Crosby says onus is on him after slowest start of career

Chris Johnston joins Tim and Sid to talk about what’s happening with Sidney Crosby and what to expect from the Penguins’ star going forward.

TORONTO — Longtime Pittsburgh Penguins teammate Pascal Dupuis bristled at the question. He didn’t think Sidney Crosby’s slow start was anything to write home about.

"You go through spells like this even if you’re an all-star," Dupuis said.

Unless you’re Sidney Crosby.

Through 11 games, Crosby has a goal and four assists for five points, by far the worst start of his 11-year pro career and one of his least productive stretches since he entered the NHL. The superstar who has finished in the top six in Hart Trophy voting as league MVP in each of his past five full seasons isn’t accustomed to this kind of slump.

Rather than letting the Penguins’ winning streak cover things up or making excuses, Crosby insisted the onus is on him to break out of the slide sooner rather than later.

"I don’t think you can accept not scoring," Crosby said Sunday after the Penguins’ practice in Toronto. "Just as we have as a team found ways, individually shots are good, but it’s better to have one shot and one goal than five and no goals.

"You’ve just got to find a way to bury the chances, and I think ultimately that’s on me. I’ve got to find a way to bury my chances."

Crosby looked and felt on the verge of a breakout stretch until he went without a shot against the Maple Leafs on Saturday night, decrying that "it’s tough to score not getting a shot." He had at least three shots in his previous five games and that volume of quality scoring chances spoke loudly to teammates.

"He’s had a couple chances every game," centre Evgeni Malkin said. "But the puck’s not coming in. It’s a little bit of bad luck right now, but he’s still the best player on ice every game. It’s just a little bit maybe (he has to) relax and just work hard and the puck come in. It’s lots of games, it’s a long season."

Crosby, who has scored on an average of 14.3 per cent of his shots won’t shoot 3.3 per cent the rest of the season. And with potential wingers like Dupuis, Patric Hornqvist, Chris Kunitz, Phil Kessel, and David Perron, he won’t lack for assists, either.

For now, Crosby is focusing on generating scoring chances and making good on them.

"I think just making sure that when I do get those chances that I bury them, but there are no guarantees because you’re getting chances that it’s going to go in," the 28-year-old from Cole Harbour, N.S., said. "So you really have to focus on bearing down and take advantage of your chances."

The Penguins are doing a phenomenal job of that lately as they’ve won four straight and seven of eight since an 0-3-0 start. Fourteen different players have scored, and winning could help keep Crosby’s frustration from boiling over.

It also doesn’t hurt that Crosby really is on the right side of plays. He has been on the ice for 263 more Penguins shot attempts than opponents’, a positive sign that he’s on the right track.

"His 200-foot game is really good right now," coach Mike Johnston said, citing a particularly strong game against Buffalo on Thursday. "It’s not so much, with any of our players, about points. It’s are they in on scoring chances and what are they giving up at the other end. Those are the big things."

But for Crosby, points have always been there. And as the Penguins swing across Western Canada to face the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday, Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers on Friday and the Calgary Flames on Saturday, the spotlight will be focused on him.

In the meantime, Malkin said he and the Penguins try to support Crosby. One way to do that is for other players to continue scoring and for the team to keep winning, but players believe Crosby will join them soon.

"You look around the league the (Ryan) Getzlafs, the (Corey) Perrys, Sid, it’s hard to score goals," Dupuis said. "Definitely they’ve shown that they’re able to do it. It’s just a matter of time."

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