Tag:Crosby Return
Posted on: November 21, 2011 11:53 pm
Edited on: November 22, 2011 10:43 am

Tracking Crosby: How he was utilized in debut

By: Adam Gretz

One of the biggest questions heading into Monday's Penguins and Islanders game was the number of minutes Sidney Crosby would play. The early estimates started off as low as 12 or 13, while it was pretty much a given that he wouldn't see anywhere near the 20 or 21 minutes he's averaged throughout his career.

When all was said and done, Crosby ended up playing a total of 15 minutes and 54 seconds over 21 shifts.

Here's how it looked:

Even-Strength Ice Time (11:29) -- When the Penguins acquired James Neal last season it was pretty much assumed that it was done for the purpose of eventually putting him with Crosby. And who knows, that may very well happen at some point. But with the way Neal has developed chemistry with Evgeni Malkin and Steve Sullivan, the Penguins are apparently in no hurry to break up a line that's working. So for the majority of his 21 shifts on Monday, Crosby centered the Penguins' top line between wingers Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis, as he has done throughout much of the previous two seasons. During those 11 minutes he recorded seven shots on goal (an incredible rate), scoring both of his goals, while also assisting on Brooks Orpik's second goal of the season. He also managed to draw a penalty when Milan Jurcina was sent off for cross-checking in the first period.

More on Sidney Crosby

Power Play Ice Time (4:23) -- During the Penguins' four power plays Bylsma responded each time by sending Crosby's unit out there to open the shift in the offensive zone. The Penguins power play, which struggled to score goals last season and through their opening round playoff loss to Tampa Bay, ended up finishing the night 1-for-4 with Crosby assisting on Malkin's power play tally at the 3:17 mark of the second period.

Faceoffs And Zone Starts -- When asked how conscious he was of where Crosby's shifts were starting, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma responded with, "I wasn't that conscious of that situation, more of the opponent he was playing against. However, he was winning a lot of his draws and When we could get him out there in that situation to win draws we did do that. He ends the game winning 15 of his draws, that's a lot. He picked up kind of where he left so we were using him in that situation."

Crosby ended the night winning 15 of his 21 faceoffs, a success rate of over 67 percent. This is one area of his game that Crosby made huge improvements in over the past two seasons and Bylsma utilized him in all three zones:

Offensive Zone Faceoffs: Seven (4-for-7 on faceoffs)
Neutral Zone Faceoffs: Six (5-for-6 on faceoffs)
Defensive Zone Faceoffs: Eight (6-for-8 on faceoffs)

Given that the Penguins were the home team and had the last line change, they were able to dictate who was out there against him for the most part, and did a good job of having him avoid New York's top defenseman, Mark Streit, as well as avoiding the Islanders' best defensive forward, Frans Nielsen, during even strength situations.

His most common opponent in the faceoff circle was Josh Bailey, whom he beat on four of eight draws. He was 5-for-5 against Nielsen, with all of them coming on the power play, and 4-for-6 against Marty Reasoner.

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

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

Sidney Crosby back on game spells trouble for NHL


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.

Posted on: November 21, 2011 7:41 pm
Edited on: November 21, 2011 8:40 pm

Video: Crosby scores 5 minutes into first game

By: Adam Gretz

PITTSBURGH -- It took Sidney Crosby three shifts, five minutes of clock time and one shot to score his first goal in his first game of the season.

After taking a pass from Pascal Dupuis in the neutral zone, Crosby flew into the New York zone and beat defenseman Andrew MacDonald before roofing a backhander over Islanders goaltender Anders Nilsson, making his first start in the NHL.

Here's the video:

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

Posted on: November 21, 2011 5:58 pm
Edited on: November 21, 2011 6:03 pm

Excitement continues to build for Crosby's return

By: Adam Gretz

PITTSBURGH -- How excited are Penguins fans for their return of their captain, Sidney Crosby?

Monday's game in Pittsburgh is being talked about and hyped up locally like it's the biggest and most anticipated regular season game for the franchise  since Mario Lemieux came out of retirement during the 2000-01 season. So, yes, it's kind of a big deal. Walking across the street to the arena one fan compared it to waking up on Christmas morning and added, quote, "it's like Santa is here and he's farting out presents."

I have no idea what, exactly, that means, but his excitement seems to be the norm for what should be a playoff-like atmosphere once the puck drops.

The Consol Energy Center doesn't have the greatest reputation when it comes to in-game atmosphere and reaching new heights on the decibal level. It's a typically mellow, laid back crowd, which is kind of surprising given the quality of the on-ice product. But that's certainly sure to change tonight. At least, it should. This is a game Penguins fans have been waiting for since last January when Crosby suffered the concussion that sidelined him for nearly 11 months and over 60 games. 

As soon as the Penguins announced on Sunday afternoon that Crosby would be coming back for this game the second-hand ticket market soared, and that's carried over to game day where scalpers on the street are asking for (and apparently getting) as much as $300-$500 per ticket.

One gentleman selling tickets simply smiled and said "it's a sellers market."

It's also a media circus as the Penguins have apparently issued somewhere in the area of 250 media credentials for the game, and they're probably not here for the return of Zbynek Michalek to the Pittsburgh lineup.

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

Posted on: November 21, 2011 1:02 pm
Edited on: November 21, 2011 1:05 pm

Anders Nilsson expected to start for Islanders

By: Adam Gretz

With veteran goalies Evgeni Nabokov and Al Montoya sidelined with injuries at the present time, and Rick DiPietro coming off a bad performance against the Boston Bruins that saw him allow three goals in the first period on Saturday, Islanders head coach has decided to start rookie Anders Nilsson between the pipes when his team takes on Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins Monday night.

That's a tall task for the 21-year-old rookie in what will surely be a crazed atmosphere in Pittsburgh.

Nilsson has appeared in just one NHL game, and that was on Saturday in relief of DiPietro. He allowed three goals on 17 shots.

He was called up from the Islanders AHL team in Bridgeport over the weekend following the injuries to Nabokov and Montoya. In seven games in the minor leagues this season he posted a 5-2 record to go with a .908 save percentage. Nilsson was a third-round pick by the Islanders back in 2009, and prior to this season had spent the past four year playing professionally in Sweden for Lulea HF.

In 33 career games against the Islanders Crosby has recorded 62 points (18 goals, 44 assists). The only other team that he's recorded that many points against is the Philadelphia Flyers (62) in three more games.

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

Posted on: November 21, 2011 11:34 am
Edited on: November 21, 2011 11:43 am

Crosby's ice time could be limited on Monday

By: Adam Gretz

When Sidney Crosby was at the top of his game in recent seasons it wasn't uncommon to see the Penguins send him out on the ice for well over 21, 22 or even 23 minutes per game. Seeing as how he hasn't played in a game since Feb. 5 of last season, and is coming back from a rather significant concussion, he's probably not going to be counted on for that sort of workload on Monday when he returns to the ice against the New York Islanders.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma was asked on Sunday evening whether or not Crosby's ice-time would be limited in his first game back, and as expected, it will definitely be monitored.

"In talking with players that are returning there's always a period of getting back to where your game is at," said Bylsma. "I think Sidney's adrenaline is going to be going so high tomorrow, I think he's going to be tired out a little bit quicker than he normally would. He thinks maybe he's only going to be able to play 12 minutes, and I laugh because when Sidney Crosby gets to 12 minutes, he's certainly going to want the 13th minute. I'm not sure what that number might be, but we're certainly not rushing back to 20 minutes like we did before."

Bylsma also added that depending on what happens during the game, such as the number of minutes the Penguins spend on the power play, there are situations that could result in his playing time being a bit higher than expected. He also added on Monday following the Penguins' morning skate that there isn't a predetermined number of minutes, and that the game will dictate the number of minutes he plays.
More on Crosby's Return

Crosby's return is, obviously, being greeted with a great deal of enthusiasm in Pittsburgh and around the NHL, and expectations are already through the roof. There's even been some discussion as to whether or not he can still compete for the NHL's scoring title this season despite being nearly 20 games behind the rest of the league. Just to put a number on that, if we assume that the NHL scoring lead will fall somewhere in the area of 105 points, he would need to average nearly 1.69 points per game. He was averaging 1.61 last season, which was the highest mark of his career, before being sidelined.

Expecting that level of play right off the start is expecting too much.

He hasn't played in nearly a full calendar year and is coming off a significant injury. And for as talented as he is, you have to think there's going to be an adjustment period. Try and forget about scoring titles and point totals for right now and just try to take it one game at a time in the beginning.

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

Posted on: November 20, 2011 7:10 pm
Edited on: November 21, 2011 11:35 am

Want to see Crosby's return? It will cost you

ticketsBy: Adam Gretz

After months of guessing and speculation, Sidney Crosby will finally make his return on Monday night when the Penguins host the New York Islanders at the Consol Energy Center.

The big winners, aside from the Penguins who are getting their captain and best player back after missing nearly a full year of action, are looking to be the folks that enjoy making an extra buck or two on the second-hand ticket market.

Penguins tickets have been a hot item for several years now as the team is currently riding a consecutive sellout streak of well over 200 games, and as should be expected the prices for Monday's game on the team's official Ticket Exchange, as well as websites like StubHub, have seen a sudden spike following Sunday afternoon's announcement.

As of this posting on Sunday evening at 7 PM ET, the cheapest ticket for Monday's game on the Penguins Ticket Exchange is over $143 for second level tickets. And they quickly go up. The most expensive? Some opportunistic fan that is offering his seats in section 205 (just inside the blue line of the end the Penguins shoot at twice) for $690.00 ... each. Tickets in that section have a face value range of between $60 (Standing Room Only) and $100.

Good luck with that.

Most seats are north of $200 and $300.

The cheapest seats on StubHub, again, as of Sunday night, range from $115 to $345.

Just as a comparison, tickets for Wednesday's game against the St. Louis Blues range from $69.86 to $115 on the team's Ticket Exchange, before going up to a mininum of $86.25 on Friday to a maximum of $400 for Friday's game against the Ottawa Senators.

It's a good bet that those numbers will continue to rise leading up to faceoff on Monday evening.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: November 20, 2011 3:05 pm
Edited on: November 21, 2011 11:34 am

Sidney Crosby to return to Pens for Monday game

By Brian Stubits

The Pittsburgh Penguins have announced the wait is over, Sidney Crosby will finally return to the lineup on Monday against the New York Islanders.

And the hockey world cheered.

"He's excited and anxious," coach Dan Bylsma said on a conference call Sunday. "I think the building's going to be going crazy."

When he returns, he'll be playing on a line with Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis, the players Bylsma said Crosby is the most comfortable with.

But don't expect too much from him in Game 1. Byslma said Crosby told him that he'll likely only be able to play 12 minutes, prompting Bylsma to laugh.

"Sidney's adrenaline will be going so high," Bylsma said. "When Sidney Crosby gets to 12 minutes, he's certainly going to want the 13th minute."

You'll be able to watch the game on Versus (or CBC for our Canadian friends) as the American network has swapped from Canadiens-Bruins to the return of Sid.

Crosby has been out of the lineup since January 5 when he suffered a second concussion in as many games. Since then, it has been a long and twisting road to his return with the hockey world waiting with bated breath for the return of arguably the NHL's top player. The wait is over.

It's a development that's exciting to everybody in the NHL. The fans of the game (and the Penguins, of course) are thrilled to have Crosby back on the ice. The rest of the people like Jeremy Roenick are happy the speculating and anticipating is done with.

Crosby was cleared for contact on Oct. 13 and has since been going through the normal rigors of practices with his teammates as well as traveling with the team in recent weeks. For the past two or three weeks Crosby has more or less been day-to-day and for their part, the Penguins have been very good keeping everybody up to date, announcing the day before the game if Crosby would be playing or not.

Pittsburgh will obviously welcome Crosby back with open arms, but it's not as if the team has struggled in his absence. They are still in first place of the Atlantic Division (tied with Philadelphia) with Crosby out. Assuming Crosby returns to his old form -- and there is no reason to believe he won't -- the Penguins are the favorite to win the East, something many people already considered them to be.

Before he went down with the concussions last season, Crosby played exactly have a season -- 41 games -- and had 32 goals plus 34 assists. So now the question becomes how many points will Crosby score this season?

Pittsburgh has 62 games left on its schedule. So assuming Crosby will play in most if not all of those games, I'm going to cautiously set the over/under at 65 points. Under normal circumstances, most everybody would take the over on that, but there remains some uncertainty on how Crosby will perform when he comes back on the ice.

Considering how careful the Penguins were with Crosby throughout his entire recovery, it's difficult to imagine that he won't becoming back near 100 percent physically. He's been practicing for a long time with the team, so perhaps there won't be a lot of rust to shake off. The most interesting part will be seeing how he reacts to playing by the boards and after taking his first couple of hits.

Oh, and if anybody wants to take a run at Crosby now that he's back, I'd like to remind would-be checkers that the Penguins just recalled Steve MacIntyre from the AHL and, well, he can fight.

"We know what he means to this team, this city," defenseman Kris Letang said. "He's a special player."

And what he means to the NHL. Like him or not, this is great news for the league.

Photo: Getty Images

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

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