Sidney Crosby and Internationals certainly go together well.
— Joseph Vito DeLuca (@joevitodeluca) May 17, 2015
The 27-year-old Pittsburgh Penguin has captained Team Canada twice – last year for the Sochi Olympics and this year at the the IIHF World Championships – and both times he’s led his team to victory. In the World’s, which took place in the Czech Republic, the Canadian team didn’t just win gold — the gold gave Crosby the ticket he needed to join the elite Triple Gold Club, where just 26 players and one coach – Canadian Mike Babcock – have won the Stanley Cup, Olympic Gold and World Championship Gold in their careers.
Crosby’s only Stanley Cup win, to date, came in 2009 with the Pittsburgh Penguins’ win over the Detroit Red Wings. In the playoffs that year, Crosby racked up 31 points in his 4th season in the NHL. It was only his second year as the Penguins’ captain, and it marked the 3rd time he’d managed over 100 points in the regular season (103), a threshold he’s now met six times. As for Olympic gold, he won as a player in Vancouver in 2010 (7 points) scoring the “Golden Goal” against the USA to win gold in an overtime nail biter, and as the team’s captain in Sochi in 2014 (3 points) with Team Canada’s win over Sweden.
You can see the golden goal below:
Long Time Between Worlds
The first time Crosby played in the World Championships, Canada came home medal-less, but ‘Sid the Kid’ made quite the name for himself there, bagging 8 goals and 8 assists in 8 games. In fact, Crosby won a total of three awards in the 2006 tournament in Latvia — and, at 18, was the youngest player ever to be named the tournament’s Scoring Leader. When he is asked about that tournament, he remembers it as being fun and perhaps that’s the real key to Crosby’s international success.
Internationals Mean Different Play
The international game is so much different from the way hockey is played in the NHL. You play with players from your home country, playing for your country’s pride — and not all the talent you might want to have playing on the team is available, due to the playoffs of the Stanley Cup always running in parallel to the Worlds. It’s not a best-of-seven format than can be over in four games (or can stretch on for seven) — no! — the tournaments are scheduled to run between a start date and an end date, which they do — and then they’re over, just like the Pee Wee or Bantam tournaments they played in when they were young.
As well, some of the rules are different. Take goaltenders, for example. They have more protection and more freedom in International play. Crease violations don’t exist in the NHL anymore but in International play, an opponent stepping into the blue paint warrants a whistle, stopping play, so any momentum from the attacking team is stopped. Not only that, but the ensuing face-off takes place outside of the zone. As for freedom, they aren’t just goaltenders, they can also be players if they want, with the freedom to handle the puck, which is something the NHL has outlawed with their trapezoid limitations. This freedom wasn’t lost on Canada’s goalie, Mike Smith, who handled the puck several times throughout the World’s, including a little skate-around-the-net before making a pass in the final game against Russia. This is nice to see, and is reminiscent of days gone by when goalies like Ron Hextall and Martin Brodeur were players as well as keepers until the NHL changed the rule in the 2005-06 season.
In Europe, the ice size is larger, an extra 3,000 square feet of rink. The biggest difference is the whopping 15 feet the rink is wider than the NHL and that makes the play more open with a game that isn’t always played along the boards the way it often does in the NHL. This does a couple of things for the game: it cuts down on the number of hits, making more players available for more plays more of the time, and that speeds up the flow of the game and tends to cut down on penalties. Case in point: Team Canada went for a stretch of 88:33 without a single trip to the penalty box until Taylor Hall (Edmonton Oilers) received a 2:00 minor for tripping in the second period against Belarus. Canada won that game 9-0.
Tic, Tac, Toe
In the World Men’s, Crosby’s maturity shone. As the leader of his team, and the 5th oldest player to play on it, he seemed less concerned about scoring goals and more concerned playmaking — seeing the play and making key passes. In the final game against Russia, Crosby’s talents shone in two goal scoring plays he was involved in. The first was a quick wrist-shot he made off an assist from Jordan Eberle (Edmonton Oilers) and Dan Hamhuis (Vancouver Canucks) from the bottom of the circle. The second was a tic, tac, toe made together with Ryan O’Reilly (Colorado Avalanche) and Claude Giroux (Philadelphia Flyers) where O’Reilly had the puck at the bottom of the circle then switched places with Crosby, who was at the top. O’Reilly passed the puck back down to Crosby, who could see the left-winger, Giroux, flying in towards the goal on the other side. Crosby passed the puck across to Giroux, and Giroux shot it in. Goal!
Crosby played on a couple of different lines and at two different forward positions over the nine games he played — he was rested for the matchup against Austria which turned out to be a great choice for Canada’s Coach Todd McLellan to make as the Canadians stunned the Austrians with a 10-1 win. The first line he was on included the tournament’s Top Scorer, Jason Spezza (Dallas Stars) (14 points) and Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado Avalanche) (9 points). But starting in the fifth game, he was switched out to play on a line that included two Edmonton Oilers — Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall. Combined, they were able to post 36 points.
“The fact that Ebs and Hallsy (Taylor Hall) play together up in Edmonton, they’ve got a lot of chemistry, they know where each other are on the ice. So I’m just trying to find open ice, create things (for them),” Crosby said.
See the entire interview below:
By the tournament’s end, Crosby had recorded 11 points – 5 goals and 6 assists – which included a successful penalty shot in in their first game against Latvia, which you can see here:
With their win, they became the first team to get a 1 million Swiss Franc bonus for having won all 10 of their games in regulation. Although it was the first time the prize was awarded, Crosby’s team really beat the odds to take home the money — there had been only 2 teams in the history of the event to have ever won all their games in regulation: Canada once before, in 1994, and the 2015 silver medalists, Russia in 2012 and 2014.
58 Goals in 8 Games
Team Canada also tied a previous Canadian World Championship scoring record going all the way back to 1962, scoring 58 goals over 8 games — and they certainly helped the Czech Republic break an attendance record that saw nearly three quarters of a million people — 741,690 to be exact, watching the 64 games held in rinks in Prague and Ostrava. In total, Team Canada scored 66 goals, an awesome number for 10 games, but that still trails a Russian record set in 1977 — of 77 goals.
With the World Championship under his belt, Crosby has just one big event left to win. That’s the World Cup of Hockey which will be held every four years from now on, starting in Toronto, Canada, in 2016.
Strategist, writer and hockey mom. Notre Dame Hound. Luctor et emergo.