The Pittsburgh Penguins barely made the playoffs and were given the daunting task of facing the New York Rangers, a series few expect them to win. However, after two games played the series is tied 1-1.
So what happened?
Pittsburgh does not have a superior roster to New York and many players are playing through injuries. It’s the Penguins’ captain Sidney Crosby that has made the difference so far. After previous postseason struggles, there were doubts about his ability to perform in the playoffs.
Through two games, he’s destroyed those doubts. What people do not realize is that the Rangers’ current defensive scheme is designed to neutralize Crosby and fellow superstar Evgeni Malkin.
Watch either of the two played games or keep an eye out in the next game. Crosby and Malkin touch the puck and within seconds there is either a stick or a body on them.
For a lack of better terminology, they’re being pushed around and Malkin really can’t fight back with his injured back. Crosby has put it on himself to not only beat New York’s system, but to propel the Penguins to the next round.
Gamblers know that the Penguins aren’t the better team in the series. Of all playoff teams, the Pens have the lowest chance to win the Stanley Cup at 1.8%. Right above them are the Detroit Red Wings at 2.5% and the New York Islanders at 2.6%. For some context the Rangers are believed to have a 21.1% chance to win the cup.
Last night was Crosby’s sixth multigoal game of the year and his first since February 12th against the Ottawa Senators. Perhaps a reason why his goal scoring ability showed up last night was because he got his favorite wing back in Chris Kunitz.
The 35-year-old forward has seen a lot of criticism this seaspn since his production is beginning to slow down. However, last night that wasn’t the case and he was the spark that allowed Crosby to light the lamp twice.
Crosby has always loved playing alongside Kunitz and he spoke to Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review about playing with his familiar winger once more.
Kunitz has always been a guy I’ve played with for a long time, but we all have to do our jobs out there. It was nice we got our feet moving, just like everyone else and we were able to contribute to getting the win
Their contributions and strong play haven’t gone unnoticed either, defenseman Ben Lovejoy also spoke with Mackey about Crosby’s play.
We needed that from Sid, he’s our best player. He wasn’t satisfied with his effort or the team’s effort in the first game. He threw us on his shoulder, it was a pleasure to watch
Center Maxim Lapierre also had this to say.
Crosby was the best player on the ice, he was awesome and ‘Kuni’ wasn’t far behind.
So where am I going with all of this? The Penguins are destined to fail if what they have said to the public is what they believe.
“He’s our best player, he threw us on his shoulder, it was a pleasure to watch, We needed that from Sid”
That’s not a team first mentality and why the Pens will eventually falter. If it’s not this round, they will fail. They’re dependent on their superstars and they know it. The old phrase, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, is showing up. The Rangers play with a whole team focus, the Penguins while a good hockey club, do not play with the same mentality.
Instead of guys commending Crosby on his performance, they should honestly be looking back at their own performance and try to match what he’s bringing to the ice.
It seems the Penguins are comfortable knowing if they fall behind, Crosby will dig them back out, not the whole team will dig themselves out. This mentality has plagued the Penguins for years and has been a big reason for the multitude of early playoff exits.
If the Penguins somehow make it past the Rangers, it will not be because they’re a better team. It will be because Crosby willed them forward.