McDavid’s Speed a Test for Crosby, Pens

Hear from Penguins captain before star-studded matchup

Josh Rowntree
November 01, 2019 - 1:30 pm
Pittsburgh Penguins forward Sidney Crosby (87) tries to check Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) during the first period at Rogers Place.

Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Come on out and see a couple of stars in the matinee. But don’t blink. You might miss them.

On Saturday afternoon the Penguins welcome speedster Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers to PPG Paints Arena, as two of the game’s top players meet again. 

McDavid is one of few players that can identify with the expectations and star power carried by Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby. A former first overall pick, McDavid has taken the NHL by storm, racking up 134 goals and 261 assists in his first 301 games played. 

“The way he skates, obviously speed is the biggest thing that stand out when you’re watching him,” Crosby said Friday. “He’s a great playmaker, he can shoot the puck and does everything well. But I think his speed allows him to create all of those things.”

“The biggest thing that separates McDavid from others is just his ability to execute at such a high speed,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan added. “To me, that’s his biggest competitive advantage.”

How the Penguins combat that is the biggest challenge. 

“It’s not unknown,” Pittsburgh center Nick Bjugstad said. “He came into the league, guns blazing. Him, at top speed with the puck, is probably the biggest difference. He makes plays at high speed and he’s thinking at high speed. We’ve got some talented guy over here, too, so it’s fun to go head-to-head with those guys.”

The Penguins will get back a big reinforcement to help. Evgeni Malkin is a game-time decision, but is expected to play in the game, barring a change in his health progression.

He’ll give Pittsburgh an extra punch against a 9-4-1 Edmonton team that not only has McDavid, but also a talented power forward in Leon Draisaitl, who has already scored 12 goals and assisted 13 more this season after a 105 point campaign in 2018-19.

“Draisaitl is big and strong, he protects the puck extremely well, he’s got good hockey sense,” Sullivan said. “They’re two of the elite players in the game. Obviously they’re having success, and we’ve got to make sure when they’re on the ice.”

Sullivan appreciates the draw of Crosby and McDavid, but is focused on the bigger picture. 

“I know that’s attractive from a media standpoint, but this is the Penguins against the Oilers,” he said. “It’s a team game. Both of those guys are elite players in their own right. They’re generational players. When they’re on the ice together, from a pure hockey fan standpoint, it’s a privilege to watch these guys play.”

But the crowd, and media, will focus in on the matchup of McDavid and Crosby when the puck drops at 1 p.m. Saturday. And Crosby will look to carry his overall game to Edmonton, with McDavid at the center of the game plan.

“I get prepared knowing that it’s going to be a good challenge playing against him,” Crosby said. “Just knowing what he can do and the game that he plays, you have to be aware and prepare accordingly.”

Hear more from Penguins captain Sidney Crosby below.