemen have been dreadful, with giveaway
after giveaway and bad penalty after bad penalty.
The Penguins took so many poor penalties away from plays in a
6-3 loss Saturday to Boston, they spent nearly six minutes with
only three skaters.
"It's tough right now, but we feel we're getting closer. We
just have to be smarter on the ice and take less penalties and make
sure we all do our jobs,'' Lemieux said of a team that is
permitting 11 more shots per game than it is taking, a remarkable
stat given the Penguins' collection of scorers.
The temptation for players such as Crosby and Lemieux has been
to overcompensate, to try to make a big play on every shift, and
that's only hastened the frustration for a team that has led in
only one of its eight games.
"You want to stay away from that,'' Crosby said. "I've had a
lot of chances, and I haven't been able to put a few in, but
they're going to come. I've hit some posts, and it's a matter of
making sure when I do have chances, I bear down.''
No problem there. Crosby clearly hasn't been awed by his
surroundings or by the league, never taking even a single shift
off. He also hasn't been the typical rookie, even jawing with the
officials a few times to try to establish from the start of his
career he won't let himself or his team get pushed around.
"Once we get rolling, we're going to be great, but it's a steep
mountain to climb when you go through this,'' Crosby said. "But
it's better we get it out of the way now. If we keep working and
start getting some bounces, we're going to be fine. If you work
hard and keep creating, things usually go your way.''