PITTSBURGH – So, you want to be Sidney Crosby?
Here you are 267 days after first taking the ice with Team Canada ahead of the World Cup, not taking the option on a Pittsburgh Penguins optional practice. You have played 210 games, counting those for club and country, over the last 20 months alone.
Yet you are still grinding, grinding, grinding … in the name of more glory.
The champagne had barely dried on the Stanley Cup celebrations last year before Crosby began talking to teammates about chasing another one. This is what greatness is: a bottomless will to go with the God-given skills. It’s what Mike Babcock was referencing when he labelled No. 87 a "serial winner."
"Just the little details he brings to every game," teammate Kris Letang said Tuesday, when asked what stands out about Crosby’s current demeanour. "On and off the ice, he’s just an example to follow. We won (last June), and we had a couple chats. He really wanted to get in shape right away to get to the World Cup, win the World Cup, come back and say, ‘We can win this again.’
"We have a lot of young guys, a lot of energy. That’s everything. Like the details, what he wants to accomplish, it’s pretty incredible."
We’ve reached the legacy-building stage of Crosby’s career. There is no longer any serious debate about rivalries or his standing within the sport. It’s all about how much more he can achieve to further carve out his place among the absolute best of the best.
There is no sense of satisfaction or complacency here. Crosby was one of nine regulars on the ice at the Penguins practice facility Tuesday, roughly 13 hours after a Game 1 victory over Nashville – a strange performance that saw the team held without a shot for an astounding 37 consecutive minutes.
If anything, the captain was one of the few players who could feel good about his play in the opener.
He registered two first-period assists and ended up in the black on puck possession, which was no easy feat given the run of play. He finished with three of Pittsburgh’s 12 shots on goal. But the 29-year-old still took the opportunity to work up a sweat.
"I just felt pretty good," said Crosby. "I haven’t been skating a lot on game days. Sometimes it’s nice – they’re not that difficult of skates when you only have a handful of guys out there and you’re able to touch the puck a little bit more.
"Yeah, sometimes it’s more beneficial I think to get out there for that."
The Penguins can feel it now. This has the makings of a tough series with the Predators, but they are just three wins away from becoming the first repeat champions in 19 years.
Crosby mentioned that he took measures all season long to build in extra rest so that he’d be ready for another extended trip through the playoff gauntlet. He certainly appears to be back on form after suffering a concussion against Washington in the second round and is up to 22 points in 19 post-season games.
After helping Canada to a victory at the World Cup, and being named tournament MVP, Babcock suggested that Crosby is simply "addicted" to winning.
"That’s what he is, he just wins," Babcock said in September. "Sid is unbelievable. He’s great to be around. I’ve been real lucky I’ve been (with him) three times and we win every time. He does it right. He works hard. He doesn’t complain.
"If he gets 15 minutes (of ice time), he doesn’t say a word; if he gets 20 minutes, doesn’t say a word; if he misses three shifts in a row, he doesn’t say a word; if the penalty killers go out there and he’s not playing – whatever he’s got to do.
"And then in the biggest moments he turns it up."
Months later, another big moment is upon us.
While the majority of the NHL is on vacation or already starting off-season workout regiments, Crosby is still here skating. Still chasing more history.