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Penguins captain Sidney Crosby thrives in role as teacher

Jonathan Bombulie
| Monday, Jan. 8, 2018, 6:30 p.m.
The Penguins' Sidney Crosby tries to get around the Hurricanes' Jaccob Slavin in the first period Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018, at PPG Paints Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Sidney Crosby tries to get around the Hurricanes' Jaccob Slavin in the first period Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018, at PPG Paints Arena.

During a decisive 4-0 victory over the New York Islanders last week, television cameras caught Sidney Crosby poring over video on an iPad while sitting on the Penguins bench.

That's not unusual. For the last two seasons, NHL teams have kept tablets on the bench. Players often use them for reference, and as a thinking man's player, Crosby probably uses them more often than most.

What was striking, however, was who else was in the camera shot. Crosby's new wingers, 20-year-old Daniel Sprong and 23-year-old Dominik Simon, were peering over the captain's shoulders as he offered tips.

It was the modern equivalent of students seated at desks, staring intently at a professor writing on a chalkboard.

“It's unreal when that guy shows you something or tells you something,” Simon said. “It's great. The technology is sick nowadays. It's unreal to have iPads on the bench. You can see what stuff you could have done differently and all that stuff. It's really helpful.”

Helpful, indeed. It's probably not a coincidence that the Penguins have played two of their most dynamic offensive games of the season, the win over the Islanders and a 6-5 overtime victory over Boston on Sunday night, after Crosby was paired with Sprong and Simon.

Going back to the Sid and the Kids Line that teamed Crosby with Jake Guentzel and Conor Sheary in the second half of last season, the 30-year-old superstar has done much of his best work lately when playing with youthful linemates.

Part of the reason for that success, of course, is speed. Crosby thinks and plays the game fast, and he thrives when his linemates do the same.

“When a guy comes in, that urgency, you can't replace that,” Crosby said. “That's something that's going to be there right away. I'm not getting any faster either, so it helps to have young speed, young legs.

“As far as guys coming in now, every single guy can really skate. It doesn't matter what position or role. They're going to be able to skate. It's a skating game. Maybe that has something to do with it. I think that's probably the only explanation I have for it.”

Another reason for the success, however, goes back to the scene with the iPad in Brooklyn.

Crosby explained what he's looking for when he watches replays on the bench.

“Sometimes things happen so fast. You want to make sure what you see is, in fact, kind of what happened and if it's not, what you can do next time,” he said. “It's a nice tool to have on the bench. It's not something you want to get caught up in every single play, second-guessing everything, but it's nice, especially when you're playing with different guys and things like that, trying to figure out where guys are going to go, different tendencies. You learn on the fly that way.”

Older players might view Crosby's video session as being second-guessed and not react favorably. Younger players view it as learning from a legend who they have watched on television for as long as they can remember.

It creates a chemistry that the Penguins have found valuable during their last two championship runs, with Sheary, Bryan Rust, Tom Kuhnhackl and others playing key roles in 2016 and Guentzel making a star turn last year.

“Youth and excitement and energy is a positive thing for a team,” Crosby said. “I think any team will tell you that. In the case of the young guys coming in, they bring that youth and excitement and healthy competition within the lineup. I think that's great for everybody. It pushes everybody.”

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

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