Arthur: Low ratings for Crosby show
Penguins still waiting for superstar to take over series
Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby falls on the ice during the second period of Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup olayoffs Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Bruins, in Pittsburgh on Monday, June 3, 2013.
Photograph by: GENE J. PUSKAR, AP PHOTO
BOSTON — Boston is alive with the ballad of Gregory Campbell, and rightly so. The fourth-liner took a shot from Evgeni Malkin in the leg in the second period of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final Wednesday — it was still Wednesday then, though the game ended early Thursday morning — and his leg was broken. But he rose back up, his face full of pain, standing like a man who had been shot but refused to fall. He got back in the shooting lane, twice.
“I mean, I’m not sure if I’ve ever played with anyone that spends that much time at the rink,” Bruins forward Shawn Thornton said of Campbell, who’s playoffs are officially finished. “He loves it. He grew up with it, and he does love it.”
It was the song of the grit guy, the glue guy, the scrapper. Boston won with three skilled guys making a play — Jaromir Jagr with a steal, Brad Marchand with a pass, Patrice Bergeron with a deflection. The Penguins outshot Boston 14-4 in the third period and had so many chances to win. But Campbell, broken but standing, was the symbol.
Pittsburgh’s symbol could have been Sidney Crosby, because it so often is. And there he was, with five minutes to go in double overtime, finally delivering one of those earthmoving shifts. It was an indelible image — Crosby, helmet off, hair streaming behind him like he was a Viking, stealing a puck, making a pass, whirling at the blue line, nearly dragging the puck into the goal. It was grit and scrap and blinding talent all rolled into one.
Pittsburgh writers mentioned that the two times Crosby’s helmet came off during the season he skated more or less straight to the bench, which befits a man who lost most of two seasons in his prime to concussions. This time, with so much at stake, he played 50 seconds with that pure fury he possesses, that essence he can produce, his helmet an afterthought. It is, along with all his other abilities, what makes him so great. He loves this game, too.
But he didn’t get there, and it was only a flash in what otherwise was not his game. Crosby has gone three straight games without a point for the first time since November 2009, and his generational running mate, Malkin, has done the same for the first time since November 2010. The Penguins have lost all three games, and now have no margin for error. This is supposed to be a deep team, yes, and it’s not up to Crosby and Malkin to be the only ones to shoulder responsibility.
But they are the greatest ones here, and a burden comes with it. It’s one thing not to score; it’s another not to be great. The day after Game 3, Bruins coach Claude Julien was asked whether his team had done a better job controlling Crosby or Malkin, and he deferred a little before answering.
“Oh, I don’t know if we’ve done a better job on one or the other,” he said. “I think it’s pretty obvious to everybody that Malkin was at his best (Wednesday) night. He was outstanding. He’s a big body. He’s strong in the puck and everything else, but it’s not about doing a better job on one or the other, we’re trying to do a great job on all of them.”
He went on for another couple sentences. He didn’t mention Crosby.
And he wasn’t wrong. Malkin was a towering nightmare, even with what is believed to be an injured shoulder. He swooped and attacked, throwing 21 shots toward the net, 10 of which got through, one of which pinged off the post. He emitted danger, over and over. When Malkin is engaged, he can dominate a shift like nobody else.
Crosby, meanwhile, was merely fine. He got rid of the puck quickly at times, threw some oddly blind passes, hit the outside of the post on a spinning backhand, didn’t spend much time in the toughest areas, which he used to do. It was miles better than his Game 2, when he made the game’s first mistake by missing a puck at the Boston blue line and letting Marchand score the game’s opening goal. Pittsburgh never recovered, and Crosby played one of the worst games anybody has ever seen him play.
Maybe he’s hurt. Maybe he’s not comfortable after ditching the full-face shield he was wearing until the start of the series, what with his jaw stapled back together and his teeth jammed all through his mouth. Nobody knows but him.
But whatever the reason, Crosby has cut through all the arms and legs and sticks and muck of hockey so many times in so many key moments that it is almost expected now. His seven-game duel with Alexander Ovechkin in 2009 was incredible. He scored the most memorable goal of his era at the Olympics in Vancouver, too, and it was enough to make people forget he had a so-so tournament.
But what is happening right now is a reminder that while Crosby is the best player in hockey, he cannot deliver that moment every time. He is playing against Zdeno Chara and Bergeron and Tuukka Rask, and all are the best at what they do, right now. He’s supposed to be, too.
“You know, it’s still a game, and in every game there’s a certain percentage of good or bad fortune involved,” said Penguins goaltender Tomas Vokoun, who has been grounded by years of tough hockey living. “Sometimes you do the right thing; it doesn’t always mean it’s going to directly be success … It’s not an excuse, but that’s just — I think it’s the reality of the situation.”
And so, one more game, and we wait for Crosby to put his imprint on this series, somehow. His Penguins are reeling, and his coach, Dan Bylsma, is being asked questions about how a sweep would affect his job security, and he is pausing for four or five seconds before answering, “I’m not coaching, don’t coach, have never coached, for my job.”
Bylsma mentioned the Olympics, how Canada needed to beat Germany, Russia, the Slovaks, and the United States for gold. It seemed like something his captain would understand.
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