Crosby: Blame the players
SIDNEY CROSBY understands the price of disappointment.
And while others - namely Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma - likely will face the consequences following another early playoff exit, the NHL's brightest star isn't shirking his share of the blame. The way Crosby sees it, Pittsburgh's failings lie with the guys who pull the sweaters over their heads.
"At the end of the day we feel responsible," Crosby said yesterday. "We are the guys that go out there and want to perform and want to win and we have that expectation."
Expectations weren't met for a fifth straight spring after the Penguins frittered a 3-1 series lead in an eventual seven-game loss to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference semifinals. A half-decade after hoisting the Stanley Cup in Detroit at age 21, Crosby and the franchise he represents are still searching for a bookend.
"It's difficult to win, and I don't think there's been any lack of effort from players, coaches, anybody in the conversation," Crosby said. "I don't think it's been a lack of trying."
There has, however, been a lack of doing.
The Penguins have been a marvel during the regular season under Bylsma, who is 252-117-32 since taking over for Michel Therrien in the late stages of the 2008-09 season. Yet all those regular-season triumphs haven't prevented Pittsburgh from being knocked out of the playoffs by a lower-seeded team five straight times.
Pressed on what needs to change, Crosby didn't point to the coaching staff but instead a shift in mindset, particularly when the postseason begins.
"Maybe we need to adjust the way we play a little bit better and play more physical," Crosby said.
It's a challenge the Penguins have faced relentlessly during the Crosby era. The league's leading scorer and likely MVP scored just once in 13 playoff games - a career low - and spent plenty a time on the receiving end of punishment from Columbus center Brandon Dubinsky and New York defenseman Marc Staal.
"Expectations are high," Crosby said. "If you don't deliver you have to own up to that as players and as an organization. We all understand that. We'll see what happens from here."
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury played steadily throughout the playoffs but knows he could be expendable with one year left on his current deal.
"I really hope I stay," Fleury said. "It's my team here. It's where I want to play."
* The NHL suspended Buffalo Sabres forward Zenon Konopka for 20 games after he tested positive for a banned substance.
In announcing its decision, the NHL did not reveal what substance was discovered in the player's system.
In a statement released through the NHL Players' Association, Konopka accepted responsibility for the positive test. Konopka wouldn't specify what the substance was except to say it was an ingredient found in an over-the-counter product.
* Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said center Andrew Shaw should be back on the ice this weekend and could return during the Western Conference finals against the winner of the Anaheim-Los Angeles series.
Shaw has been out with a lower-body injury since Game 1 of Chicago's second-round series against Minnesota.