Crosby's star keeps rising

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 8:52 AM ET

It's a sign of a true superstar, never being completely satisfied with his accomplishments.

Pittsburgh Penguins centre Sidney Crosby became the youngest captain to lift the Stanley Cup last spring, yet his focus this summer was on improvement.

So instead of basking in the glow of his biggest success, the phenom went to work on becoming better in the face-off circle and a more proficient goal scorer.

The fact he’s been able to improve in both areas is just another testament to his greatness.

“I think our whole group of centres have tried to work on face-offs in the last couple of years,” said Crosby, prior to Thursday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers. “It’s something we focus on in practice, and with that, we’ve seen some results. We’re trying to focus on holding on to and possessing the puck and face-offs are a big part of that. That’s something that we’ve worked on a lot.”

Crosby went into Thursday’s contest as one of the best face-off men in the NHL winning nearly 60% of his draws. He also had 30 goals on the year, which was second-best in the league and just nine shy of his career high.

“I’m trying to shoot the puck more, he said. “It’s one of those things you get bounces when you put the puck on the net and create other things. So I’m just trying to have more of a shooting mentality when I get into those areas.”

Of all the accolades Crosby has achieved in his short time in the league, the native of Cole Harbour, N.S., has never hit the 50-goal plateau.

It’s a mark he should manage to reach this year with a little under half a season left to play.

“It’s not something I think about a whole lot, it’s still a long ways away,” he said. “We all know there are a lot of ups and downs in a season when you’re scoring it’s great, but they’ll be times when it’s not going in for you as well, so I don’t think too far ahead.”

For the moment, Crosby, 22, is focused on getting the Penguins back to the Stanley Cup final. Of course the Olympics will provide a brief interlude to that as he’ll be a key part of Canada’s quest for gold in Vancouver.

“It’s really tough to repeat,” he said. “You see every team’s best every time you play and they’re always measuring themselves against you. There are a lot of great teams in this league and there is not a lot of difference between them. The fact that we won doesn’t make us way better than everybody else. We played well, we earned it, but there are a lot of good teams. It’s about being ready to be at your best consistently and expect other team’s best.”

Being at his best isn’t limited to the ice.

As one of the NHL’s brightest stars, there are enormous demands on Crosby away from the rink as well. Thursday, most of the Penguins took the morning off, but Crosby came down to Rexall Place in order to speak to the media.

He has not been seen around much in these parts, making only his second visit to Edmonton since breaking into the league five years ago.

“He is a terrific athlete, I just love watching him play,” said Oilers head coach Pat Quinn. “Right now, he’s my favourite as far as hockey players in the National Hockey League.

“He’s what our business needs. We’ve had eras where people have stepped forward and have been the face of our game and they’ve been terrific. Even before Gordie (Howe), you go back to the guys on the old Leafs teams and that sort of thing. But you get Gordie, then you get (Bobby) Hull, then you get (Bobby) Orr and you get (Wayne) Gretzky and (Mario) Lemieux. This kid is the face of our game now and he’s a good face.”


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