What’s up with Sid the Kid?

In years of dom­i­nance, Crosby has shown that a mere cold streak can’t keep him down

Windsor Star - - FRONT PAGE - MICHAEL TRAIKOS mtraikos@post­media.com twit­ter.com/Michael_Traikos

The prob­lem with writ­ing a what-is-wrong-with-Sid­neyCrosby story is the ques­tion it­self.

Ac­cord­ing to Mur­phy’s Law, any­thing that can go wrong will go wrong. Well, Crosby’s Law states that any time you sug­gest some­thing is wrong with the Pitts­burgh Pen­guins cap­tain, he goes on an of­fen­sive tear and proves you wrong.

Just ask Ray Shero. The New Jer­sey Devils gen­eral man­ager, who was pre­vi­ously the GM 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 three in scor­ing and then led Pitts­burgh to its first of two Stan­ley Cups. Of course, it also re­sulted in the fir­ing of head coach Mike Johnston.

“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.”

Be­fore Tues­day’s game against the Buf­falo Sabres, Crosby had no goals, three as­sists and a mi­nus-9 rat­ing in his pre­vi­ous 11 games. He scored in the sec­ond pe­riod, then set up Conor Sheary’s goal in over­time. Cold snap over.

We were far from the point where head coach Mike Sul­li­van’s job was in jeop­ardy, but Crosby is still a far cry from the 15 goals he had in his first 17 games last sea­son, when he won the Rocket Richard Tro­phy and fin­ished sec­ond in scor­ing.

Con­cern­ing? Not at all, Shero said. 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,” Shero said with a laugh. “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.”

It’s not like Crosby hasn’t done it be­fore.

The 30-year-old started the year with five goals and five as­sists in his first eight games be­fore this slump. In other words, give him a few more games be­fore drop­ping him from your fan­tasy league team.

The fact he only had five goals and 13 points in his first 19 games can be chalked up to puck luck more than any­thing. Crosby, who was in the top 15 in to­tal shots, had a shoot­ing per­cent­age of 8.3 per cent — nearly half of what it was last sea­son. Dur­ing this 11-game slump, he fired 34 shots on net, in­clud­ing a seven-shot out­burst against the Win­nipeg Jets and five-shot flur­ries against the Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers and Nashville Preda­tors.

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 (13 goals) of the New York Is­lan­ders has Josh Bai­ley (15 as­sists).

You need a star 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 Sheary (four as­sists) and Jake Guentzel (five 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 in last year’s play­offs.

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,” Shero said. “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.”

Peo­ple are re­ally ques­tion­ing that? … That last 24 months of dom­i­nance don’t re­ally add up to much.

GENE J. PUSKAR/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pitts­burgh Pen­guins cen­tre Sid­ney Crosby lifts the puck over Buf­falo Sabres goal­tender Robin Lehner for a goal in the sec­ond pe­riod of Tues­day’s game in Pitts­burgh. The goal ended an 11-game stretch in which the 30-year-old could not find the back of the net.

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