There’s a lot on the line for Sidney Crosby in Game 7.
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Penguins captain Sidney Crosby had to be helped off the ice after being cross-checked across the face during the first period Monday.
The adversity that followed for Crosby was even more challenging. Multiple concussions cut seasons short for the best player in the game. There was another lockout. Coaching systems were implemented that didn’t highlight the strengths of Crosby’s game. Rival players knew the buttons to press to get him off his game.
Pittsburgh swept Edmonton last season, a testament to the depth around Crosby. Crosby was held without a point while McDavid had a goal and three assists in the two games.
The next year, Crosby was 22 and had already posted four 100-point seasons. If anybody was going to win back-to-back Cups, it was him. What he didn’t have then was the perspective of time. He didn’t have the maturity that comes with life experience. He didn’t have what he has now.
First of all is there anyone who doesn’t cringe watching Sidney Crosby glide up to Ryan O’Reilly from behind and swat him between the legs with his stick Tuesday night? Crosby lay on the ice for several moments before slowly getting up and skating off, mostly on his own power. He went directly down the tunnel for treatment. His leg also bent awkwardly during the collision.
Yet they’ve found a way to persevere. Crosby is at the heart of it, but he’s getting major help from Evgeni Malkin, who transformed into beast mode at times in Game 6, one of the few players in hockey who can physically take over a game. Phil Kessel continues to play with a heightened intensity. Matt Murray has been strong since taking over in goal.
“When you see him across from you, you have to be ready,” said Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby, who trains with MacKinnon in the offseason. “With the way he skates and his skill, he doesn’t need a lot of time and space to make space. He has great hands, a great shot, but his speed opens up things. He’s a dynamic player, china nhl jerseys and with all the tools he has he’s tough to play against.”
Before some in attendance even had the chance to take their seats, Crosby was barreling down the ice toward Predators defensemen Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi, unraveling the pair before firing a shot on net. He didn’t score, but Crosby did draw a holding penalty on Ellis on his first shift. Just 41 seconds later, Crosby slid a precise pass to Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz, who made no mistake on the one-timer to open the scoring.
It’s not unlike the path Crosby and the Penguins followed shortly after he made his NHL debut in 2005. Pittsburgh reached the postseason in Crosby’s second year. The Penguins reached the Cup final in his third year. In his fourth, he raised the Cup with the franchise’s third championship.
That combined with the fact the Senators play a system that just isn’t going to allow too much offense on the rush means Crosby and his linemates will have to generate in other areas at even strength. Crosby likely will play between Guentzel and Rust again against Buffalo after the Penguins lost 5-4 in a shootout to Nashville. He scored in the second round of the shootout, going forehand to backhand and beating Predators goalie Pekka Rinne.
On his next shift, Crosby stole the puck from Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne behind Nashville’s net and created another quality chance. Less than a minute later, he took an errant pass deep in the right circle and directed the puck between his own legs before firing a cross-ice pass for another quality chance.
“It looks like it’s a for-sure goal with the play they made, and he’s kind of down and out and finds a way to get his [blocker] on it,” Crosby said. “That’s a big point in the game. If they score on that, maybe they get some momentum and it’s a different outcome. That was a huge save for us. We were able to settle in and generate some chances ourselves.”
Sidney Crosby and the other Penguins stars can’t repeat all by themselves. Pittsburgh is a win away from a return trip to the Stanley Cup finals thanks to a next-man-up approach and newcomers like Carter Rowney who have shined this postseason.