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

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @AGretz on Twitter.


Since: Oct 9, 2011
Posted on: November 22, 2011 9:48 am

Sidney Crosby back on game spells trouble for NHL

WOW! Any doubts about this guy now? Only 1 game back but it was like he picked up where he left off before he was hurt. Pierre McGuire keeps saying how Crosby looks like he's in the best shape of his life and man is Pierre BANG ON!!!!
 If they stay healthy, the Pens will be awesome! Not a great thing being a Habs fan but a great thing being a hockey fan!

Since: Sep 8, 2006
Posted on: November 22, 2011 9:34 am

Sidney Crosby back on game spells trouble for NHL

When the guy was hurt last year he was running away from the rest of the lea gue with the most dominant MVP performance we've seen since guys like Mario and Gretzky were winning it. Then in his first game back, he scores 4 points. Where in all that can you possibly think the guy is overrated? Too soon to say, but it looks like he might be ready to take up the mantle of the best player in the league once more. Is your problem that he's not healing enough lepers in his spare time while inventing cold fusion to solve the energy crisis?

Since: Apr 25, 2008
Posted on: November 22, 2011 9:23 am

Sidney Crosby back on game spells trouble for NHL

Wow, is the only way to explain how good Crosby is.  It was like he didn't miss a game.  Man, I hate when he destroys my team, but he is fun to watch play.  The cross check penalty against him in the first was weak, hope the refs don't make that a regular call for him. 

Since: Mar 24, 2010
Posted on: November 22, 2011 9:14 am

Sidney Crosby back on game spells trouble for NHL

Man, how I missed the Sid-haters. I do believe that the Pens were playing against a NHL team. He showed what he is made of last night and will have better and worse games in the future. 4 points in a NHL game nowadays is a great feat, no matter who the opponent is. Welcome back Sid and watch out NHL ! 

Since: Sep 19, 2007
Posted on: November 22, 2011 9:10 am

Sidney Crosby back on game spells trouble for NHL

You are far the best player in the world.  If you cannot get past the rivalry of your team and Pitt, to see that, you know nothing about hockey.  He is great for hockey.  Go cheer on Vick and your Eagles....seem to carry him in high regard.  The immoral compass of Philly strikes again.

Hate Boston&LA
Since: May 4, 2011
Posted on: November 22, 2011 8:53 am
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator

Since: May 7, 2008
Posted on: November 22, 2011 8:45 am

Sidney Crosby back on game spells trouble for NHL

ColorMeGone, how many other players have put up 4 points against the Islanders this season?  I don't care how bad the team is, that was still a great performance.  It will be a better test when he goes up against Philly and Washington in the next few weeks, but I don't know too many players that can do what he did last night after being out for 11 months regardless of the team he's playing.

Since: May 7, 2008
Posted on: November 22, 2011 8:42 am

Sidney Crosby back on game spells trouble for NHL

Just about everyone on the team is growing a mustache.  It's for "Movember", during which guys grow mustache's to raise money for prostate cancer.  I'm sure once "Movember" is over the stache will be gone.  My brother is growing one and it looks just as ridiculous as Crosby's.

Since: Sep 17, 2007
Posted on: November 22, 2011 8:18 am
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator

Since: Jun 10, 2008
Posted on: November 22, 2011 8:09 am

Sidney Crosby back on game spells trouble for NHL

Criesby's "mustache" is either a chocolate milk mustache from his milk and cookies (before his mandatory kindergarten nap) or dirt from his little boy sandbox.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or