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.