PITTSBURGH — Sidney Crosby has spent the last two weeks the same way many of us have. The Penguins captain is hunkered down at his home in Pittsburgh, where he’s getting his daily sweat in by taking a spin on his stationary bike and passing time by watching a Formula 1 docuseries on Netflix.
“I’ve been glued to that show,” Crosby said.
On Thursday afternoon, Crosby took a break from the bike and the binge-watching to participate in a video conference, along with Metropolitan division rivals Marc Staal from the New York Rangers, Jordan Staal from the Carolina Hurricanes and Claude Giroux from the Philadelphia Flyers. In his first comments since the COVID-19 pandemic suspended the season on March 12, Crosby said he’s staying patient and following the recommendations from medical professionals and the NHL.
“It’s not like anything I’ve ever experienced before,” Crosby said. “Just trying to make the best of it and do what we need to do here to get through it.”
The Penguins were initially scheduled to play the Blue Jackets in Columbus on March 12. The night before the game, news broke that the Blue Jackets would follow a recommendation from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and play the game without fans. But the situation evolved rapidly, changing almost hour-by-hour. By mid-day on the 12th, the entire league had been postponed.
“Right away, your first impression is this is pretty serious and we’ve got to take this serious,” Crosby said. “That kind of hit me. … I think we’ve all just got to do our part and get through this.”
Thursday’s interview session touched on a number of topics, some of them light-hearted and some more serious.
— On a possible playoff format
When the NHL pressed pause on the season, the Penguins had completed 69 of their 82 games and sat in third place in the Metropolitan standings. They’re well within a playoff spot, assuming the league restarts competition at some point.
But for other teams fighting on the fringe of a wild card spot, how and when the NHL resumes play could become a contentious issue. That much was clear when Crosby was asked how many games should be played before the NHL jumps into postseason competition.
“A couple of guys are looking at me pretty hard right now,” Crosby said, smiling on the video call at his division rivals.
It’s especially tough to come up with a fair way to resume the season in the Metro. Had the season continued as planned, seven of the eight teams had a realistic shot at the postseason.
As it stands now, the Washington Capitals (90 points), Philadelphia Flyers (89) and Penguins (86) would be the three divisional qualifiers. Picking two wild-card representatives might be tricky. The Hurricanes and Blue Jackets each have 81 points, followed by the Islanders (80) and Rangers (79). However, the Blue Jackets played 70 games and the Islanders only have played 68. So on a points-per-game basis, the Islanders would jump into the last wild-card spot.
Tricky, right? So what’s fair and what’s feasible given the time constraints?
“I wouldn’t mind starting right with the playoffs,” Crosby said. “There are a lot of guys in different situations. The more games you can play, the better when it comes to the integrity of everything. That’s a big part of it.”
— On life in quarantine
Asked whom he would pick as a quarantine buddy on his team, Crosby was pragmatic. He chose defenseman Kris Letang, the Penguins’ NHLPA player rep.
“I feel like he’s in the know,” Crosby said. “I feel like he’d get all the info first. I feel like I’d have a better sense of what’s going on if I was stuck with him.”
— On possible salary cap implications
Just a few weeks ago, NHL deputy Commissioner Bill Daly projected the salary cap might increase from this year’s ceiling of $81.5 million to somewhere between $84 million and $88.2 million next year. But now, the financial impact of the virus might cause the cap to go down instead. In turn, that could also have an impact on individual player’s income.
“There will be many conversations down the road about how all that stuff is going to get worked out,” Crosby said. “But I think right now the priority is for everyone to be healthy and just stay safe.”
— On working out
The NHL has asked players to self-quarantine until at least April 6. In Pennsylvania, and in many other states, only life-sustaining businesses are open. That means gyms and team facilities have all been closed.
These restrictions have forced elite athletes to go “old-school” with their training. Other players on the call said they’ve been doing sprints or jogged on a treadmill. Crosby is doing push-ups and has been riding his stationary bike.
“We don’t have ton of resources,” Crosby said. “You just make the best with what you have. Try to be professional as best we can and make sure we’re in the best shape we can possibly be in given the situation.”
— A message to the fans
Finally, before the call ended, Crosby closed with a message to the fans.
“I hope everyone stays healthy and stays safe,” Crosby said. “Obviously, we miss playing but just appreciate your support through all this. We’ll get through it. Hope to see all of you back out there at some point down the road.”
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