Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan defended captain Sidney Crosby less than 24 hours after San Jose Sharks forward Logan Couture accused Crosby of cheating in the faceoff circle.
In a Stanley Cup Final off day teleconference, Sullivan initially didn’t want to comment on Couture’s accusation. Then when pressed further he said Crosby was simply trying to find an advantage against other centers and it’s no different than what other middlemen do in the NHL.
“I’m not concerned at all. Listen, all centers that go in there to take a faceoff are trying to get an edge,” Sullivan said. “That’s just the reality of it. They’re doing the same thing our guys are doing. The way I look at it that’s all part of being a center iceman and trying to figure out ways to get an edge and be successful. Sid’s not doing anything their guys aren’t doing.”
Sullivan then added, “Quite honestly it really isn’t really worthy of a response.”
Crosby won the offensive zone faceoff that led to the game-winning overtime goal in Game 2. He drew up the play that went back to defenseman Kris Letang and then got fed to forward Conor Sheary who fired the shot past goaltender Martin Jones. This gave the Penguins a 2-0 series lead.
This drew criticism from Couture who after the game said Crosby cheats on faceoffs.
“He times them, and yet they don’t kick him out for some reason, probably because of who he is,” he said.
Couture’s criticism has to do with the way faceoffs are handled. The player in the defensive zone puts his stick in the dot first, and then the offensive player is supposed to put his stick in the circle.
Wrote TSN about how this could play in Crosby’s favor:
By waiting too long, or not placing your stick on the ice at all, a centre can hold a decided advantage to swipe the puck out of the air before it even hits the ice. It would be like drawing your gun a step too early in a duel.
Crosby was 17 of 24 on faceoffs in Game 2. Couture was on ice for the game-winning goal but did not take the draw. Sharks forward Joel Ward lost the faceoff clean to Crosby.
Crosby has two points in the Cup Final – both assists – and has been arguably Pittsburgh’s best forward so far this series. This is because he’s honed his all-around game according to Sullivan. Crosby has six goals and 11 assists in this postseason. Through two Final games, Crosby has a score adjusted 5-on-5 CF% of 53.7 and a plus-2.0 CF% Rel.
“It’s as good as I’ve seen him play, yes. What’ I’ve always admired about Sid’s game is his overall complete game. It’s not just about offense. He’s winning faceoffs he’s defending. He’s does so many of the little things at both ends of the rink that help us win right now,” Sullivan said. “But what I’ve really grown to admire over the last few months is his overall complete game. He’s a really good two-way player and his attention to detail away from the puck down low in our zone when the time is called to defend, he has really been the leader of this group in more ways than one.”
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