Monday, November 21, 2011

Crosby Returns Tonight against Islanders

Ever since he's been out due to back-to-back concussions last January, Sidney Crosby has been much debated. The game's larger than life superstar was having a special '10-11 season when he took an unsuspecting blind shot from David Steckel in the Winter Classic, which was followed up by a hit from behind in his next game from Victor Hedman. Why such a brilliant player was allowed to return so soon we'll never know.

The great news is that he's finally fully recovered and got the okay to play tonight at Consol Energy Center in front of what should be wild Pens fans when they host the Islanders. As usual, the struggling Isles will try to play spoiler. They're secondary to the face of the game for better or worse. There's no denying Sid's talents which were on display in every arena last year. In half a season, the numbers were jaw dropping.

41 Games 32 Goals 34 Assists 66 Points +20 Rating 10 PPG 3 GW 1 SHG 19 PP Pts

The production was last seen in '96 before the neutral zone trap, clutching and grabbing took over the game, slowing it down to a crawl. And no. You can't blame one team. In the glory days, the Great One, Super Mario, the Golden Brett and No.68 led a more wide open game where maybe D wasn't the primary focus along with goaltending. It was fun. Even guys like Pat Lafontaine, Adam Oates, Alexander Mogilny and my fave Sergei Fedorov flourished. There was the Finnish Flash shattering Peter Stastny's rookie record with an eye popping 76 goals and 132 points. Pavel Bure scoring at a ridiculous clip. Even defenseman Brian Leetch eclipsing 100 points with Ray Bourque right behind.

That's the kind of special season Sid The Kid was putting together but it came to a halt. Even if I'm not a huge fan with him playing in our own Patrick Division, of course I wanted to see how it would finish along with the rest of the hockey world. Instead, he became another concussion victim, taking as much time as he needed before being cleared for full contact last month. Remember all those crazy rumors about Crosby returning for last playoffs? Sheesh. You don't toy around with a head injury. We don't want to see another Lindros, who was one of my favorite players back in the day. Sid is 24 and has so much ahead of him. Same with Marc Staal, who looks like he might miss the entire season after lingering effects from PCS limited him to the sidelines. The Ranger defenseman nobody's been paying attention to was just cleared for light activity.

I won't be home to catch Crosby's return with work instead. But of course will catch the highlights along with the psychoanalysis of every Sidney shift. Sometimes, I think they made him too big. A great player no doubt. Dominant. Yes. And we all hope he's the same and never has another setback. At least that's my view. I never wish injury on anyone including Matt Cooke.

So, the Islanders must contend with all the hoopla in a couple of hours. Can they wreck the party? I'm just not sure how I feel about throwing a rookie netminder into the fire. It seems nuts for Anders Nilsson to make his NHL debut against one of the league's best teams. Then again, Jack Capuano will try almost anything to get his team going, following a 6-0 humiliation to Boston on a night they honored long-time broadcast team Jiggs McDonald and Ed Westfall. I probably would've started Rick DiPietro and also not healthy scratched young pup Nino Neiderreiter. If anyone can explain what's going on with a team expected to compete for the playoffs, please step up to the plate.

It's a mystery how healthy scratch Kyle Okposo still hasn't scored a goal or how in the world Blake Comeau could be without a point and a minus-11 thus far. Jay Pandolfo has more goals than either and just as many (1) as Josh Bailey. Pandolfo will play because he always brings it. And maybe that's part of the problem. In a season where your best players outside John Tavares and Matt Moulson aren't visible, it speaks to how problematic things have become on Long Island. Even Michael Grabner only has five goals, which is hardly enough. Captain Mark Streit has 11 points but is a club worst minus-12. The only reliable defenseman has been sophomore Travis Hamonic, who also has suffered with just two helpers and a minus-eight.

When does it change for the Islanders? Is another coach going to be fired? One who demands accountability and is a fun interview cause he pulls no punches. Or is it time for Charles Wang to look at Garth Snow or even himself for how disorganized his team looks? All this and they have to face the Sidney Crosby Circus along with deserving teammates Marc-Andre Fleury, James Neal, Kris Letang, Jordan Staal and Evgeni Malkin, who all should represent the Pens at the All-Star Game.

Just in case you didn't know based on the zillion reminders, the game is being picked up by NBC/Versus, which dumped a better game honestly in classic rivalry Boston/Montreal. But what would you expect from a league that needs to have NHL On The Fly run over and over again on TSN run NHL Network? If they had any brains, they'd just pick up the CBC feed and not screw over fans who want to see the Bruins and Habs in Round Three of the nastiest rivalry. Oh well. So much for common sense.

So, what shall tonight bring? Will Crosby score? You would think so. How much will he play? How soon before the non-Pens fans put the TV on mute? Over/Under by the middle of the first period. Regardless of the overkill, it's great that he's back. Now, we can go back to hating him. ;)

1 comment:

Hasan said...

I tried to comment last night but the site's been screwy when it comes to being able to post one, I click the publish option and it just goes white for a second like it's posting and then comes back to the comment screen.

Anyway, I can't say I'm shocked it got switched to VERSUS - I thought it was going to be on there to begin with since there are so few Monday night games but looked on the remote and it said Boston-Montreal. It is pretty unprecedented to switch a game at the last minute lol, I guess they got their money's worth despite the fact the game was a joke.

I do wonder if Crosby's going to get to play by '05-06 NHL rules (i.e. no hitting and increased offensive numbers) because players are afraid to take a run at the current Mr. Hockey.

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