No Malkin, No Crosby, No More
It has been over 300 days. It has been over 60 regular season contests. It has been a long freaking time, but it is finally over. Arguably the best player in the game of hockey made his return to the game tonight. Crosby has waited a long time and with every passing interview one could see the ever growing impatience on his face. While tonight will mean a lot for the fans and for the NHL, this night was really about Crosby. A player that lives and breathes the game is finally allowed to take the ice. Crosby’s return was sure to be great, but this one was downright special.
In the first period of play, Crosby scored on his third shift. Streaking down the right side of the ice, Crosby held of the defender, keeping the puck to the outside, before roofing a backhand over the glove of the large Nilsson. Later in the period Crosby was absolutely hammered into the boards and rose up with a smile. No matter what happened tonight, Sid was just enjoying himself on the ice. With a few minutes remaining, Crosby set up Brooks Orpik with a nice backhand pass. Orpik sent a blast into the top left corner of the net. Sending the Penguins to an early 2-0 lead and giving Crosby his second point of the game.
His physicality in the first period was what intrigued this writer the most. While watching his puck control down low as well as his initiation of contact made one feel as if Crosby was more than ready.
The Second period was another strong showing for the Penguins as they potted two more goals. On a power play Crosby let a blast scorch the pad of Nilsson, only to get the big rebound right back. His quick backhand pass to Letang led to another quick pass to Malkin. Malkin slammed home the pass off of the side of the net for the third goal of the game. It was Crosby’s third point of the night. Just a few minutes later Malkin sent a gorgeous feed to Steve Sullivan who placed the puck in the back of the net. The continuing period saw great performances by Marc-Andre Fleury and Zbynek Michalek. Michalek was back for the first time in ten games since breaking his hand and his game looked fantastic. Marc-Andre Fleury was sharp in both period to this point allowing no goals on 20 shots. The Pens led in shots, faceoffs, and scoring chances after two and it showed all game.
The start of the third saw the Pens go right back to work. They came out flying and quickly had the puck in the offensive zone. Crosby would add the fifth goal of the night on a fluttering backhand. He snagged the puck behind the net with some strong checking by Jurcina. With a strong move up the boards, Crosby used a quick turnaround to shed Jurcina and score. The Penguins would take a few penalties late in the period with the Iles making one last push, but Fleury was strong and Cooke was unreal. Matt Cooke has been nothing but helpful this season and really played exceptional on the penalty kill.
As the game ticked away the fans started a Crosby chant, a sound that was music to the ears of every fan in the world(except maybe the Islanders). The game was a strong one by the pens in all areas. They outshot the Isles, they won more faceoffs, and they had something extra in their game. The Isles however started the game strong. They dictated play for the first ten minutes despite the Crosby goal. Nilsson played pretty well considering the circumstances. This was not going to be an easy game for a veteran let alone a rookie. I commend him on not hanging his head and sticking out the game.
From here on out we can expect Sid to play well, maybe not as well as tonight points wise, but I doubt his tenacity and work ethic will ever slow down. I expect Sid to struggle at some point this season, as all players do, but tonight was something special. To see a player sit out that long and then finally play is great, but to see that player smile even after being decked into the boards, it was something special.
Stat of the Night - With two goals and two assists, Sidney Crosby ties Canadien forward Scott Gomez as he looks to make his way back to the top of his game.