Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Crosby Magical Return dooms Islanders

All eyes were on the game's biggest superstar last night in Pittsburgh. Sidney Crosby's long wait was over with the Penguin captain finally returning to the ice for the first time since two concussions last January. Much like his boss Mario Lemieux, who cameback in epic fashion victimizing the Maple Leafs, Sid The Kid emulated Super Mario with a virtuoso performance at a soldout Consol Energy Center- scoring twice and setting up two more goals in a dominant Pens' 5-0 blowout of the Islanders.

Maybe it shouldn't have come as any shock that such a great player would electrify the home crowd at the Isles' expense. On his opening shift, he nearly assisted on a goal but linemate Chris Kunitz hit the post. It didn't take long for Crosby to put on a show, flying past two Islanders including defenseman Andrew MacDonald before roofing the game's best backhand top shelf on poor Swedish rookie Anders Nilsson, who shouldn't have started his first NHL game in the first place.
I saw for a few seconds they were a little flat-footed,” Crosby said. “I was able to get some good speed built up when I got it. I knew I had a chance to go wide.”
How do you throw a green 21-year old kid into that building off a 6-0 humiliation versus Boston where they honored Jiggs McDonald and Ed Westfall? Even more mindless is why Nino Neiderreiter didn't play. With vets like Brian Rolston underperforming, wouldn't it make sense to give the ex-Devil a night off and keep their '10 first rounder in for energy? The Islanders are still in a rebuild. If Jack Capuano can scratch Kyle Okposo or Blake Comeau, he can also make an example of a leader who's not getting it done.

Nilsson was in for all five Pittsburgh goals, including a nifty Crosby pass that allowed immortal Brooks Orpik to beat the '09 third round pick clean, banking one in off the post. Cleared for his first game, Sidney certainly took some contact with second-year Isles' defenseman Travis Hamonic knocking him down with a clean check against the glass, which he got right up from and continued. The best news of all for the Pens and for the NHL that's made him the face of hockey. Funny enough, he wasn't screaming 'Oh yeah' when he scored his first of the season, which was bleeped out. If you were gone so long with doubts as to whether you'd even comeback, you'd probably feel the same emotion. Nobody can deny Sid's impact. At 24, he has already won a Cup, Hart, Art Ross, Rocket Richard and Olympic gold with one of the greatest goals in international history. A Canadian hero who has done it all. That he is finally back where he belongs is very exciting for the league and the fans, who hopefully get to see No.87 for a long time.
"It's significant when any League's top player returns to action," Toronto GM Brian Burke said via Twitter. "Welcome back Sid. Good luck as you get underway.
"'Yup, this leagues still a joke for me.' - Sidney Crosby 4 minutes into first game back," in a TSN piece today.
The great players make it look easy. Exactly what Crosby did to the struggling Islanders, who fell for the sixth time in their last seven (1-5-1). Capuano's club has been outscored 11-0 the past two contests. They're 2-6-1 in November with the Flyers tomorrow, a back-to-back with the Devils post-Thanksgiving and a visit to Buffalo to conclude the month. There's still time for them to get back on track. But at 5-10-3, the Islanders sit dead last in the East with 13 points- trailing eighth Washington by 10. The good news is the gap isn't that large between fifth Buffalo (24 Pts) and them. Time is ticking.
"We have to take a good look at ourselves. We didn't compete the way we needed to. We're a better team than we showed tonight. We have to be held accountable for our play," veteran Steve Staios lamented after getting victimized by Crosby for a seeing eye backhand that somehow found twine for his second of the night.
For Nilsson, he was under siege predictably against a high powered Pens' attack that features Evgeni Malkin, who finished off his sixth on the power play and later made an incredible feed to Steve Sullivan that increased their lead to 4-zip in the second. Just over two minutes into the third, Crosby showed off his strength by skating away from the bigger Staios along the wall before throwing a backhand that deflected past a helpless Nilsson.
"Of course the tempo and speed is a lot quicker up here, almost like night and day compared to the AHL," Nilsson admitted after making 31 saves in his second appearance. We apologize for stating that it was his NHL debut in yesterday's preview. "It's going to take some adjustment before I am used to everything up here."
The Islanders have no choice with Evgeni Nabokov sidelined for a month with a groin injury while backup Al Montoya was also put on the IR with a hamstring problem. Amazingly, incumbent starter Rick DiPietro is healthy and probably should've gotten the call under such a chaotic situation. Sure. A costly mistake led to a Nathan Horton tally Saturday but come on. Perhaps DP could've bounced back and kept it competitive. Kyle Okposo returned from a three-game hiatus. The once promising power wing was again held off the score sheet and remains stuck with a goose egg in goals. The organization also recalled David Ullstrom from Bridgeport for his first NHL action with the former '08 fourth rounder delivering four hits in over 13 minutes, while finishing minus-two.

John Tavares had a great night in the faceoff circle winning 15-of-23 but none of his six shots beat Marc-Andre Fleury, who recorded his 21st career shutout. Fleury matched his jersey number with 29 stops. Afterwards, the player everyone came to see still handed him the game puck for the milestone. Pretty cool.

“I thought we had a decent start, it’s just I think [Crosby’s] goal gave them a big lift and they had some momentum from the power plays and they took it to us early in the second and we couldn’t come out of that,” Tavares pointed out.

Notes: The news wasn't good for NYI D Mark Eaton, who left the game with a sprained left MCL. ... Malkin had a goal and assist while Crosby linemate Pascal Dupuis added three helpers. ... Crosby took 21 shifts, tallying his first four points (2-2-4) in less than 16 minutes. He also dominated on draws going 14 and 7. ... Tavares and captain Mark Streit combined for 10 of the Isles' 29 shots.

BONY 3 Stars:

3rd Star-Marc-Andre Fleury, Pit (29 saves for 2nd shutout of season-21st career)
2nd Star-Evgeni Malkin, Pit (PPG-sixth of season, assist in 17:45)
1st Star-Sidney Crosby, Pit (2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points, +3 in season debut)


Hasan said...

What happened to the Isles' prospect goalie from last year, Poulin? Is he hurt too? You're right, it's astounding they didn't start DiPietro. I still fully expect the Isles to split at worst with us :P

Derek Felix said...

I don't know. I think Kevin Poulin is hurt. I'm gonna check on that. If Montoya stayed healthy, I honestly would split it up with DP. They made a mistake with Nabokov and that groin injury is really costly cause it hurts his value. It just seems like they don't have a plan when it comes to what goalies should be in. They're a mess.

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