Disclaimer: this article is both half-serious & half-joking, at the same time.
Since the Pittsburgh Penguins were eliminated and swept out of the playoffs by the Boston Bruins there has been a myriad of questions surrounding the ouster of everyone’s favorite to win the Stanley Cup. Some of the questions that have surfaced since then have been:
Should head coach Dan Bylsma lose his job after a second straight disappointing end to Pittsburgh’s season?
What if Jarome Iginla had accepted a trade to Boston instead of spurning them to join the Penguins?
What is the future of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury who lost his starting gig in the opening round against the New York Islanders and is it in Pittsburgh?
The one question I keep asking myself though is:
None of this would have happened if Sidney Crosby had kept his facemask on:
If you have been on Twitter or any other form of social media over the past few days, you have surely been subjected to the Crosby-apologists who are defending him and wondering why everyone is blaming the game’s best player for his team’s sudden and shocking ouster. Anyone reading this likely knows that hockey players are among the most superstitious professional athletes. Crosby, for those who didn’t know, was wearing a protective face mask/guard attached to his helmet after suffering a broken jaw when his teammate Brooks Orpik’s errand slap shot caught him off guard in front of the net.
Always a scary situation, we are all thankful Sid’s okay now:
Crosby missed the final 12 games of the season and when he returned in Game 2 of the opening round against the Isles it was ‘on like Donkey Kong.’ His point production was as it usually is, unreal and neither New York nor their second round opponents, the Ottawa Senators, were unable to find a way to slow Sid the Kid down.
Stats don’t tell the whole story, but they also don’t lie; check out Crosby’s output over the ten games he played in rounds 1 & 2:
Round 1 against the Islanders: 9 points (3g-6a) in 5 games.
Round 2 against the Senators: 6 points (4g-2a) in 5 games.
Against Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals Crosby and his merry men were all stymied. Case and point: defenseman Paul Martin assisted on every Penguins goal in the series, all two of them. To be fair to Crosby (Batman) his trusty sidekick Evgeni Malkin (Robin) was also shutout in the series, but for some reason most of the fingers have been pointed at number 87. Malkin was also unproductive, but there are less people calling him out as my former mentor mentioned.
As an outside observer I thought Boston would win in seven games, and only because I felt they were a bigger, more physical team that would wear down the more finesse Penguins over a long, grueling series. Never in a million years did I think that the Bruins would sweep and hold Pittsburgh to only two goals in four games.
Then again, this is why we watch sports; it is the best reality TV. We all can predict and make educated guesses as to what will happen but we have no idea what will happen. I’ve seen a lot of goalies get hot over the years and carry their teams to a Stanley Cup that no one saw coming (see: Patrick Roy 1986, Cam Ward 2005, Jonathan Quick 2012), and this year maybe Tuuka Rask is that hot goalie, because he sure looked like it against the New York Rangers and Penguins.
After all of this, the question remains, why did Crosby ditch the facemask? As my colleague and Penguins’ writer for The Hockey Writers Justin Glock noted, it worked for Rip Hamilton of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons who wore a faceguard after suffering a broken orbital bone. He went on to win an NBA Championship and has always worn it during games ever since.
Crosby is a great player, an amazing talent and likely a Hall-of-Famer, but a lot of folks get upset over the nauseating over saturation of coverage every time the 25-year-old does something (good or bad). In a lot of ways I feel bad for him, because in all likelihood it will be this way for his whole career, but that is the day and age that we live in now. He is, in a lot of ways the NHL’s version of Tim Tebow: a good guy, who never does anything illegal outside of his profession and stays out of the news but still has a media circus around him everywhere he goes.
Dan Rice can be reached via Twitter: @DRdiabloTHW or via Email: firstname.lastname@example.org