Monday, November 21, 2011

This about sums it up...

Kudos to Matt24Cooke for this one...

11/21/11: St. Crosby's Day

So much for a tempered expectations; it's safe to say that Sidney Crosby exceeded them all. The scoresheet will read 2G, 2A, +3, 8 shots on goal, 14 for 21 on faceoffs, and 15:54 playing time over 21 shifts. Impressive stats for any player, for sure, let alone for one who has not played in the NHL for over 10 months. Still, the stats only tell part of the story.

Sidney Crosby was a dominant force every time he stepped onto the ice. Whether it be the man-advantage or full-strength, with Dupuis and Kunitz or with Malkin, it just didn't matter: Sid was flying and there was little the Islanders could do to slow him down (stopping him was unfathomable). Sid protected the puck, drove to the net, cycled, displayed game-breaking speed and acceleration, shot, deflected, took hits, gave hits, established a net-front-presence, and, oh yes, displayed what he'd clearly been working on during his time off: his absolutely lethal backhand. 

The way Sid uses his body to shield the puck, it is almost impossible to defend against his backhand. Both of Sid's goals came on the backhand tonight. Just when you thought that Sid couldn't add another dimension to his game, The Kid goes off, studies, and comes back with something you haven't seen. Other players may be able to add new words to their vocabulary, but Sidney Crosby is adding entirely new languages. 

In the end, Sid could have easily had much more than four points. The chances were there. Off the blade of his stick and off the vision of his passing, opportunities seemed to follow Sidney Crosby all night. Yes, this was against an Islanders team that has been struggling, but this was also an Islanders team desperate not to let the Comeback Kid use them as a step stool to climb back upon his pedestal. In the end, Sidney Crosby was not to be denied his return to the throne. He was far and away the best player on the ice. In fact, he was probably the best player on any ice this evening. Welcome back, Sidney. 

One side note: I can't, in good conscience, mention tonight's game without an Honorable Mention to Marc-Andre Fleury. It was surely Sid's night, but the shut-out came by way of a tremendous individual effort by The Flower. There were stretches where the Islanders pressed and had the Penguins pinned deep in their own end chasing (especially early). Had Fleury not stood tall and kept his composure, the Penguins could have easily found themselves trailing. I dare say the Pens would have still found a way to win, but this could have been a lot closer had it not been for Fleury's heroics.

Are you kidding me?

It took 3 shifts and about 90 seconds on the ice for Sidney Crosby to remind the hockey world what it's like when he is in the lineup... 

Forget that the Pens didn't look all that great in the first, this is all about Sidney Crosby. Sid accomplished nearly everything he could in the first:

Goal? Check. A perfect display of Sid's presence, power, speed, and skill.

Assist? Check. Great sequence ending with a perfect saucer pass to Brooks Orpik at the blueline. Orpik picked the top corner with a sizzling slapshot.

Hard check? Yup. Travis Hamonic knocked Sid on his tail behind the net. Sid, looking a bit surprised and a bit relieved to get that out of the way.

Power play time? Yessir. Sid didn't look a shade out of place on the top unit, cycling the puck well, generating chances, and looking hungry as ever.

Long shift? 7:10 of ice time. Those discussions of 12 minutes of ice time? Perhaps in the first period.

Whatever the case, Sidney Crosby is back. From the player who exceeds all superlatives, a comeback that surpassed all expectations... and we've got two more periods ahead. Wow.

Welcome Back, Sid!

From Pittsburgh's own Commonwealth Press, too good not to share.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Out of the tunnel and into the light: Sidney Crosby to return tomorrow night!

It's been nearly one full year since Sidney Crosby was last in the lineup. It has been nearly one full year of uncertainty over the future of one of Pittsburgh's, the NHL's, and the sport's brightest stars. It has been nearly one full year of asking the same question with no answer: when will Sidney Crosby return? Well, the question is rhetorical no more: Sidney Crosby will play tomorrow night against the New York Islanders.

What can we expect? Well, according to Coach Bylsma, Sid will center a line with Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis. Although Sid is returning to what is effectively the Pens top line, his ice time will be closely monitored. Sid indicated to Bylsma he feels he can handle 12 minutes of ice time for the game. Personally, I'd be more than happy if Sid stayed below 10 minutes. Sidney Crosby has tremendous personal drive and has been practicing vigorously for some time, but a year layoff is still a year layoff. Tomorrow night should be another small step in the slow, methodical approach the Pens and Crosby have taken since his treatment began.

Returning to live action is an important milestone in the recovery process, but we would be wise to remember it's not the end of the recovery. It is going to take time for Sid to fully re-acclimate to the tempo and the physical and mental toll a regular playing schedule demands. Even with his ice time closely metered, Sid may still need to take a night off (especially on back-to-back evenings) just to make sure he can fully recover between games. The most important thing for Sid right now is making sure he's physically and mentally 100% every time he steps on the ice; Sid cannot afford to have either compromised.

In reality, it may take a few months before Sid is fully adjusted back to daily life in the NHL. It may take considerably longer for him to return to the dominant form he displayed before he was injured in January. If anything, we've learned two things since then: First, be patient. Second, never count Sid "The Kid" out.  Right now, we'll just have to take it one step at a time. Right now, we're just thrilled to welcome Number 87 back to the ice where he belongs...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

It's like the Euro, only worth more...


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Pens 1 - Lightning 4: Post Game Quick Hits

Dwayne Roloson must have learned from Bill Belichick by studying tons of tape and perhaps had spy cameras in the Penguins practice sessions, because Roli The Goalie looked like Nostradamus out there. He played the Pens offense so well that it looked like he was reading off a script. Despite plenty of chances, including multiple power plays and extended stretches with Fleury pulled, the best the Penguins could do was a shot from Tyler Kennedy that deflected in. 

Conversely, the Pens PK gave up not one, but two goals to the Lightning with the man-advantage; I don't know that the Pens have given up two PP goals all season. Again, the Lightning seemed to be right there to capitalize on every Pens miscue and bad bounce. 

A goalie who has their number and a team that finds a way to get all the bounces makes for a long night, and it certainly was for the Pens. For whatever reason, the Lightning have the whammy on the Pens.

Honorable Mention goes to Matt Niskanen who not only played an exceptional game, but dropped the gloves late with Stamkos. That kind of effort doesn't go un-noticed, Matt.