Sid goes from hero to villain

ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:27 PM ET

PITTSBURGH — It may no longer be such a unanimous sentiment from coast-to-coast in Canada.

But if you would have posed the question a few short months ago: “Is Sidney Crosby a winner or a whiner?” there would have been no debate.

The golden overtime goal in Vancouver made him a hero, a moment that may well trump whatever else he accomplishes in a career amazingly still in its infancy.

For the most part, the Penguins captain has been a squeaky clean star who could do no wrong, be it in the eyes of those in Vancouver, back in his native Nova Scotia and yes, even in La Belle Province.

Successive playoff series against Canadian-based opponents can eat away at some of that domestic popularity, however, a fact evident as Crosby he prepares for the latest big-stage moment of a young career already filling with them.

The hockey-mad fans of Montreal are ready to disown Crosby as the Canadiens have forced the high drama of Game 7 against the Penguins here Wednesday night. And surely some of the shine has waned for those who follow the Senators, the Penguins’ first-round victims.

Others who have loved the Kid unconditionally may take pause these days as well, depending on whether they buy into the premise that he gets too many calls or complains about the ones he doesn’t.

Such is the scrutiny on Crosby that a minor incident at the end of Game 6, in which he gave the Habs’ Tomas Plekanec a firm but hardly fierce cross-check, has been made into the latest example of his supposed “suckiness.”

Ranking the violent plays in any post-season game, this one would have trouble cracking the top 50. But when your name is Sidney Crosby, Golden Boy, it is going to be a topic of deep and serious discussion.

“I think that the passion other people show probably isn’t under the same camera lens that was on 87 at the end of the game last night,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said Tuesday, rightfully playing down the suggestion that the Kid was losing his cool.

“We want that passion you see from Crosby to be there.”

Just as team Canada did in the gold medal game and just as the Penguins have in other key moments the past three seasons, they are likely to get the big-game Crosby against Wednesday night in what could be the final contest ever played at the old Mellon Arena.

Cut through the hyperbole and the majority of criticism directed Crosby’s way is petty or absurd.

Sure, his batted down goal in Game 6 was his first of the series against Montreal, but it’s not as if he has been a stiff.

Prior to Tuesday, Crosby had a share of the playoff points lead with 19. And you need to remember that the No. 87 you see now or in the medal round of the Olympics is a vastly different beast than the one you might see in most regular-season games.

He generally plays in the tough areas with intensity not often found in big-time scorers. And through much of it, Crosby is double-teamed and harassed by opponents determined to get his goat just as they have done since he was skating circles around older kids as a youngster in Nova Scotia.

“I think you can always analyze things a lot of different ways,” Crosby said on Tuesday. “There’s frustration throughout most games. I think that’s pretty typical of any playoff series, for things to get heated after the game.

“Things are always emotional. That’s what happens at the end of a playoff game.”

If the Kid haters have a point, it is that too often he gets into the face of the officials, a turnoff for many hockey fans and a flaw dating back to his rookie season. Lately, Crosby seemed to have mellowed in that regard, but the prying eyes of the playoff cameras have seen the chronic complaining flare up again.

That said, his opponents should know by now that if and when you get under Crosby’s skin, it only thickens. And that may be when he is the most dangerous.


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