SOCHI, RUSSIA – Reigning gold medal champion Canada said it is not concerned about Sidney Crosby’s lack of scoring punch so far in the Olympic Games.
Coach Mike Babcock defended his star player, saying scoring is not the measuring stick he uses to gauge success in a short tournament like the Winter Olympics.
“Everyone evaluates Sid on scoring,” Babcock said of Crosby. “I evaluate Sid on winning.”
Crosby, who scored the golden goal for Canada four years ago in Vancouver, has little to show so far on the scoresheet in the men’s hockey tournament.
Crosby has just two assists in three games for undefeated Canada heading into the quarterfinals.
“I think you always want more,” Crosby said. “If you’d asked me a month ago, I’d say I’d like to create more.
“It’s the same right now. You always want to generate offense, create chances and obviously put the puck in the net.”
Canada has been getting plenty of scoring from others like Drew Doughty, Shea Weber and Jeff Carter. It finished first in its group play by beating 2006 silver medalist Finland on Sunday.
Crosby, the Pittsburgh Penguins star, had just a single assist against the Finns, but also made valuable contributions to the victory in other ways that don’t show up on the scoresheet, including forcing turnovers and backchecking.
He says the key is to stay patient and take what the game gives him each shift he goes out there.
“By forcing something, you are going to dig a puck out of your net because you’re forcing something that’s not there,” he said during practice on Monday.
“There’s a balance between taking what’s given to you and making sure you’re going after them and not sitting back.”
Babcock has been juggling his lines trying to find the right combination of linemates to play with Crosby.
The same thing happened four years ago at the Vancouver Games where Crosby got off to a slow start before Babcock paired him with Jarome Iginla and the two clicked.
Iginla was the one who got the puck out of the corner to Crosby for the overtime winner in the gold medal game against the Americans. Iginla was not chosen for Canada’s team this time.
“It was the same thing in the last Olympics,” said Canadian forward Rick Nash. “We kept shuffling him around until he found something that fit.”
Nash has a unique perspective on why hockey mortals find it hard to play on a line with Crosby sometimes.
“He’s a tough guy to keep up with. He’s so fast,” said Nash. “The way he thinks about the game seems like it’s far beyond everyone else’s thought process.”
Superstar Alex Ovechkin, who is the face of Russian hockey, also has little to show so far on the scoresheet.
Ovechkin, 28, got off to a blazing start in Sochi by scoring Russia’s first goal of the tournament just 77 seconds into its opening game against Slovenia.
But he has gone goal-less since, and has not been picked for any of the 10 shootout attempts Russia has had in the tournament so far.
“It’s totally the coaches’ decision,” Ovechkin said. “I’m not going to say, ‘Put me out there.’ If I’m going to have a chance, I will.”
Like Canada, Russia finished group play with a winning record — two wins and loss — and was just a shootout goal away from going unbeaten.
Ovechkin’s lack of goals does not come from a shortage of ice time.
He takes longer shifts than anyone on his team and has played a team-leading total of 61:46 minutes in the tournament.