Witness the performance of one Sidney Crosby last night. Nearly 11 months – 320 days between NHL starts – and the guy lights it up like he hasn’t missed a day. To a person (except maybe the Islanders) we were all rooting for him to do something like this – to be great in his return to the NHL. Well Sid the Kid delivered, exceeding expectations and wowed us with a 4-point night, in a 5-0 rout of the sinking Islanders.
Like other greats, Rocket Richard, Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, Crosby has a knack for delivering excellence under intense pressure. Last night was just another of those to add to his already stellar hockey moments: The golden goal in Team Canada’s 2010 Olympic win and leading the Penguins to the 2009 Stanley Cup to name a couple. The thing is, at just 24, there is the potential for so many more nights like this if he stays healthy.
No. 87 looked in mid-season form from the opening face-off. Granted, he wasn’t aggressively checked but he was scrappy, winning puck battles, doing some of his patented spin-work down low. As for his shooting and scoring touch, he served notice he’s back in full force. Had he had a couple more favourable bounces, he may have ended up with a 6-point night – he was that good.
His first goal was world class as he picked up the puck crossing centre ice in full stride, powered his way outside two defenders and lasered a backhand top shelf just 5:24 into the game. A stand up and cheer moment if there ever was one. Beauty.
He was a scoring threat on practically every shift. He was also used generously on the PP, adding to an already potent unit that will cause much misery to opponents.
His second goal in the third, was vintage Crosby. Strong work along the boards, defenders unable to knock him off the puck, then flicking a seeing-eye backhander past rookie Islander goalie Anders Nilsson in his NHL debut. Sorry Anders. At least you’ll be able to tell your kids you faced a legend in your first game.
Add a shutout for Marc Andre Fleury – it doesn’t get much better than that for Sid and the Penguins.
But in a night of near perfection something struck me as incongruous.
With all Crosby has been through – the concussion, the cautious, slow climb back to health under careful medical supervision — why on earth does he wear his chin strap like it was an untied shoelace? Surely this isn’t advisable in keeping a helmet secured to your head, let alone a head that’s sustained a significant brain injury.
Yet no commentators or media as far as I know, made mention of the fact despite countless close-ups of him and his dangling chin strap. Were they afraid to be the one that asks “Who farted?” at a black-tie affair? Or despite all his worldly ability and poise at handling pressure, Crosby, being a hockey player, is still not that smart? Or maybe he just wants to be one of the guys in the macho hockey culture who wear their chin straps loose like it’s some kind of fashion statement.
I can’t imagine after all he’s been through why he wouldn’t exercise that one crucial step and properly secure the damn thing that helps prevent what caused his long absence in the first place. Duh. I mean, wouldn’t you?
Frankly, given his still precarious future — you never know with concussions we’re told — he should really wear an NFL-style chin pad with double straps secured to his helmet. Why the hell not? There’s a reason football players do: It works. I just don’t understand why he treats this so casually and why his army of doctors, trainers and coaches who took such care making sure he was 100 per cent ready to play again, don’t insist on it. Maybe they have and Crosby, despite common sense, still refuses.
No. 87 showed how great he really was last night. Now he needs to get with the program to help preserve that greatness for his team, the game and himself. Just bite the bullet Sid and buckle up. It’s the smart thing to do.