Let's just get the most obvious unbelievable statements out of the way first:
In the misspent days of my television-watching youth in the 1950s -- this is so long ago that the remote control consisted of getting off the couch, crossing the room and turning the dial to one of the five other channels -- my favorite show was the after-school classic, The Mickey Mouse Club. (This Disney reference is only tangential to hockey, unlike Wayne Gretzky's 1984 off-the-cuff assessment of the Devils as a Mickey Mouse organization, and, of course, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, but please stick with me.) The show's best day was Wednesday, known as Anything Can Happen Day. It's a memory, like Proust's madeleine, that flooded over me like hot Zamboni water recently during a chat with Predators coach Barry Trotz.
NEW YORK -- This time was going to be different; it had to be. It would be impossible to hold even Sidney Crosby to the standards of last Nov. 21, when he scored two goals and four points against the Islanders in his first game back from a concussion suffered more than 10 months earlier. But if that November game was a reminder of Crosby's singular brilliance, then Thursday night at Madison Square Garden was a perfect demonstration of how Crosby, despite his status, still fits in a team.
OTTAWA -- The most frothy of hockey concoctions is always at risk of being overtaken by events of rather more gravitas, which made the latest iteration of the ever-changing NHL All-Star game -- Team Chara 12, Team Alfredsson 9, in case you care or had the over in Vegas -- not much different from any of these modern mid-winter festivals of shinny.
The looming NHL crisis is hiding in plain sight.
1. Sidney Crosby and the concussion epidemic. There are many years when you could argue that Crosby has been the focal point of hockey. This is another of those years, unfortunately for less than sanguine reasons. The Penguins' captain bracketed 2011 from Day 1 until the December reoccurrence of his concussion symptoms that have made this something other than a Merry Christmas season.
An otherwise lazy Sunday suddenly morphed into a manic Sid day.
PITTSBURGH -- The Penguins' practice on Tuesday ended with one of those shootout contests that HBO featured last year in its 24/7 series. Each skater takes shots on goalies Marc-Andre Fleury and Brent Johnson, who take the opportunity to make flashy saves by, say, doing push-ups or bench-pressing their sticks as a shooter approaches. Last man standing this day would be the "Magazine Boy" responsible for picking up periodicals for the players' lounge.
PITTSBURGH -- It's impossible to explain how or why the world's best athletes always seem to rise to meet expectations -- as enormous as they may be. Maybe it's the expectations of a franchise that was scouring for pennies not so long ago, hoping for another savior. Or a city that was looking for its third Stanley Cup. Maybe it's the expectations of a hockey-mad nation, wishing only to capture Olympic gold on its home ice. But in his relatively short career, Sidney Crosby doesn't seem to let expectations go unrealized. Perhaps that is the defining quality, what separates the very best from everyone else.
MONTREAL -- Some 475 miles to the southwest, in the NHL's Gotham City, Superman has peeled off his drenched black Pittsburgh Penguins undergarments, his morning skate a tasty hors d'oeuvre in anticipation of the feeding frenzy that will accompany his re-entry into the superhero racket that night. Meanwhile, up in the Bell Centre, Patrice Bergeron of the Bruins stands by his stall in the visitors' dressing room, dipping into his own past, ladling out his own truths, in an effort to frame the return of the Caped Crusader -- like Clark Kent, "Sidney Crosby" is an alias -- in the proper perspective.
The midpoint of the 2010-11 season occurs on Saturday -- Tampa Bay visiting Ottawa marks the official NHL winter solstice, in case you were wondering -- but like the announced attendance at some rinks, let's just say we're close enough to present our midseason awards.
1. Sidney Crosby's golden goal. Seven minutes and 40 seconds into overtime of the Winter Olympic gold medal game, Crosby turned a one-on-four against Team USA into the most significant goal in Canadian hockey history since Paul Henderson's in Game 8 of the 1972 Summit Series. From coast to coast to coast of the anxious host nation, Canadians rushed outdoors to communally fete Crosby's golden goal. Other than V-E Day, has there been any event that has prompted similar spontaneous nationwide celebrations in the United States?
Gee, the NHL's Steven Stamkos Era ended sort of suddenly, didn't it?
Sidney Crosby's golden goal stories in the SI Vault
Sports Illustrated will announce its choice for Sportsman of the Year on Nov. 29. Here's one of the nominations for that honor by an SI writer.
Memo to U.S. President Barack Obama:
OTTAWA -- Playoff platitudes like Dan Bylsma's "getting to our game" surely make for good group rallying cries and T-shirt slogans. The reality is that, at some stage of a playoff series, comparing the point production, effort and level of engagement of the two teams' best players is valid and revealing.
As the Penguins-Senators series shifts to Ottawa for Sunday's Game 3, here are a few things to look for ...
Here are the Three Stars from Friday's playoff action, which included five nip-and-tuck games.
PITTSBURGH -- Some things went right for the Penguins in the opener of their seven-game series on Wednesday night. The defending Stanley Cup champions held Ottawa snipers Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson without a goal. The Penguins got two man-advantage goals from Evgeni Malkin and a highlight-film worthy assist from Sidney Crosby on another score. And yet, despite having two more power plays than Ottawa had and despite going against a goalie who was only so-so for most of the night, the Penguins fell 5-4 on home ice. Clearly, the champs have things to correct for Game 2.
VANCOUVER -- The funny thing was, Sidney Crosby really hadn't done much all game. No points. Only two shots on goal. A missed breakaway late in the third period when he pushed the puck too far ahead and left himself no room to maneuver against American goalie Ryan Miller. The 22-year-old Crosby hadn't scored a point in more than three games and had been a non-factor on the ice.
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- If he really is Sid the Kid, then he is also Destiny's Child.
The topic of the day, class, is which is more surprising: Sidney Crosby leading Alexander Ovechkin in goals or Ovechkin leading Crosby in assists?
There's a sense that the NHL's Winter Classic outdoor game, which captures the attention of even non-hockey fans, is sure to move from novelty to boring, staid, or one-trick pony that's run its very limited course. It's mostly a media opinion and it's wrong -- so wrong, that to even put forth the argument is a fair indication that the Classic's critics have lost touch with their audience.
1. The 2004-05 lockout. Struggling with rising costs and with its CBA expired, the NHL locked its doors on Sept. 16, 2004, in an effort to secure a salary cap. The players dug in their heels in futile petulance. And 310 days later, backroom negotiations led to their capitulation and a 24 percent salary rollback.
Sports Illustrated will announce its choice for Sportsman of the Year on Nov. 30. Here's one of the nominations for that honor by an SI writer.
CALGARY -- The vox populi in the Calgary Herald decided Monday in a result often associated with Soviet elections that the esteemed Jarome Iginla should be the next Captain Canada, the man with the scarlet letter (on the white uniforms) when a hockey-daft nation plays in the Olympics next February in Vancouver.
Here are the Three Stars from the Penguins' 4-2 victory in Game 4:
The Skinny: You know that old saying about defense winning championships? Forget it. This is the New NHL, and these days it's all about the O. Little wonder then that the league's two most lethal sides are back to test their marksmanship on one another for the second year in a row.
These are surely metaphysical times in the wonderful world of sports, and the chattering of many frightened teeth concerns whether Sidney Crosby has consigned the Pittsburgh Penguins to certain defeat in the Stanley Cup Final. Crosby, you see, was brassy -- or dumb -- enough to actually touch the Prince of Wales Trophy after the Pens won the Eastern Conference title on Tuesday night.
Call it a moment of foreshadowing.
Some thoughts and observations from the day off before Game 2 of the Hurricanes-Penguins series...
There is something truly ugly about these NHL playoffs, something that has drawn a little comment here and there, inspired the occasional raised eyebrow, led to a snigger or two. It's something that, as it refuses to go away -- and in fact grows worse with each passing day -- needs to be addressed:
1. Sidney Crosby, Penguins: Crosby answered the bell in the first Game 7 of his career, netting the critical opening goal with a power play tap in before writing a dramatic denouement. He closed out the scoring by stealing the puck from his rival Alexander Ovechkin at the Pittsburgh blueline then racing alone through three zones before snapping it through the legs of Jose Theodore. In the battle of the game's two marquee stars, Crosby is the one who moves on to the next round . . . and based on his two-way play, he was the more deserving.
Not surprisingly, the two teams with the most experience and owners of the past two Stanley Cups, the Anaheim Ducks and the defending champion Detroit Red Wings, opened closest to peak performance than any of the eight remaining teams. Both clubs knew how to throw the pace-of-play switch for the second round and that they are playing one another, makes that series the most intriguing. Apologies to Mr. Crosby and Ovechkin, et al.
The spotlight was focused squarely on Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin coming into Saturday's opener of the Eastern Conference semifinal. No surprise that both lived up to the hype, each man scoring a nifty goal and involving themselves in several high-quality chances in a contest ultimately claimed by the Capitals, 3-2.
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby cut short his participation in an optional morning practice because of a sore groin and will not play against the New York Islanders.
Before wading deep into the Jennifer vs. Angelina-style feud that is the talk of the NHL, return to the skills competition at All-Star weekend last month to see if it sheds any light on that contretemps Sunday between Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin.
Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has left practice early because of a sore groin, but is listed as probable for Wednesday night's home game against the New York Islanders.
Sidney Crosby has a lot on his mind these days, what with nagging injuries and his Penguins struggling to stay within hailing distance of that final playoff spot in the East. But I hope he managed to take a few minutes out of his day to consider the contract signed this week by Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg.
Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby will miss the All-Star game because of a left knee injury.
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby expects to play in the NHL All-Star game on Sunday in Montreal despite having a sore left knee.
Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby ruled himself out of Friday night's game against Anaheim because of an apparent left knee injury.
Sidney Crosby sat out the Pittsburgh Penguins' optional practice Thursday with an undisclosed injury, possibly to his left knee, but it may not keep him out of Friday's game against Anaheim.
Dynamic duos are a rarity to be treasured in the game of hockey. Gretzky to Kurri in Edmonton. Trottier to Bossy on Long Island. Lemieux to Jagr in Pittsburgh. Those tandems shared the centerman-to-winger dynamic that you usually associate with scoring combinations.
Have you caught the latest installment of the Sidney Crosby Show? The run of multipoint nights, the lifting of the injury-wracked Penguins, the on-ice act that also features the artistic stylings of sidekick Evgeni Malkin and his stick of fire? You don't know what treats Sid the Kid will provide these days. Last week, he scored an empty net goal from his belly.
There sure are a lot of questions floating in the Atlantic: Will the Penguins be as formidable after bleeding free agents all summer? Will Simon Gagne be healthy enough to put the Flyers over the top? Can the Devils win with a nondescript blueline corps? Can the Islanders win without scoring? Oh, yeah. The Rangers. Just about everyone except the goaltender should wear a question mark on his blueshirt rather than a number.
Maybe 20-year-old Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby was simply waiting until the Stanley Cup finals jumped from cable to an over-the-air network to play a game for the ages Wednesday, one of the matches that will be lauded today and savored when his fabulous career is over.
The hour is nearly at hand. Not three years after he was drafted number one overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins -- a less surprising pick we have never known -- Sidney Crosby, already a Hart Trophy-winner, already an NHL captain, has taken his so recently beleaguered franchise into the Stanley Cup finals. Fait accompli, sure. But just 32 months after his NHL debut? Who knew?
There are 46,055 square miles in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which means it is obviously not big enough for two NHL teams in May.
ATLANTA -- Imagine a gathering of the world's great donuts without a glazed from Krispy Kreme. Or having a party for America's finest illusionists without David Blaine. Imagine a Happy Days reunion without the Fonz.
In the spirit of holiday receiving, Sidney Crosby added to his June haul -- Trophies Hart, Ross, Pearson et. al. -- with a December to remember. Canada threw bouquets and awards at the feet of its favorite hockey son, naming the precocious 20-year old the winner of the prestigious Lou Marsh Award (presented by the Toronto Star and friends), the Canadian Press male athlete of the year, the Canwest Media athlete of the year, the Rogers Sportsnet athlete of the year and probably a few that slipped through the cracks.
"We can't get too far ahead of ourselves. All we can do is approach each game with the right attitude."
Sports Illustrated will announce its choice for Sportsman of the Year on Dec. 3. Here's one of the nominations for that honor by an SI writer. For more essays, click here.
Sidney Crosby has no time to be nervous, overwhelmed or awed by anything on a hockey rink.
Is it February already? The way the love letters have poured in since Tuesday's column regarding Sidney Crosby's new contract, I thought we had to be closing in on Valentine's Day.
So much for taking one for the team.
"People talk to you a great deal about your education, but some good, sacred memory, preserved from childhood, is perhaps the best education." -- Alyosha, in Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov
If Sidney Crosby is the face of the NHL, then Evgeni Malkin is about to be the NHL face that appears on a milk carton.
Before looking ahead to the playoffs, it's time to reflect on the season past -- and who made the most of it -- by picking the winners for hockey's top individual awards.No guarantees that these will be the actual winners when the league hands out the hardware in June, but hey, I won my NCAA pool. Clearly I'm on a roll ...
Like the season-ending Little League banquets, the NHL just loves to hand out awards. There are the weekly and monthly three stars awards and the rookie of the month award, an award for plus-minus, a trophy for sportsmanship, a trophy for the best defensive forward, two awards for goaltenders and a slew of other big trophies handed out at the end of the season in a spiffy ceremony that is televised live in Canada. (Basically, the league has everything except an award for most honest golfer.)
John Lydon of the Sex Pistols famously once asked, "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?"
Loading weather data ...