Tomorrow is a new day. New game. It’s time to clear the air though a bit.
There are those who are thrilled with Sidney Crosby being back and those who are pretty disappointed in the team’s production since he returned. Myself and some friends have privately been discussing this for weeks. (You cannot criticize Sid aloud or the fan police and his fan club will hunt you down and beat you to death.)
In light of last night’s loss, I will be the one to step forward and state my opinion that I am so happy I am not alone in.
Sidney Crosby is hurting the Pens. Now before you come at me with a broken beer bottle, let me explain.
Crosby is not directly hurting the Pens. It is not him per say, but it is what is going on around him and because of him.
This season, this team grew strong without the services of the best player in the world. They learned how to win and how to be successful and it wasn’t just Evgeni Malkin coming into the season in total borscht mode. Secondary scoring has been a huge contributing factor in this season’s success, as well as the talent of Marc-Andre Fleury.
Look at this team. They are all posting career high stats:
Evgeni Malkin- 50 goals
James Neal- 40 goals
Chris Kunitz-26 goals
Pascal Dupuis- 25 goals
Jordan Staal- 25 goals
Matt Cooke- 19 goals
Deryk Engelland- 4 goals, 13 assists, +10
Matt Niskanen- 4 goals, 17 assists, +9
Kris Letang- 10 goals, 32 assists, +21
All career high stats. That is incredible.
Since Crosby returned, the chemistry of the team has been severely disrupted. This is not Crosby’s fault.
My opinion has been since the losing started that based on what we are seeing, Head Coach Dan Bylsma is overcompensating for Sid’s return. I posted some pretty astonishing stats back on March 11th (Read: Beast in the East).
Since the latest winning streak started, the Pens have scored 33 goals, 22 of which came from secondary scoring. Nineteen players have scored. The Pens top line (Neal, Geno, Kunitz) has 26 points. Meanwhile, quietly, Steve Sullivan, Pascal Dupuis and Jordan Staal have earned a collective 31 points in the same time frame.
Put these lines back together. What was wrong with Sid playing with Tyler Kennedy and Matt Cooke? Statistically, since Sid’s return, Cooke and TK produced better with Sid on their line (Read: TK Rage Reaching Top Level).
Reinstate those lines. Things clicked. You had the Golden Ticket.
Additionally, get rid of this disasterous 5-forward power play. Prior to Sid’s return, there were 2 units. Sid can be on the power play, but why is Bylsma exhausting all of his best players running them for 2 minutes at a time? It’s ridiculous. The PP’s success has waned since March 19th.
Keys to success from here on out:
1. Fix the lines.
2. Return to a 2 unit power play.
3. Hit. Hit. Hit. Hit hard. Hit everything in sight.
4. Put Orpik back with Letang. Letang needs to be able to wander to do what he does best. With Niskanen hopefully coming back there is more room to play with the D-pairings. Tanger needs a true, stay-at-home d-man by his side.
5. Do NOT put Michalek and Martin together.
6. Pass the puck and get it to your teammate. No one cares if you can pass it behind your back while doing a triple axle double toe loop. Are you Kenny Wu? No? Then just get the puck where it needs to be.
7. Clear the net. Grind it out. Grind them down.
8. Dump it. Stop putzing around in the neutral zone.
9. Someone needs to be near the net to collect rebounds. No one is ever there it feels like.
A friend and I were talking today and he reminded me of what Herb Brooks said in Miracle: “I’m not looking for the best players, Craig, I’m lookin’ for the right ones.”
This is absolutely true in every single sport. Winning a championship does not mean you have a team with all of the best players. It takes the right combination of players and skills. The Pens have that. Right now, Sidney Crosby in my opinion is not the right player for this team. But that is only because I don’t believe he is being properly utilized. Not because he isn’t a Penguin.
Put him back with Cookie and TK. Stop putting him on the power play with Malkin. Move it to two units and split them up. This is what worked when Sid came back. This team can win the Cup without Crosby. Now they need to figure out how to win it with him.
They don’t need to recreate the wheel here. Get back to what worked and get the win.
And check out this art by my friend Rege. Completely accurate portrayal of Scotty Hartnell. (And for the Flyer trolls, if you read through my blog, you’ll find that I actually like Scott Hartnell, but come on. This is war!)
I’m prepared for the backlash from this blog.