Sidney Crosby has now gone 13 consecutive playoff games without scoring a goal. Anyone who’s had the chance has asked Crosby when he’s going to score again.
But Crosby’s goal drought has done a huge favor for the Pittsburgh Penguins. He’s taking all of the pressure off of his teammates. All eyes are focused on Crosby, and that’s nothing new to him. He’s used to being the center of attention.
Crosby’s lack of goal-scoring has become the main focal point of the playoffs. The media continues to scrutinize Crosby’s every move while ignoring how the rest of the team is performing.
Crosby isn’t the only player who’s gone or is going through a rough patch. But at the moment, the media has tunnel vision. They’ve forgotten that there are other players who are supposed to contribute on the Penguins.
James Neal, who put up better than a point-per-game pace in the regular season, has been held in check in the playoffs. He has two goals and had a huge assist last night, but Neal hasn’t been the sniper we saw in the regular season. Yet, we’ve not heard much griping about Neal’s play in the post-season. Neal has three points in the playoffs.
Early in the series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, there were media whispers about whether Rob Scuderi should be a healthy scratch. The Blue Jackets were targeting Scuderi and perceived him to be the Penguins’ weakest link. But now that Crosby’s goal-less streak is in the limelight, rather than Scuderi be asked about his own play, he’s answering questions about Crosby’s slump.
“To be perfectly honest, I could care less if he scores a goal the entire playoffs as long as we win games and we win series,” Scuderi said. “If he’s playing well, we’re going to benefit from that. We’re going to get momentum from that. If he can’t put one past the goalie, and as long as we win, I don’t think he cares, and neither do we.”
Kris Letang and Marc-Andre Fleury are two players who usually take their fair share of playoff criticism. Since Crosby has stolen all of the media attention, Letang and Fleury have flown under the radar.
The lack of media attention focused on Letang helped him give his best performance of the playoffs in Game 2 against the New York Rangers. Letang had a goal and two assists helping the Penguins tie the series. Three points were more than Letang had compiled in all of the playoffs leading up to Sunday’s game. He had a huge impact. Letang was all over the ice, but played a responsible defensive game.
Fleury also turned in a shutout. The media blitz wore down from Fleury’s Game 4 gaffe against the Blue Jackets; they turned their focus towards Crosby once he ended up goal-less in the first round. The pressure taken off of Fleury has propelled him to turn out stronger play as the playoffs have gone on.
There will be a lack of pressure on the other Penguins’ players as long as the Penguins keep winning and all of the attention is aimed at Crosby. This theory held weight in Game 2 against the Rangers with the Penguins playing their most complete game of the playoffs. They dominated the contest from start to finish. It was the Rangers that didn’t have any time and space to create offense.
If the Penguins can put out this type of performance without Crosby scoring a goal, imagine what they’ll be able to do once Crosby gets back on track. It’s only a matter of time until he breaks out of his funk. Whether Crosby is injured or healthy, he’s going to light up the score sheet before the Penguins are out of the playoffs. He’s too good not too.
Justin Glock has covered the Pittsburgh Penguins for The Hockey Writers since 2011. As a lead writer, his Penguins knowledge traces back over two decades. For any requests, please feel free to contact Justin via email: JGlock10@gmail.com.