Friday, January 18, 2008

Well, this sucks

Sidney Crosby hurt. Oh boy. What's initially been diagnosed as a dreaded "high ankle sprain" took Crosby out of the game and probably a lot longer.


But before declaring all to be lost, let's try to focus on the good:

1)The Penguins have a center (Evgeni Malkin) to plug into the #1 spot on the depth chart who would probably be a #1 center on 25+ teams in the NHL.
2)When Marc-Andre Fleury went down to the very same injury, everyone and their brother pronounced the season to be lost. Out of the absolute shadow stepped in Ty Conklin who hadn't lost in regulation until tonight!

All this instant diagnosis of Crosby being out 4+ weeks seems a little premature. In our experience of seeing this injuries this year though (namely the Caps Alex Semin and the Pens Max Talbot) in both occasions the players thought they could heal faster than they really could, both came back too early (Semin did numerous times) and both paid the price of having the nagging injury take it's toll.

Crosby prides himself at being a professional and taking care of his body. He's not going to rush anything and knows what he can and can't play through. Plus the Pens medical staff has now dealt with three of these sprains (the aforementioned Talbot and Fleury) so they should be very familiar about rehabbing this.

When one goes down, someone else must take his place. No matter how important, Crosby is a cog in the machine. A very, very important part, to be sure, but the great thing about hockey is it's a team sport. The best players, and more often the best collection of players, often do not win it all. Rather, it's the best collection of talent that bonds together; picks up the slack and refuses to lose (and gets the requisite amount luck and bounces along the way) that usually carries off the Cup.

In that sense, losing your best player will test the whole club. For starters obviously Malkin is going to have to bring his A game as the new #1 center. But when Crosby was out last season for a few games with a groin injury Malkin was flat out sensational and took games over--almost as if he knew he was not only out of Sid's shadow but had to carry the mail for the team.

Secondary scoring is now a must. Players like Jordan Staal and Ryan Malone are now going to be in a bigger role and have to pick up the slack and capitalize on their opportunities. Both have been inconsistent offensively for stretches but with the big dog out of the lineup, their contributions are necessarily and neither need to be told that.

Further it's going to test the coaching staff. Memo to Michel Therrien: now is not the time to play the only elite winger sniper you have (Petr Sykora) with glorified grinders and role players like Jarrko Ruutu and Talbot. You have to consolidate your skill, and in a hurry.

Here's how we'd work the lines, as of now:


Second line is a huge question mark, given how EC hasn't played well on the wing and Staal hasn't produced, but we think TK's energy gives it a boost. Even though they're young; they're responsible enough defensively and hustle enough to negate that....Malkin and Sykora worked well together in Russia during the lockout season and need to play together. Period. Malone's done a good job taking the body and opening up space and we think will thrive knowing that he's now a leader of this team and has to come through.

Stay tuned for the next prognosis on Crosby. God willing it will turn out better than it looked tonight.

If not, just time to make some lemonade (and vodka) out of these lemons.

As for the game....we hear Andre Roy had a part in all the goals, scoring one and assisting two more. And the Penguins didn't score. And Brooks Orpik was -3. And Ty Conklin lost. And Crosby got hurt? If you'll excuse us we're either drunk or in the midst of a nightmare.

1 comment:

The Peerless said...

I wouldn't see Malkin as the key here, but Staal. Malkin is a given, at least talent wise. He is a high end producer, and one might expect him to continue that way. The consideration is how he might handle the increased attention -- on-ice and as a focus among the media.

But Staal, who has had a bit of a step back this season, might be asked to fill Malkin's shoes, and that is a steeper climb than Malkin-to-Crosby.

I think Staal will be the one to watch among the forwards.