Blog Entry

Sidney Crosby back on game spells trouble for NHL

Posted on: November 21, 2011 9:40 pm
Edited on: November 22, 2011 10:39 am


By: Adam Gretz

PITTSBURGH -- For the Penguins, their 5-0 win over the New York Islanders on Monday night wasn't just about getting their captain, Sidney Crosby, back in the lineup for the first time since Jan. 5. Though, his four-point performance, including a goal on his third shift of the night was certainly a welcome sight and addition.

"The goals and assists were great, obviously," said Crosby. "But just being back out there, I can't really even describe it. It was exciting, I was anxious. Lot of different things going through my mind, but the main thing was just the joy of playing, and that's something I've missed for the past 10 months, so it was great we had a good game and got the win."

It was also about getting their team back to full strength for the first time since the end of the 2009-10 postseason.

Whether it's been Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal or any other combination of players, the Penguins have been dealing with a steady stream of injuries over the better part of the past two seasons, with most of the damage being done to their three franchise centers. This is a team that is built down the middle with a trio of pivots that, when all are healthy and in the lineup, is a matchup problem for just about any other team in the league to go up against.

More on Sidney Crosby

Combined, Crosby,  Malkin and Staal take up over over $20 million of their salary cap space on a yearly basis, and are counted on to be their best players every night. Crosby and Malkin provide the scoring, Staal provides the shutdown center role that matches up against the other team's top line.

Monday's game represented just the third time since the start of last season, a total of 116 games, that all three players were in the lineup together. At various times over that stretch, they were without two of the three, if not all three for a small handful of games. Through it all, the Penguins managed to maintain a competitive squad, even if it wasn't always pretty, and even finished last season with 105 points in the regular season before exiting in the first-round of the playoffs -- minus Crosby and Malkin -- due in large part to a lack of goal-scoring.

And now, all three are back.

"It was certainly a different bench tonight," said Penguins coach Dan Bylsma. "Managing the ice time, getting players in different spots, than it has been in a long time. There are some players playing in different roles, or different minute slots for our team. Tonight it was maybe a different feel for me as a coach because of having 87, 71 and 11 there, and trying to fit players into the rotation and get them into the game, and get them into minutes. So it had a different feel for me. It's a feel I'd like to get used to a little bit more than just one game."

When asked what it was like to have all three players back in the lineup at the same time, defenseman Zbynek Michalek (who was also making a return to the lineup after missing the past month) said, "Yeah, it's been a while since we've had all three guys on the ice together, and when you have three centermen like that there aren't many teams in the league that can match up against that. Our team overall is pretty deep and if we can keep everybody healthy we can be a pretty good team."

Obviously, there were a ton of questions surrounding Crosby's return on Monday. Some were asking whether or not he could, despite missing the first 20 games of the season, work his way back into the scoring race, something that seemed like an unreasonable expectation (and it still kind of does).

When asked if he felt it could be done after the game, Bylsma simply chuckled for a moment and said, "I'm not going to make any prediction on that. We have 61 games left and his pace is pretty good right now."

Of course, the question of how much rust would be there after not playing in an NHL game for nearly 11 months was a sensible one, as would what might happen the first time he was hit during a game at full speed?

For the record, the first official hit in the scorebook belonged to defensemen Travis Hamonic.

It seemed unreasonable to think that he would able step right into the lineup and play at the same level he was playing at last season prior to suffering the concussion that ended his season. But he seemingly managed to do just that. He scored goals, he generated offense, leading the team in shots on goals, and he distributed the puck setting a pair of goals (including one for defensive-defenseman Brooks Orpik) and won most of his faceoffs.

"We want our centermen to go with speed and support and come from behind," said Bylsma when talking about Crosby's first goal. "But we haven't seen it quite like that in a long time. Just to see him get the puck right there I knew immediately their defense was in trouble. We've seen stuff like that before but it kind of played out in slow motion when he got the puck around the red line and had that burst of speed, and we've seen that backhand before. That was pretty special. I enjoyed his celebration."

At this point it's just one game back for Crosby, and expectations should remain within reason on an individual level. But on a team level? Against the Islanders, a squad that has been struggling mightily over the early part of the season, and elected to start a rookie goaltender making his first NHL start, we were reminded just how good the Penguins can be when all three of their top guys are in the lineup.

Photo: Getty Images

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Since: Oct 29, 2011
Posted on: November 22, 2011 4:33 pm

Sidney Crosby back on game spells trouble for NHL

That was a great performance by Crosby last night.  I can't wait to see what he does against St. Louis tomorrow night.

Since: Mar 2, 2008
Posted on: November 22, 2011 4:30 pm

Sidney Crosby back on game spells trouble for NHL

I hope he can keep up the pace.  With this season's terrible scoring leader averages, it simply reminds me of the terrible pre-lock-out NHL.  Nobody dominating the goalies is a very depressing thing, Kessel's single 1.38 PPG rate is a terrible thing to see all alone as the scoring leader.

Since: Nov 30, 2009
Posted on: November 22, 2011 4:29 pm

Sidney Crosby back on game spells trouble for NHL

Crosby back on game spells trouble for NHL? How so?

It simply means that if he returns to the shape he was in when he went down last year (32g/34 assists in 41 games) the rest of the NHL will have a hard time stopping him, something not many teams could do last year. Add one of the best players in the world to on of the top teams in the NHL and you've got a dangerous team, nothing more. I didn't read anything in the article about ticket sales, the NHL being unable to survive without Crosby, or that every team should just give up now that Sid is back.

I wouldn't spend a lot of time looking for things that aren't there.

Since: Aug 14, 2011
Posted on: November 22, 2011 4:14 pm

Sidney Crosby back on game spells trouble for NHL

Gee silivros, you would think that the league would have sent out the memos BEFORE the Crosby concussion saying not to hit him right? I mean afterall he is their meal ticket like you said. What's that? You mean they didn't but only now they are going to? Yeah, that makes about as much sense as you saying that Crosby is nothing more than a scorer. Give me a break.

Since: Jun 29, 2011
Posted on: November 22, 2011 4:10 pm

Sidney Crosby back on game spells trouble for NHL

Finally an athlete who waited until he was 100 percent to come back and play!  Smart guy not to ruin his career so early, too bad Eric Lindros didn't have the same care Crosby got, he could have had a great career, instead of being concussed all of the time.

Since: Aug 14, 2011
Posted on: November 22, 2011 4:07 pm

Sidney Crosby back on game spells trouble for NHL

For those who want to know the definition of what a hypocrite just read this guy's comment. Remember everyone, when people make fun of Philadelphia it's degrading and unclassy yet at the same time he tells people to get over it and not to get their panties in a bunch if the same thing applies to Crosby. Yup, HYPCRITE. God, it's great to see Flyer fans get all upset over the return of the guy who OWNS their team!!

Also a Philly fan calling someone else unclassy is the epitome of irony.  

Since: Apr 9, 2009
Posted on: November 22, 2011 3:53 pm

Sidney Crosby back on game spells trouble for NHL

Philly jealous of Pittsburgh once again!!!!!!!!! Philthadelphia!!!!!!!!

really dude? you make a comment about philly like you are above us and then you make a degrading comment proving how unclassy you actually are!

anyway...the only thing i see good in this return is the fact that now i can truly hate the penguins again because it just isn't the same without the little guy playing..

and for those who get their panties in a bunch when someone makes a comment about your golden boy that you don't like..please just get over it, i mean the majority of you are adults correct?

Since: Oct 13, 2006
Posted on: November 22, 2011 3:50 pm

Sidney Crosby back on game spells trouble for NHL

Crosby back on game spells trouble for NHL? How so? I don't see increased sales revenue trouble, but Oh I think I understand what you mean. Trouble as in the rest of the NHL teams are done for the year, as in persona non grata, they should hang up their skates? That kind of trouble?

Well I don't exactly agree. While Crosby is an exceptional player no doubt about that, like any "superstar" he is still over hyped. He has never been anything other than a scorer. His defense, while not a liability, is average, he's not gonna be winning any Selke trophy anytime soon.
Please do not take umbrage with that statement, it isn't taking anything away from his offensive prowess -  that is conceded. The problem with Crosby and well, any superstar in any league (NHL, NBA, NFL, and MBL) is that the media hypes these marquee players up to demi-god status - where even their average skills (Defense) are set upon a pedestal as being on par with some of the elite at their positions. That just isn't the case with any of these presumed superstars let alone Crosby.

Crosby will improve the Pens - yes, but is the rest of the NHL in trouble - nope. Boston and Philly might have something to say about that - Washington, the Rangers even. Also you have to be concerned if Crosby can still take a hit, and the last time I watched a hockey game there was a fair amount of hitting going on. Crosby is going to take a hit or two, although not much more than that you can bet - because the league office sent out a memo to every team in the league - "ah ah ah don't touch the golden boy".

The NHL still likes to consider Crosby their marketing meal ticket - and if I'm not mistaken they will do everything in their power to protect young Master Sydney from getting knocked on the knoggen again. Though here's the catch and maybe the NHL will figure it out soon - The NHL doesn't need Crosby in order to be successful. If I recall correctly, wasn't last years playoffs one of the most watched in years? - and I don't remember seeing Sydney Crosby lighting it up in May or June. Crosby is a very good player - will he make the Pens the team to beat this year? I doubt it, but lets revisit this at the end of the regular season.  

Since: Nov 30, 2009
Posted on: November 22, 2011 3:04 pm

Sidney Crosby back on game spells trouble for NHL

 Sidney Crosby should have comeback WAY WAY before. little pussy

Speaking of little pussies, what's Chris Pronger's story?

Since: Aug 12, 2008
Posted on: November 22, 2011 1:05 pm

Sidney Crosby back on game spells trouble for NHL

Philly jealous of Pittsburgh once again!!!!!!!!! Philthadelphia!!!!!!!!

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