Penguins' Crosby not bothered by extra attention

Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and centre Sidney Crosby celebrate after defeating the...

Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and centre Sidney Crosby celebrate after defeating the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, April 16, 2014. (CHARLES LeCLAIRE/USA Today)

Terry Koshan, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:51 PM ET

PITTSBURGH -

Sidney Crosby has won scoring titles while drawing the opposition’s top checkers.

As such, the Pittsburgh Penguins superstar isn’t overly bothered with the idea that he’s going to get special attention from centre Brandon Dubinsky or defenceman Jack Johnson or whoever the Columbus Blue Jackets decide to throw at him.

Considered by many to be the best hockey player on the planet, having a shadow is nothing new for Crosby, and though the Stanley Cup playoffs are a different kettle of fish, the obstacles for No. 87 to deke around don’t get much more difficult.

“I think guys probably go the extra stride or two to finish their hit, and the after-the-whistle stuff they probably look for it a little more,” Crosby said after the Penguins practised at the Consol Energy Center on Friday.

“But as far as your typical end-to-end normal stuff, I don’t think it really changes a whole lot, no.”

The Penguins lead the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal 1-0 with Game 2 going at their home rink on Saturday night. The Blue Jackets will have a bolstered lineup, as winger R.J. Umberger will return from an upper-body injury and forward Nick Foligno, who was thought to be out until Game 3, might be back from a knee injury.

“The injury might have been a benefit in disguise for me,” Umberger told reporters in Columbus. “It allowed some other things to heal up. I feel great right now.”

No matter who is in the lineup for the Jackets, the physical approach with Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and others won’t change. Nor do the Penguins expect it to.

And the Penguins are fine with the idea that it if it’s not Crosby or Malkin leading them to victory, their depth will make a difference. It was that way in the series opener, with Brandon Sutter, who had 13 goals in 81 regular-season games, scoring the winning goal in the third period. Earlier, Beau Bennett, who scored all of three goals in 21 games, got the Penguins’ comeback going when he tipped a Matt Niskanen shot past Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.

“When you are going to win hockey games in the post-season, you need to get it from all over,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “There are going to be some different heroes and performances in the game. You can’t just expect from one person or two people.”

Of course, one of those other people is goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who is looking to leave behind several years of playoff disappointment. If it’s true that a team will go only so far as a goalie will take it, Fleury has failed since the Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2009.

“As long as it is enough for my teammates and I give them a chance to win every night, I am happy with that,” Fleury said. “I don’t care about the rest.”

Bylsma has the idea that questions around Fleury won’t really dissipate unless the Penguins win another Cup.

“If (Game 1) was a perfect game, that would not have answered any of the questions,” Bylsma said. “And I feel that way about Marc-Andre. We did not want him to have a 55-save shutout performance (because that wasn’t going to) answer all the questions.

“He had to respond in that game (after Columbus built a two-goal lead) and I think he did that. It is just one game and one response from our team and from Marc. That question is still going to be there pretty much right through every game and every win we have in the playoffs.”

All the while, Crosby will be the main object of the Jackets’ attention. Perhaps it’s a little more noticeable after the 2013-14 regular season, as Crosby was the only player in the National Hockey League to record more than 100 points. The 26-year-old had 104 to win the Art Ross Trophy, 17 points up on Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf, who was second with 87 points.

“Sid is a big boy,” Penguins veteran forward Craig Adams said. “He can take care of himself. I’m not too worried about that.”

DEFENCE FIRST

Dan Bylsma would love it if defenceman Kris Letang turned back the clock.

How about to 2009?

“When I think about Kris at his best, it is his play in the ’09 playoffs with Mark Eaton and the role he played, particularly in the final (against the Detroit Red Wings) when he focused on defending well, defence first,” Bylsma said on Friday. “When Kris is playing well he defends first.”

Bylsma can only hope a public nudge like that can get Letang on track. In Game 1 against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Letang’s ice time decreased after he took a couple of selfish penalties and was at fault on a shorthanded goal by Derek MacKenzie.

“I have to respect my teammates because taking a penalty (when he put his stick in Boone Jenner’s gut) like that was a lack of respect,” Letang said. “You have to keep emotions in check and stay cool.”

terry.koshan@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/koshtorontosun


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