Thursday, October 09, 2014

Heat is on Crosby and Ovechkin

Two stars remain linked after all these years, and pressure has never been higher

October 8, 2014

They came into the league out of the ashes of a soul-sucking lockout that scuttled an entire season and got the kind of fanfare that precedes players maybe once in a generation.
They were asked to do nothing less than restore hope and guide the NHL into a new future, a new golden age of hockey.
So on many levels, it's hard to argue that Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin haven't delivered on those demands in spades, time and time again.
"They're still the face of the league. For sure they are," said one longtime NHL player who has worked at a number of positions with a number of teams around the league.
Between them, Crosby and Ovechkin have collected five Hart Trophies and six Ted Lindsay Awards as the players' MVP in the past eight seasons. And then there's Crosby's Stanley Cup ring and two Olympic gold medals.
"That's not going away," the source said of the two players' accomplishments, regardless of whatever issues assail their respective franchises.
It's hard to argue that the NHL isn't truly in the midst of a golden age with the game awash in lucrative long-term television deals, financially solid franchises and bright young stars.
[+] EnlargeOvechkin & Crosby
Mitchell Layton/Getty ImagesWhen Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin faced off in the 2009 playoffs, it lived up to all the hype.
What is perhaps a little incongruous is that the game continues to thrive even as its two signature pieces and marquee franchises find themselves at a crossroads.
The game no longer needs to be saved; that work is done, and the league and its fans will always owe a debt of gratitude to Ovechkin and Crosby.
But the players themselves? And their teams?
As a new generation of young stars such as Nathan MacKinnonTyler Seguin and Jamie Benn flourish, Ovechkin and Crosby both face tests this season in trying to revive franchises whose failures led to wholesale changes this past offseason.
As the 2014-15 season begins, the two marquee franchises find themselves at best immersed in a period of great transition and at worst in a collective period of aimlessness.
"Yeah, I mean, when you lose, I guess what you didn't do right is magnified," Crosby told recently. "That's just the way it is. Winning cures everything. I guess that's what I've kind of learned over the years, and you can kind of find reasons for winning and find reasons for losing and it's pretty easy to do both.
"So I think it all comes down to not getting the job done. That being said, I think you have to look back as a whole and just really try and look at those important details you need to improve in order to win, and I think that's really what they tried to do."
For many around the hockey world, including those in Pittsburgh and Washington, it's more than a little perplexing how it all unfolded in this manner.
Back in 2009, the Capitals were the emerging darlings of the Eastern Conference, collecting a then franchise-best 108 points to win the Southeast Division and earning the second seed in the Eastern Conference. When they played the Penguins in the second round of the playoffs, it marked a pivotal moment for the league, as even the most casual hockey fan stopped to take note.
The game's two demigods were about to face each other in the playoffs for the first time, evoking memories of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.
And the series didn't disappoint.
In Game 2, both Crosby and Ovechkin recorded hat tricks. The Caps won the first two games of the series. The Penguins the next three. The Caps forced Game 7 with an overtime win in Pittsburgh before the Penguins blew the doors off the Caps in Washington.
The Penguins went on to win their first Stanley Cup since 1992 in a classic, seven-game final against Detroit (after losing to the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup finals the year before), and it was hard not to imagine the future would be full of such memorable moments for the game's two most dynamic franchises.
While there have been a score of memorable moments, epic clashes and heroic performances in recent springs, few have involved Crosby or Ovechkin.
Since that memorable 2009 postseason, the Penguins have managed to lose five straight playoff series to lower-seeded teams. They lost Game 7s at home to Montreal in 2010, Tampa in 2011 and the New York Rangers last spring. In two of those series, the Penguins blew 3-1 series leads.
They have advanced beyond the second round just once, in 2013 when they were swept by Boston in the Eastern Conference finals and somehow scored only two goals in the entire series.
"It's been pretty much the same every year, tremendous regular season, best player in the game and then somehow not being able to advance and fall short and lose in the playoffs," said former NHLer and national broadcast analyst Ed Olczyk.
The Caps have achieved even less.
They have not advanced beyond the second round of the playoffs since 1998, the franchise's only appearance in the Stanley Cup finals. And they missed the playoffs entirely last season.
"I'm surprised at how roller coaster-ish it's been," in Washington, Olczyk told
"There hasn't been a lot of consistency."
In the meantime, the Los Angeles Kings have won two Stanley Cups in three years, the Chicago Blackhawks two Cups in five years. The Bruins won a Cup in 2011 and then were back to the finals two years later.
In short, the Penguins and Capitals have been lapped by a handful of teams, and the golden age of hockey has proceeded, strangely, shockingly, without them.
"It's not easy no matter who's on your roster. But, yeah, I'm surprised," defenseman Brooks Orpik told of the lack of success from the two high-profile teams.
Orpik has a unique view on the situation having grown up in the Penguins' organization, part of their journey from rock bottom to a Cup, before signing as a free agent with Washington this past offseason.
"Obviously, looking at this [Washington] situation from an outsider's perspective, I was surprised they didn't do better," Orpik said. "But I'm sure there's plenty of people who are surprised we didn't do better in Pittsburgh with the lineups we had, myself included. There's always going to be high expectations when you have those superstars on your team. But I think people underestimate sometimes how hard it is to win in this league."
The most recent failures resulted in seismic changes in both franchises.
The Penguins' reputation as a model organization took a hit when they fired general manager Ray Shero but waited several weeks before firing head coach Dan Bylsma. They packed off James Neal to Nashville and watched as two top defenders in Orpik and Matt Niskanen signed with the Capitals.
In Washington, longtime GM George McPhee was sent packing, as was head coach Adam Oates.
If "change" was the watchword for both teams this offseason, the two teams took radically different paths to effect that change.
The Caps hired longtime NHL head coach Barry Trotz, who was fired after coaching every single Nashville Predators game, while the Penguins hired Mike Johnston to his first NHL head-coaching job after a successful junior career, although he wasn't the Penguins' first choice.
Longtime netminder Brent Johnson played with both teams and watched both superstars up close. He said just as it's unfair to compare the two given their vastly different styles, it's also unfair to attach Ovechkin and Crosby with the blame for their respective teams' playoff disappointments.
Does this season loom as some kind of talisman for the players and their respective teams?
"I don't know about for Sid or Alex," Johnson said, noting their significant individual accomplishments.
But the franchises? No doubt.
"It's huge," he said.
Olczyk believes there is more pressure on Ovechkin than Crosby but also acknowledged fans of both teams will be hoping for the clock to be turned back.
"When those two teams are going good ... it's pretty special," Olczyk said. "Hopefully, as fans we're going to see that again."
And so here we are on the eve of a new season that seems a million years from those halcyon days of 2009. The two great stars still inexorably linked, their teams tied together on a host of levels, their futures so much less certain than when we first met them.

Alex OvechkinGeoff Burke/USA TODAY SportsAlex Ovechkin has never led the Capitals past the second round of the playoffs.
ARLINGTON, Va. -- Capitals coach Trotz and Ovechkin met for the first time in Las Vegas prior to the NHL awards ceremony last June.
They sat at a table across from each other, and Trotz had prepared a list of 35 to 40 questions he wanted to ask his captain.
Very formal, business-like. Boss to employee. Teacher to student, perhaps.
By the end of the four-hour conversation, they were sitting at right angles at the corner of the table, their chairs pushed close together. Colleagues. Partners. Co-conspirators, perhaps.
Trotz has yet to coach Ovechkin in a meaningful game, and yet the coach figures he's been asked more questions about Ovechkin than any coach should ever have to answer about a single player.
That's probably fair.
How many questions did Mike Johnston have to answer about Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh? A fraction of the Ovechkin questions directed at Trotz.
Not that the repeated queries about how Trotz was planning to handle the talented, mercurial Russian star came as any surprise.
Trotz looks at it like a father might look at his kids: Sometimes you have a child who is a wild child, sometimes you don't.
We're pretty sure Crosby and the term "wild child" have never appeared in the same zip code.
Well, that's a different story, Trotz acknowledged.
But Trotz isn't buying the notion that he somehow has to tame the beast to succeed where others have failed in Washington.
"I'm not going to make him a Selke winner," the coach said.
The team is going to win when Ovechkin does what he does best, and that's score goals. He is the sixth-fastest player in NHL history to reach 400 goals. He is quite simply a goal machine.
What Trotz hopes to do is keep Ovechkin's attention when it comes to his own zone and to make sure Ovechkin doesn't spend that extra 10 or 15 seconds on the ice to make that last rush, make that conscious decision to take one more run at finding the back of the net instead of turning back to the bench.
Because Ovechkin is a fast-burning specimen, when he makes that last offensive rush and the puck comes back the other way, he runs out of gas with a bang.
[+] EnlargeBarry Trotz
AP Photo/Nick WassCoach Barry Trotz said he's been asked more about Alex Ovechkin than anyone should be asked about a single player.
It's the kind of mentality that gets you 51 goals and a fourth Rocket Richard Trophy, as was the case last season.
It's also how you get to a mind-blowing minus-35.
Such a dichotomy merely reinforced the polarizing impact Ovechkin has had on the game. Is he one of the game's elite players, or is he a one-trick pony whose style will always run at cross-purposes to a championship effort?
"Oh, yeah, of course you read the news, you read everything what you guys saying and all kinds of stuff," Ovechkin told "But as soon as the season's over, I just try to be relaxed and try to see what changes going to be on our team and all kinds of stuff.
"Right now, I don't want to put my mind on back on days and say why [I] scored 51 goals and I'm minus-what? Thirty-something? But it happens. What you going to say."
Ovechkin won a world championship last spring not long before he and Trotz met in Las Vegas. At that time, Trotz was fresh from a 20-year anniversary of winning a Calder Cup with the Portland Pirates.
Trotz, 52, described to Ovechkin the bond he felt with those guys, some of whom he hasn't seen in years, the uniqueness of winning a championship and how it forges something that transcends individual stats and time itself.
Ovechkin knows some of that now.
It brought to mind a comment Trotz saw attributed to Ovechkin about how it sucks to see the Stanley Cup and know his name isn't on it.
Trotz's name isn't on it either.
"I haven't won a Cup, and it sucks my name's not on it too," Trotz said.
Could that change?
"I will tell you, Alex wants team success," the coach said.
"He's buying in."
And here's the thing: Although it's part of the Ovechkin narrative that he's a coach killer, there's precious little evidence to suggest it is true.
Whatever has been asked of him he's done in terms of changing positions, taking on greater or lesser roles depending on whether it was Bruce Boudreau or Dale Hunter or Adam Oates behind the bench.
One source familiar with Ovechkin and the Capitals said that people forget the pressure of the Olympics leading up to the Sochi Games and then the fallout after the Russians played so poorly at home. And still Ovechkin led the league in goals.
"He did everything that he was asked," the source said. "Can he play better? Of course. Everybody can play better."
Winning, though, is the ultimate barometer, the ultimate bottom line, and Ovechkin hasn't done that when it's mattered most in the NHL.
"At the end of the day, you have to win," Olczyk said. "Me, I think it's a bigger year for Alex than for Sid [Crosby] on an individual basis."
Ovechkin understands full well the Caps' historical shortcomings, and he understands that time is not necessarily on his side.
"We're not young anymore," Ovechkin said. "We're growing up together and we have good pieces right now, and these pieces have to be one big piece.
"Well, we just have to -- we have to be one group and have one goal. Just to play better."
One of Trotz's favorite sayings is: "You don't know it until you own it."
As in you don't know how great a car is until you own it. And a hockey team is a bit like a car. From afar, Trotz feared this Capitals car wouldn't be in great shape.
[+] EnlargeBrooks Orpik
AP Photo/Nick WassAfter 10 full seasons in Pittsburgh, Brooks Orpik will get a look at the other side of the Capitals-Penguins rivalry.
"What I found here is that it's even better. That my perception was off a little bit," he said. "There's a lot of good people here."
What might have been lacking, in Trotz's estimation, is what should be easy to put into place.
"They were craving a plan and accountability," he said. "Really, that's as simple as it could be."
He takes care not to step on previous toes in suggesting there wasn't structure or a plan in place. But what he is hoping to bring are the nuts and bolts that might have been lacking in taking a plan and having it yield results on the ice.
You have to have a plan, and then you have to be able to communicate what that plan is to the players, Trotz explained.
"If you don't communicate, you get resistance," he said.
The introduction and execution of a plan has been, on some levels, a fatal flaw for a team that seems to have had too much talent to have accomplished so little.
Is that a fair assessment?
"See now, just listening to that question, it's just interesting the topic of talent," Capitals veteran forward Brooks Laich said during a recent interview. "Because I define talent as the ability to win a hockey game. That, to me, is a talented team. A team that can execute and win. You can watch practice all you want and watch stickhandling and skills, but the ability to win, I believe, is an actual talent. And we haven't been able to put that together so far.
"I think we have the physical ability on the hockey team to be a very dangerous team, a Cup-contending team. But we have to put it together and execute game plans in order to win. And I think that's where we've fallen short in the past, and I think that's the area that we're targeting for a massive improvement this year."
Plan, communication, personnel -- all of those are common to every NHL team. How they fit together and what they create invariably tells the story of success and failure.
Former Capitals netminder Brent Johnson, who also played for the Pittsburgh Penguins, believes Trotz's experience with the Predators and the structure the Predators always displayed has given him instant credibility in Washington.
Another source familiar with the Capitals organization believes the hiring of Trotz and the other changes made this offseason have paved the way for a renaissance season.
In a strange twist of fate -- Johnson calls it "kind of genius" -- the Caps' identity has been dramatically altered or refined by the arrival of a threesome of former Pittsburgh Penguins.
GM Brian MacLellan chuckles at the idea that Niskanen, Orpik and assistant coach Todd Reirden represent the cavalry coming over the hill from Pittsburgh, of all places. But he insists it wouldn't have mattered where they came from, he wanted them in his lineup.
MacLellan understands that the team has been savaged in many quarters for the combined 12 years and $67.75 million lavished on the two former Penguins netted as unrestricted free agents.
Right now, I think it's our time right now. ... Because if you're going to wait one more, two more years, you never know what's going to happen.
- Alex Ovechkin
He also understands the critical importance of changing the team's defensive identity.
And MacLellan, who won a Cup in Calgary in 1989 and has been with the Capitals for the past 13 years in various capacities including assistant GM, also understands that those signings will be heralded as shrewd moves if the Capitals have success in spring.
"Our whole team is excited about what's going on with the defense," MacLellan told
So far, the moves have created something different and undeniable in the nation's capital.
"I think it's a lot different vibe," Laich said. "I think it's a lot more business-like under the new regime. And that was a directive we received in the summer. We had a phone call in the summer that said conditioning's going to be a big part of this team, work ethic, battles. Things are going to change around here and guys are going to have to be receptive to it right away.
"So they've come in with great leadership telling us exactly what they want and expecting us to execute it, and it's been really easy as a player to follow that lead."
His first words to Niskanen and Orpik?
"Boys, you sure look good in red," Laich recalled with a laugh.
Ovechkin jokes often about his regular battles with Orpik over the past six or seven years and acknowledges he's happier sitting in the same room as Orpik instead of trying to drive him through the end boards.
One source familiar with the Capitals' locker room believes the presence of the two former Penguins defensemen can't help but make the Capitals appreciably better.
When you add two top-six defensemen, it's simple math, he said.
Their addition should create a ripple effect: An improved defense takes pressure off Ovechkin, plus Niskanen adds another offensive weapon on the back end, the source said. At the other end of the ice, better defense should help netminder Braden Holtby reaffirm his grip as the team's goaltender of the future.
Orpik laughed when asked if the transition from longtime Penguin to brand-new Capital has been seamless.
"I'm not sure I'd say seamless, but it's been easier than I thought," he said.
Does he see some parallels between the two teams?
[+] EnlargeSidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin
Jeff Vinnick/Getty ImagesSidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin have been linked together seemingly from the moment they earned national attention for their skill.
"You look at the two big guys there [Crosby and Malkin], and then there's obviously the two big guys here, Nicky Backstrom and Ovi, so it's a little similar in that regard. Hopefully, there's not that much pressure on me and Nisky," Orpik said with a laugh.
"They've made it very clear to us just come here and keep doing what you've done in the past."
Niskanen, who had 46 points and was a league-best plus-33 last season, has evolved into a top-flight defenseman and likewise seems comfortable with the role he'll play in Washington.
"They've had success here just not the ultimate success," Niskanen said in a recent interview.
"I was part of some good teams in Pittsburgh, but it was disappointing in the years that I was there in how those years ended," added Niskanen, who blossomed under Reirden's tutelage after coming to Pittsburgh as a throw-in in the James Neal deal before the 2011 trade deadline.
"I think we'll both add something to the group."
The arrival of the Penguins' ex-pats doesn't cure all of the team's ills.
There are still questions about Holtby's ability to shoulder a starter's load, although Trotz brought in highly regarded goaltending coach Mitch Korn, who has worked with stars such as Dominik Hasek and Pekka Rinne.
Korn, who was with Trotz in Nashville, was thinking of retiring, but Trotz imposed on him "for one more ride."
"I think he's the best in the business," Trotz said. "He takes goaltending to the next level."
And there's the ongoing issue of depth down the middle. Maybe Evgeny Kuznetsov is the answer, but if he's not, it hurts the Caps' chances of being a true Cup contender.
Still, there is no denying the change, the buzz if you will, around this team as though they have indeed turned some sort of metaphorical corner.
"Right now, I think it's our time right now," Ovechkin said.
"Because if you're going to wait one more, two more years, you never know what's going to happen."
For a team that's been waiting for special things to happen for a long time, truer words were never spoken.

CrosbyCharles LeClaire/USA TODAY SportsSidney Crosby had a great regular season in 2013-14 but failed to show up in the playoffs.
PITTSBURGH -- There is no smell of lingering smoke. There is no pile of debris swept to a corner of the Penguins dressing room that would suggest the offseason demolition job this team underwent.
In fact, there is very much a business-as-usual feel about the team as it prepares to open the 2014-15 season against the Anaheim Ducks at home on Thursday night.
Two dozen men still clomp in off the ice after a late-morning workout.
Crosby still heads to his familiar locker stall at the end of the roughly rectangular dressing room, takes off his helmet, puts on his Penguins ball cap and faces a horde of media questioners on a daily basis.
On this day, as the scrum winds to its conclusion, Crosby is asked if he's excited for the start of the season.
Yes, the captain says with a wry grin.
"I'm tired of talking about last season," he said.
Same but different.
Different but the same.
"Yeah, it feels different. Sometimes change is scary," veteran defenseman Rob Scuderi said.
At the same time, you have to embrace that change and grow from it, said the former Pittsburgh prospect who won a Cup with the team in 2009 and then signed in Los Angeles, where he won another Cup in 2012 before returning to Pittsburgh before the start of the 2013-14 season.
[+] EnlargeMike Johnston
AP Photo/Keith SrakocicCoach Mike Johnston is at the center of the new faces brought into Pittsburgh this past offseason.
"It's a tough scenario," Scuderi said. "You've got expectations that are sky-high."
Expectations that have been difficult -- nay, impossible -- to meet.
The obvious differences are easy to see.
Shero, Bylsma and the rest of the coaching staff are gone.
In Shero's place is Jim Rutherford, who is forging a new identity in Pittsburgh after a storied career first as a player and then as the man who built a champion in Carolina.
In Bylsma's place is rookie NHL coach Mike Johnston and a veteran coaching staff that includes former Penguins player Rick Tocchet and longtime Ken Hitchcock assistant Gary Agnew.
In the dressing room, Orpik and Niskanen are replaced by Christian Ehrhoff. And Neal's spot has been taken by Nick Spaling, who was part of the deal that sent Neal to Nashville at the draft.
"You have relationships," assistant GM Bill Guerin said. "It's tough to see people lose their jobs. And that was a big adjustment. It wasn't easy.
"Everybody realizes what Ray did here and what Dan did here was very special," said Guerin, who was a key part of that Cup-winning effort in 2009 and then returned to the organization's front office after he retired from the game after the 2010-11 season.
"That being said, you do understand the business and have to move forward."
Last spring, the Pens blew a 3-1 lead against the Rangers in the second round, a collapse that came in spite of a banner regular season for Crosby, who won his second Hart Trophy and third Ted Lindsay Award as the players' MVP.
But Crosby, as he did at times the previous spring, couldn't get into a groove, scoring just once in 13 games as he battled a wrist injury.
In the wake of the defeat, ownership decried the team's lack of grit and chemistry.
"I don't think you take it personally, I think you feel responsible because you were part of a team that wasn't able to get the job done when the expectations were as high as they were," Crosby said. "Being the captain, you don't want to be on those teams that fall short.
"But that being said, I think you go out there as a player, you try to prepare, you try to do your best. Sometimes things don't work out the way you want them to. That's sports sometimes. If everyone kind of got their way, there'd be 30 Stanley Cup champions. That's not really the way it goes sometimes. You have to learn from it. It's part of the challenges of it. Yeah, I think you feel responsible for it, right away, but then I don't feel I have anything to prove. I had a bad series. I really don't know. I thought I had a pretty good regular season.
"Obviously, you're judged on the playoffs and you don't want to fall short in the playoffs, but yeah, I think you just want to progress and get better and make sure when you get in those situations, those big games and those big series, you're at your best. I think that's something I can learn from."
In some ways, the changes made this offseason were a delayed reaction.
A year before, the Pens were swept in the conference finals by Boston in a series that saw them achieve the almost impossible -- playing four games and scoring just two goals.
[+] EnlargeCrosby
AP PhotoThe Penguins' collapse against the Rangers in the second round of the playoffs was the tipping point to cause change in Pittsburgh.
There were questions then about what changes were needed, but ownership held firm, keeping Bylsma and embattled netminder Marc-Andre Fleury and extending players such as Kris Letang.
The loss to the Rangers was the tipping point, as it revealed something seriously amiss, a team less than it should be from the very top to the bottom.
The team botched the firing of Bylsma, waiting several weeks after firing Shero. And it was later revealed that Johnston wasn't the team's first choice, as Willie Desjardins was expected to be named coach before he balked and took the vacant job in Vancouver.
Still, the changes were a stark reminder that regardless of a team's level of talent, regardless of whether you have the best player in the world, nothing is guaranteed.
One source familiar with the team said he doesn't think the changes are a specific knock on Crosby, whom he still considers one of if not the best player in the world.
"But I think anytime you don't do the job, you expect change," he said.
And so Ehrhoff comes in to provide offense and chew up minutes on the blue line after being bought out of a whopper contract in Buffalo. Steve Downie comes in to bring an attractive blend of skill and sand to the forward unit. Patric Hornqvist comes from Nashville in the Neal deal to play with either Malkin or Crosby and fill the vacuum created by Neal's departure.
"I really like the Hornqvist addition," Olczyk said.
"I think he's going to fit in perfectly."
The analyst also likes the Downie acquisition to help broaden the team's offensive depth, one of its shortcomings in recent playoff years.
The Penguins are in a unique situation.
They're not like Vancouver or Washington, which have surged forward only to fall back out of the playoff mix. They're not like Dallas, which was a perennial Cup contender (and one-time winner in 1999) that suffered through a period of aimlessness on and off the ice after winning their championship.
Since the 2006-07 season, the Penguins have never recorded fewer than 99 points (not counting the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign, when they had a conference-best 72 points) and have averaged a little more than 104 points a campaign dating back to 2007 (since 2007-08, only San Jose has more regular-season points). They've been to the playoffs eight straight years, beginning with Crosby's sophomore season in 2006-07.
But somewhere along the way, some of the zest for the game seemed to leak out of this franchise as the playoff disappointments built up.
Johnson, who still lists Crosby as the best player with whom he ever played, believes this season looms as a benchmark for the Pens.
"I think it's huge," he said in a recent interview.
They are expected to once again win the Metropolitan Division or at the very least be a lock to make the playoffs once again.
[+] EnlargeChristian Ehrhoff
AP Photo/Paul SancyaBought out of his contract by the Sabres, Christian Ehrhoff is looking for a second chance to prove himself.
But then what?
Not since Crosby's first season -- when a Penguins team in great transition finished dead last in the conference -- has there been this much uncertainty surrounding the team.
Will this be Fleury's final season with the team? He can become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, and, while he played well last spring, he has been a lightning rod for discontent for disappointed Penguins' fans over the past five seasons.
Can some of the young defensemen, such as the terrific Olli Maatta, keep the team where it needs to be in terms of team defense and support for Fleury?
The biggest question, of course, is whether all this change has accomplished its goal of creating something different here. Have the changes created a shift in identity that will see the Penguins return to being the kind of team that always seemed to find ways to win games and series in the spring instead of the team they have become, one that always seems to find a way to come up short.
The real answer won't be known until sometime next spring.
Still, Crosby said you can glean some sort of answer along the way.
"You have to go through tests and you have to prove that to one another," the captain explained. "Some of that trust and some of that belief doesn't just happen because you bring in certain guys. It happens from doing it in certain situations throughout the season. You think about guys that played together and won championships and you know they could go 50 games without seeing one thing from a guy, but they know. And [when] times are tough and games [are] on the line, and you know that guy's going to get a big block or he's going to get that big goal he's known for. And I think that trust is something you have to build."
So far there's good energy in the locker room and on the ice, and the team appears to have gathered some good pieces as it rebuilds from an offseason of unprecedented change.
"That's the exciting part about having so many new guys," Crosby said. "Everyone's got a great opportunity to form their role and form their own identity within the team and hopefully be a part of something special."

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