WHAT’S THE PROBLEM WITH SIDNEY CROSBY?
CROSBY’S MINI-SLUMP NO CAUSE FOR CONCERN
The problem with writing a “what is wrong with Sidney Crosby?” story is the question itself.
According to Murphy’s Law, anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Well, Crosby’s Law states that anytime you suggest something is wrong with the Pittsburgh Penguins captain is when he goes on an offensive tear and proves you wrong. Just ask Ray Shero. The New Jersey Devils GM, who was previously the general manager of the Penguins, remembers people questioning whether Crosby was on the decline after he started the 2015-16 season with two goals in his first 18 games. That was the year when he finished in the top-3 in scoring and then led Pittsburgh to its first of two Stanley Cups — of course, it also resulted in Mike Johnston getting fired as head coach.
“When he was going through that tough stretch and went through a coaching change, we were playing in Pittsburgh and I got asked this same question,” Shero said in a phone interview with Postmedia News. “I saw the previous two games he played and said, ‘it’s turning.’ Unfortunately, it was turning against us.”
Crosby scored a goal and added an assist Tuesday in Pittsburgh’s 5-4 overtime win over the Buffalo Sabres.
But heading into Tuesday night’s game against Buffalo, Crosby had no goals, three assists and a minus- 9 rating in his previous 11 games. During that span, the Penguins have gone 4-5-2. We’re far from being at a point where head coach Mike Sullivan’s job is in jeopardy. But Crosby is also a far cry from the 15 goals he scored in his first 17 games last season, when he won the Rocket Richard Trophy and finished second in scoring.
Concerning? Not at all, said Shero. Knowing Crosby, he’s bound to rack up 20 points in the next 10 games.
“People are really questioning that? I guess that last 24 months of dominance don’t really add up to much,” laughed Shero. “I don’t know how many games he’s gone without a goal. But I don’t want to be that next team that play against him, I’ll put it that way.”
Indeed, it’s not like Crosby hasn’t done it before.
Despite being “hung over” from winning two- straight Stanley Cups, the 30- yearold started the year with five goals and five assists in his first eight games before going on this mini- slump. In other words, wait a couple of more days before dropping him from your fantasy league team.
The fact that he only has five goals and 13 points in his first 19 games can be chalked up to puck luck more than anything. Crosby, who is in the top-15 in total shots, has a shooting percentage of 8.3 per cent — nearly half of what it was last season. During this 10- game slump, he has fired 34 shots on net, including a seven- shot outburst against the Jets and five-shot flurries against the Oilers and Predators. The chances are coming. The puck just isn’t going in.
And really, his linemates are to blame as much as the hockey gods.
Look at the top scorers in the league this season and none of them are doing it alone. Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov ( 16 goals) has Steven Stamkos ( 23 assists), Washington’s Alex Ovechkin ( 13 goals) has Evgeny Kuznetsov ( 16 assists) and John Tavares of the New York Islanders (13 goals) has Josh Bailey (15 assists).
You need to play with an all- star calibre linemate to score goals in this league. In some cases, such as Philadelphia’s Sean Couturier, Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux or St. Louis’s Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Tarasenko and Brayden Schenn, you need three.
Crosby, who has mostly played with Jake Guentzel ( f i ve assists) and Conor Sheary (two assists), is practically by himself. He’s never had top-line wingers because he’s never needed them. He turned Chris Kunitz into an Olympian, made Pascal Dupuis into a household name and introduced the hockey world to Guentzel during last year’s playoffs.
But now that he’s struggling, he might need help. Or maybe, as Shero suggested, he just needs another game to heat up and remind everyone why he has been so dominant in his career.
“I don’t care what anybody says, he’s the best player in the league,” said Shero. “That torch will be passed at some point, no different than when it was when Mario and Wayne Gretzky took it from Bobby Orr and guys like that. But it’s not today.
“Connor McDavid scored three goals in his first game and everybody expected him to have 210 goals this year. It’s not that easy.”
Sidney Crosby, centre, celebrates his goal with Justin Schultz and Patric Hornqvist after breaking an 11-game scoring drought in the second period of Tuesday night’s game against the Buffalo Sabres.