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For Penguins’ Sidney Crosby, scoring surge was ‘just a matter of time’

November 20, 2018

When the Penguins set out for Western Canada about a week and a half ago, there was a zero next to Sidney Crosby’s name in the goal column.

By the time he returned to town Sunday night, Crosby was the hottest scorer in the league. He recorded three consecutive multiple-point games, scored five goals, including an overtime backhander in Edmonton that will live on in perpetuity on highlight reels, and was named the NHL’s first star of the week.

Maybe he needed a few games to knock off the offseason rust. Maybe the rising tide of improved play from the team as a whole lifted Crosby’s ship as well.

Maybe it was something in the water in Banff, the Alberta resort town where the Penguins stopped for a couple of days before facing Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver last week.

Whatever the reason, the slump is snapped, and the Penguins are on a four-game winning streak heading into a home game with the New York Islanders on Tuesday. Onward and upward, right?

Not so fast. There’s a funny little detail worth remembering about the way Crosby started his season with a six-game slump followed by a three-game surge: The captain is probably the only person associated with the Penguins who felt like he was in a slump in the first place.

For a player with standards as high as Crosby, 13 shots on goal over six games with none of them finding the back of the net felt like some kind of disturbance in the force, whether it was classified as a “slump” or not.

“I don’t like to use that word, but I had some good looks,” Crosby said. “It’s better to have the looks and not score than not have them at all, but it’s just one of those things where I had some good opportunities and they didn’t go in. You just try to trust that you keep getting those, and they’ll go in. Glad to see they did.”

Some of Crosby’s teammates shook their head at the idea that their captain had started the season in a slump.

Those six games where he didn’t have a goal? He had five assists. His shot-attempt stats were the best on the team. When he was on the ice, the Penguins scored 10 goals and gave up five.

Winger Jake Guentzel said he wouldn’t mind having some slumps like that.

“I would do that in a heartbeat,” Guentzel said. “You know it’s just a matter of time before they were going to keep coming for him. A player like that, you know he’s going to break through at some point. It’s good to see him do it.”

Mike Sullivan said the coaches tried to give Crosby some helpful hints during the season-opening, six-game drought, reminding him that good things usually happen when he holds onto the puck below the faceoff dots, but they never thought he was playing poorly.

“The thing about Sid is, he contributes to helping our team win whether he’s on the scoresheet or he isn’t,” Sullivan said. “That’s what I’ve really grown to appreciate about his game. He really has a 200-foot game. He helps our team in so many ways.

“I think we all grow to expect him to end up on the scoresheet because he’s been so productive over the years. I don’t consider it a slump. I thought it was a matter of time.”

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