With improved play, Penguins' Crosby isn't asked about slow start

| Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016, 8:42 p.m.

TAMPA, Fla. — Sidney Crosby answers a lot of questions.

In every town the Penguins visit, and after nearly every practice and game at home, he sits dutifully in his locker stall as he is asked to comment on any number of topics.

For the first two months of this season, many of the questions were variations on the same theme: What's wrong with Sidney Crosby?

The questions weren't out of line. With two goals and nine points in his first 18 games, his numbers were so far off his career averages, they looked like they belonged to a different player.

And so he answered them as best he could.

He talked about making sure he worked hard to create scoring chances. He talked about trying to execute more crisply. He answered the questions, day after day, week after week, until suddenly, they stopped.

They stopped because Crosby is on a tear, recording six goals and 14 points in his past 11 games, showing the driving acceleration and playmaking acumen that made him the face of the game in the first place.

The temptation to gloat must be strong. It would be incredibly satisfying for Crosby to stand atop his locker stall, look at the reporters gathered in front of him, and bark, “I've got your ‘What's wrong with Sidney Crosby?' right here.”

The kid from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia would never do that, of course. The most celebration he has allowed himself is a sigh of relief that he doesn't have to face the same questions day after day anymore.

“It's nice not having to answer that for a little bit,” Crosby said after practice Wednesday afternoon in Tampa.

There are plenty of reasons Crosby hasn't taken a victory lap after his recent surge in production.

For one, gloating isn't the kind of thing the captain of the 10th-place team in the Eastern Conference should do.

“Oh, no. It's about winning,” he said. “It's always about winning. You want to contribute, you want to do things well, but at the end of the day, you want to win games.”

For another, he knows it's not going to get any easier in the second half of the season. Crosby is 28. The 20-year-olds coming into the league these days aren't getting smaller and slower.

“You don't hang around in the NHL if you're not fast enough or you're not good enough,” Crosby said. “There's a reason why these young guys are having success. They're fast. They're confident. They're given a lot of responsibility at a young age. You're seeing it more and more.”

But Crosby moves forward armed with two things he didn't necessarily have at the start of the season.

The first is the new aggressive offensive approach the team has under coach Mike Sullivan.

“We're not a team that's going to sit back and get a chance here and there and wait for a team to make a mistake,” Crosby said. “With the guys we have, I think we're better when we're dictating things and forcing turnovers.”

The second is a dose of humility, born of all those questions he had to answer the first two months of the season.

“It's a tough league,” Crosby said. “The matchups you have every night, you can't take anything for granted. I don't think I needed to have a tough start to realize that. I think I've always appreciated that fact, but if anything, it was just a reminder of that. There's a small margin for error out there.”

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @BombulieTrib.

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