Sidney Crosby, after 17 seasons, is ready to destroy the NHL playoffs

The Toronto-Pittsburgh Penguins are in the playoffs for the 16th season in a row – the longest active series of any team in the top five professional team sports in North America – largely because Sidney Crosby, their permanent star center, has quietly had one of the best seasons. In the NHL at the age of 34 years.

Only seven current NHL players have been on the cross for more than a year, and six others came to the league with him in 2005. With the exception of Alex Ovechkin, a Washington Capitals forward who follows Wayne Gretzky’s career record, Crosby’s player is no exception. Or under season 17 his skates were as dominant.

Elite athletes such as Tom Brady (44), Tiger Woods (46), Serena Williams (40) and Rafael Nadal (35) have worked to stay on top of their sport with varying degrees of success. Crosby, who has won three Stanley Cups and numerous individual awards in a physically challenging game that is getting faster and younger every year, is getting attention.

No one watches Crosby more than Andy O’Brien. Strong and conditioned coach, O’Brien met at Crosby Summer Hockey School when the player was 13 years old. This summer will be their 22nd work together at Crosby’s off-season home near Halifax, Nova Scotia.

But Crosby is in no hurry towards summer. The Penguins opened the first round of the playoffs against Ranger in Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night, winning 4-3 in a triple overtime with a goal from Eugene Malkin. Crosby had two assists.

“It is unbelievable that he is still one of the best players in the league at his age,” said O’Brien, who lives in Toronto and also works as a senior consultant for the Florida Panthers.

“I’m not watching it because it peaked and now we’re just trying to slow it down,” O’Brien said. “He can create a season that is better than ever. He is relentless in his growth as an athlete, ready to adapt and find new ways to be effective. And the best measuring stick we have is what he does on the ice.”

What Crosby has done in 69 games this year has been 31 goals (nine of them winners) and 53 assists, and he has persistently continued the sport of body-hurting. His 84 points equaled team leadership on left wing with Jake Guntzel, who is seven years younger than Crossby, and has played seven more games.

Crosby missed the start of the season due to wrist surgery and Covid-19, but since then he has been excellent. Five hundred of his peers chose him last week as the league’s most accomplished player. And he still is It looks easy.

“You have to take care of your body a little bit more,” Crosby said. “It’s been years of wear and tear, and besides, you have to find ways to regulate your game. There are lots of little things you can do. But caring for the body is the greatest. ”

Crosby, who was first selected by the Penguins in 2005 and was full of expectations that the NHL would pull out of the lockout season, played his 1000th career game in February 2021 and scored a goal. 500th goal one year later. The Stanley Cups in 2009, 2016 and 2017, and the many Hart, Con Smith, Art Ross and Rocket Richard Cups, two Olympic gold medals, more than 100 points in six seasons and the most playoff points from any active player, make up his career. Yet.

“He never got to the point where he said, ‘Okay, that’s good enough, I just have to stay there,'” O’Brien said. “He is constantly pushing himself.”

Crossby still enters the corners, fights alongside the boards and scores good goals – on the rebounds and fingers, from the back door and behind the net, on one knee and behind him and on top of the goalkeeper. Almighty slip and clever play can instantly give way to the management of opposing players. He is a strong and runaway artist who can thunder forward, spin this way and that, explode in the open ground and find the net, which he has done 586 times, including in the playoffs on Tuesday.

It is noteworthy given his history of injury: high ankle sprain following a collision with boards in 2008; A devastating concussion that resulted in him missing most of the two seasons in 2011 and 2012; Broken jaw in 2013; Another concussion in practice in 2016; Major muscle surgery in 2019; A left wrist injury since 2014 that has required two surgeries in the last two years.

O’Brien says Crosby has two special talents, the first being the ability to withstand unusually high loads.

“He can do these crazy long workouts at high intensity and then go on the ice and do exactly the same thing,” O’Brien said. And then you felt ready to go the next day. I had my other clients trying to relate to him and they just could not recover in a normal way for him. ”

O’Brien said Crosby has a “high parasympathetic nervous system” – allowing a lower heart rate and his body to stay in a state of recovery longer. “He rests very well, so when he is not exercising, his nervous system is in a really calm state.”

Crosby, who has prioritized strength throughout his career, turns 35 in August. “His overall athleticism – speed, agility, balance – is as good as it has ever been,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien said Crosby had an extraordinary ability to act on maximum physical activity while skating, wearing a tote and absorbing and delivering shots, and that his low heart rate helped him cognitively.

“A lot of athletes who think highly of the game and are really good at processing are usually slower athletes,” O’Brien said. “He has the best of both worlds.”

Crossby is a big fan of other sports like football, golf and especially tennis – playing and watching – and he is learning how to cope with aging superstars.

“You look at Nadal, he’s just a horse and so determined by his work ethic,” Crosby said. “He always seems to work a lot. Then a guy like Federer seems nothing awkward. He is so graceful and does not seem to be very industrious even though he works. Both have succeeded. You are always looking for inspiration. “

O’Brien said that tennis and ice hockey are remarkably similar to each other. (Look for Roger Federer on skates.)

Footwork – twisting, planting, crossing, spinning and constant rotation in the trunk – can help develop hockey motor skills. “The upper body is constantly doing something different than the lower body in both,” O’Brien said.

From 2015 to 2020, O’Brien worked with the Penguins as their director of sports science and performance. “Seeing Crosby throughout the season allowed us to correct the nuances of Crosby’s workload, recovery, nutrition, sleep and stress response, ‘his whole physiology,'” O’Brien said.

The following is part of the hockey skills. Crosby said he has learned to play under the pack more and more patiently, preventing an innate need to move forward at the appropriate time. “If you are not down, especially on the defensive side, it could be a long night,” he said. “When you rely on your speed, you always think you will get a chance. It takes time to learn to find that balance. ”

Crosby’s parents, Trina and Troy, were in Pittsburgh to score his 500th goal. This stage showed a long lens to their son’s career and what happened next to him. In recent years, both of Crosby’s grandmothers have died, as has his yellow Labrador Sam, who was 15 years old.

“You just value the years,” Trina said. “There were all these hockey games and all these special times, and life happens between them. That’s all I’ve seen over the years. “He has serious injuries and gets up every day and does what he absolutely loves.”

Crosby’s three years left on a $ 104.4 million contract he signed at the age of 24. (She bears the number 87 for her birthday, August 7, 1987).

“I just try to look at it every year,” he said. “I try to learn something all year long, but then you try to figure out where you need to be better and use the summer for that. I feel very good, I want to mention this. But yeah, you know.

“I mean, I’m much closer to the end than I’m in the middle. I understand, but you are trying to keep the same mindset that you have had all this time.

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