McCann Adding Speed, Defense to Top Line

Crosby impressed with newest linemate

Josh Rowntree
March 04, 2019 - 2:33 pm
Pittsburgh Penguins center Jared McCann (19) celebrates his goal in a Montreal Canadiens empty net with teammate center Sidney Crosby (87) during the third period at Bell Centre.

Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Categories: 

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby had already established himself as arguably the game’s top player when his newest linemate, Jared McCann, was starting high school.

McCann, 22, is now helping Crosby and the Penguins try to return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the 13th straight season.

“It’s incredible,” McCann said Monday, as the Penguins ready to play McCann’s former team, the Florida Panthers, Tuesday night. “It’s something I’m going to tell my kids one day, that I got to play with Sidney Crosby. I’m thankful for the opportunity I’ve been given.”

McCann admitted that, after Saturday’s 5-1 win in Montreal, he received texts from old friends about his performance on the Penguins’ top line, playing next to Crosby and across from another budding star in Jake Guentzel. 

The line produced four goals and ten points in the win, and were skating together again during Monday’s practice. 

“We thought the line was really good,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “We thought we’d put Jared up there playing against a team that brings a lot of speed. We thought Jared would bring an element of speed to that line, which he did. He’s a real good skater, he can certainly shoot the puck and he’s got decent offensive skills.”

McCann, who was acquired in the trade of Derick Brassard, was thought to be the secondary piece in the return from Florida, with Nick Bjugstad thought to be the center of the deal for Pittsburgh. But McCann has proven to be the better of the two, at least so far.

“The coaches have been really understanding,” McCann said. “Obviously, I’ve made some mistakes in the new system. But it’s good when you have teachers who come to you and show you what you did wrong. I feel like I’ve been learning a lot.”

And ‘teachers’ go beyond coaches. It extends to Crosby who, McCann admits, is a willing communicator.

“I think we’re kind of the same type of player when it comes to talking on and off the ice,” McCann said of Crosby. “He tells me when I’m doing something wrong, so I can understand it and learn from it. It’s going to take me a while to get used to playing with those guys, but I should be okay.”

McCann has been more that ‘okay,’ and Crosby is noticing. 

“His speed probably stands out the most,” Crosby said. “He’s got a great shot. I think he’s good at finding those little holes. He plays a little center, too, so I think he’s comfortable playing low in the (defensive) zone. I think he’s just a guy that can play a lot of different positions and can contribute a lot of different ways with what he does.”

It is still a bit early to tell if Crosby has found a permanent group of linemates as the Penguins head down the stretch, but it is fair to wonder if McCann could turn out to be a similar player to Pascal Dupuis, a throw-in on the Marian hose deal that found chemistry, for years, on Crosby’s wing. 

“I feel like we’ve meshed together pretty quickly,” McCann. “We’re playing well offensively, but I think defensively we’re doing the job, as well. Sully’s counting on us to be good defensively. We did the job there last game, but we’ve got to stay level-headed and continue.”

Hear all of what Jared McCann had to say below.