PITTSBURGH -- Despite his youth, Sidney Crosby has played in a ton of big games.
Crosby has played and won for Canada in the World Juniors and the Olympics. He has played in a Memorial Cup as a junior-aged player with Rimouski. And he already has 61 Stanley Cup Playoff games under his belt, including two Game 7 appearances last season.
So Wednesday night's Game 7 at Mellon Arena against the Montreal Canadiens (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS) in the Eastern Conference Semifinals is nothing new for the Pittsburgh Penguins captain. He knows what is at stake and how to prepare for a winner-take-all game.
Crosby knows that if his team wins, it will advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the third-straight year, keeping hope alive for a defense of the Stanley Cup title won last spring. Lose and the Penguins go home far earlier than anyone expected.
Wednesday morning, Crosby held court on what a Game 7 experience is like, what the Penguins most do in this Game 7 and how, if at all, the game changes when he is paired with Evgeni Malkin on the same line in even-strength situations.
He also talked about the impact of Montreal defenseman Hal Gill, who missed Game 6 with a lacerated leg, but seems a good bet to play in Game 7. Finally, he discussed how loose his team was for the morning skate, even welcoming Malkin's father onto the ice for a quick pre-practice twirl.
Question: The fact that you played a Game 7 against Detroit in the Stanley Cup Final, does that help you guys now?
Crosby: It doesn't change anything. We have to find a way to win. It's good preparation and that helps a little bit, but you still have to go out there and do it. I think we are focused on playing this Game 7.
Question: You guys have done a good job of drawing penalties throughout this series. Is that something you need to do more of tonight?
Crosby: It's not a switch. You can't just turn it on. It's got to be there throughout the year. That's so important. Your play is going to dictate whether you draw penalties -- whether you are playing in the offensive zone, whether you are creating things and forcing them to take penalties. I think your play is always a direct result of them taking penalties for the most part.
Question: Can you talk a little about (Jaroslav) Halak and what you have to do to beat him?
Crosby: He's made some key saves when he has needed to. I think we just have to get traffic. That's always a difficult thing for a goalie; getting traffic and getting second and third chances. You have to find a way to get those rebounds. Nothing changes from our mentality or what we want to do normally. He's made the saves, but it is still up to us to find a way to put the puck in the net. All those habits, This is where they come into play.
Question: Is there anything tangible you have learned from all the Game 7s and big games you have played in your career?
Crosby: I don't know. You just have to go out their and believe in your game. Everybody has an identity as a team. You don't get this far by swaying from that when you get to a big game. A big game like that, you have to make sure your identity is at your best and you give yourself the best chance. Again, it is one game and anything can happen, so you have to give yourself the best chance by playing the right way.
Question: It appears they are trying to avoid engaging you physically down low. Is that accurate at all?
Crosby: I think it is different, depending on the play or the read. I am sure they are trying to make sure they are active with their sticks and making sure they are not giving up a Lot of room to beat a guy. Everybody plays differently, but at the end of the day, you still have to find a way to beat that.
Question: You guys had a ringer on the ice this morning. Ever think about your dad coming out there? Was it funny seeing him out there?
Crosby: I didn't expect to see him out there for sure. Yeah, it was funny.
Question: (Hal) Gill and (Josh) Gorges have been out there for a lot of the power-play goals you have had. How important is it to get one or both of them in there and how much does it affect their penalty kill?
Crosby: If you play in the offensive zone time after time, they are going to have to either let you go or (we'll) draw penalties. Like you say, they are logging key minutes on their penalty kill, but who is out there doesn't matter. I think it is just a great result of our game if we are making guys have to hold us, hook us or obstruct us. That means we are in and around their net and we are finding a way to create things. We want to make sure we are generating things.
Question: How much did you notice Gill being out last game?
Crosby: For obvious reasons, because I have been playing against him. But I don't think they played any differently. They play as a five-man unit. Hal is a guy that takes up a lot of room, has a great stick and blocks lots of shots, but they've got other guys that have bought into that as well. I think whoever you are playing against, you expect that.
Question: When coach puts you and Malkin together even strength, does your game change at all?
Crosby: No. Just be ready to get the puck if Geno's got it. If anything, that is the direct result of getting space if they have to deal with us both. Hopefully, that opens up somebody. You just have to make sure you are supporting the puck and aware of where he is and that kind of thing; but I don't think too much changes.
Question: How surprised are you to be in a Game 7 against these guys?
Crosby: I think everybody else is, but when you play in the playoffs, you expect it to be tough. I think you always prepare for the toughest route to get there. You hope you win four all the time, you hope you win every game; but that's not the way it works. If you want to have success, you have to find ways to make it work, especially in tough scenarios like this. I did not expect this to go four games. I expected this to be tough and that is exactly what it has been.