Is Sidney Crosby cheating on face-offs? Not any more than anyone else ... at least, that's the way his coach sees it.
"Listen, all centers that go in there and take face-offs, they're trying to get an edge," Mike Sullivan said on Thursday. "That's just the reality of it."
Sullivan was responding to comments made on Wednesday night by Logan Couture. The San Jose Sharks center was still feeling the sting of Pittsburgh's 2–1 overtime win in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final when he opened fire on the Penguins superstar.
"Crosby cheats," Couture said. "He gets away with it. He's Sidney Crosby.
"He times them, and yet they don’t kick him out for some reason; probably because of who he is.”
Sullivan was unmoved by the complaint.
"[San Jose's centers] are doing the same things our guys are doing," he said. "The way I look at it, that's all part of being a center iceman, trying to figure out a way to get an edge and be successful."
Crosby's been plenty successful in the postseason, alright. He's clicking at 52.7%, just a touch above his 51.7% success rate from the regular season.
But in the final? He's stone-cold murdering the Sharks. After a stunning 17-for-24 night in Game 2, he's now 26-for-40 for the series—a 65% winning percentage.
Coincidentally (or not), it was a clean draw by Crosby that led directly to Conor Sheary's winning goal in overtime. And it was Couture who blew his coverage on the rookie winger.
Maybe it's just a bit of gamesmanship on Couture's part, with an eye on getting Crosby tossed once in awhile. At this point, that's probably the only sure way to beat him.
Sullivan discussed several other pressing topics on during his travel-day press conference. Here are the highlights:
On the non-face-off elements of Crosby's game:
"It's as good as I've seen him play. I think his offense speaks for itself. But what I've really grown to admire watching him over the last few months is just his overall complete game. He is a real good two-way player, his attention to detail away from the puck down low in our end zone, defending when the time is called upon to defend. He's really been the leader of this group in more ways than one.
"He's a great leader. He takes charge of his line, he takes charge of situations on the ice. You can see the interactions that he has with his teammates on the ice, on the power play, on the bench, in between periods. He's leading in the true sense of the word."
On what he expects from the Sharks in Game 3:
"I would expect them to certainly have a strong push. San Jose is a very good hockey team. They're good at home. I'm sure their fan base will give them a boost of energy. So we would expect that."
On the performance of his unheralded defense corps:
"I think they've done a great job as a group of six. They really have been our unsung heroes. They go back for pucks, they take hits, they make plays, they help us get out of our end zone, defending extremely hard, blocking shots.
"I think they're doing a lot of those thankless jobs that don't necessarily show up on the score sheet or it's difficult to quantify in a statistic. They just help [us] win. As their coaching staff, we're certainly very appreciative of their effort."
On the selflessness of his forwards:
"What we've really liked about our team is just our overall team defense. It's not just about playing in our end zone, it's about our puck-pursuit game up the ice. I think we're best when we're defending 180 feet from our net, where we're forcing our opponents to have to make plays under pressure, limiting zone time, keeping our gaps tight.
"When we do end up in our end zone, we have a brave group. We're willing to block shots. We're getting in the shot lanes. We're boxing out and trying to get sticks in front to make [goalie Matt Murray's] job as easy as possible as far as his sight lines and his movement.
"It's really been an impressive effort from our team so far. We're going to need more of it moving forward. We've got a lot of work to do ahead of us, and we're well aware of that. We're just going to have to continue in that same vein."