PITTSBURGH — On his measurement retired of nan dressing room Thursday night, Erik Karlsson considered really he mightiness summarize nan Pittsburgh Penguins’ 2-1 shootout triumph complete nan Carolina Hurricanes astatine PPG Paints Arena.
“You want to inquire astir Sid?” Karlsson said, referring to skipper Sidney Crosby. “Yeah, that’s what I would do, too.”
Made sense, right?
Crosby did each nan scoring for nan Penguins successful a had-to-have-it victory. He chop-deflected a puck down Hurricanes goalie Pyotr Kochetkov successful nan first play earlier beating him much traditionally successful nan 2nd shootout round.
There were much — 14 faceoff wins, a mates each of hits and blocked shots — but those 2 plays lifted nan Penguins to their 4th triumph successful 5 games, bringing them a small person to a wild-card slot successful nan congested Eastern Conference.
Would a cleanable 2 points person been amended for nan Penguins? Absolutely.
Had nan powerfulness play not reverted to its erstwhile putrid form, failing connected 4 opportunities successful regulation, nan Penguins astir apt wouldn’t person needed overtime aliases a shootout against nan Hurricanes.
The point is, nan Penguins person now grounded to people connected nan powerfulness play successful 24 of 31 games, and they’re 9-12-4 successful those contests.
So, like, this was progress.
But pinch owed respect to Alex Nedeljkovic’s 23 saves and a punishment termination that stoned nan Hurricanes precocious successful regulation, Thursday nighttime was different section of nan NHL’s longest-running program: The Crosby Show.
“You tin look astatine different things, but arsenic a player, arsenic a whole, he’s still No. 1,” Karlsson said of Crosby, who is connected gait for 51 goals and 93 points successful his 19th season. “He has been since astatine slightest I entered nan league. And I would return him pinch my first prime if I started a team.”
Karlsson mightiness get an statement successful different parts of nan lucky world.
Not successful Pittsburgh. Not erstwhile Crosby is doing things not seen by players his age.
ALL HAIL CAPTAIN CROSBY! pic.twitter.com/RJydKvDGBO
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 22, 2023
The property perspective isn’t adjacent to Crosby because his style hasn’t changed complete nan past 2 decades. His top-end velocity isn’t what it was, but his vision, spot connected nan puck and unsocial expertise to create successful tight spaces do not look excessively acold disconnected from his highest seasons. It’s a testament to his consistency arsenic an violative stalwart — only Wayne Gretzky has averaged a point-per-game for much consecutive seasons — that Crosby is charging toward only his 2nd 50-goal season.
He was 22 for nan first one.
What’s changed since 2009-10 is those Penguins were defending Stanley Cup champions. These Penguins will request thief from different Eastern clubs — and their players different than Crosby — for a return to nan postseason aft a tally of 16 consecutive playoff appearances ended past spring.
As Crosby’s longtime franchise co-center Evgeni Malkin stressed earlier this month: “We need, like, winning streak.”
Two wins successful a statement isn’t typically considered a streak. A triumph successful Ottawa against nan Senators connected Saturday nighttime would suffice arsenic a humble one.
What nan Penguins require is simply a methodical march of affirmative results up to nan NHL All-Star break astatine nan extremity of January. General head Kyle Dubas fundamentally said arsenic overmuch recently.
“I’m not going to make immoderate decisions based connected really we do this week aliases adjacent week,” Dubas said erstwhile speaking pinch Pittsburgh reporters connected Dec. 11. “When we get done nan All-Star break, and connected nan different broadside of that, we’ll person a amended thought of what we are arsenic a group and wherever we request to go.”
The Penguins are 4-1-0 since then. Crosby has scored 4 goals and 7 points complete that span.
“He’s a gamer,” Karlsson said. “I deliberation he’s been that his full career. That’s what’s made him truthful successful.
“He’s a talented lucky subordinate arsenic well. But he knows really to accommodate successful games and successful situations. He’s decidedly shown that successful nan mostly of games this year. I don’t deliberation he’s had galore off-nights, which is not easy to do.”
Crosby has grounded to grounds astatine slightest a constituent successful only 7 games. The Penguins are 1-4-2 erstwhile that’s happened. They are 9-4-1 erstwhile he scores a goal.
Did you know? Sidney Crosby's 15 goals astatine moreover spot are tied for 2nd successful nan NHL this season. pic.twitter.com/6v81gwd5fY
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 22, 2023
If nan Penguins were successful a playoff spot going into nan NHL’s Christmas break, Crosby would merit a spot connected nan short database of Hart Trophy candidates. If they someway negociate to suffice for nan postseason and he keeps going arsenic he has, Crosby could extremity up arsenic only nan 10th subordinate to triumph that prestigious grant astatine slightest 3 times while besides becoming nan oldest subordinate to declare that silverware.
Given nan Penguins’ evident limitations — bottom-six scoring, a hit-or-miss powerfulness play and being nan league’s eldest nine — Crosby getting his franchise backmost into nan playoffs mightiness spell down arsenic 1 of his finer achievements.
That’s saying a lot. He’s already done capable to rank among nan greatest of nan greats. He’s done it while besides establishing himself arsenic 1 of nan game’s elite leaders.
Crosby is successful Mark Messier territory erstwhile it comes to captains. It’s his behind-the-scenes doings that person particularly impressed Karlsson, whom Dubas acquired successful nan offseason to thief springiness Crosby different changeable astatine Stanley Cup silver.
“He’s a logical guy,” Karlsson said. “In nan moment, he’s sewage that spark, which I prefer. It tin get heated successful nan moment, which is fine, but erstwhile nan moment’s complete it’s over.
“When you measure things, he’s sewage a very unfastened mind. He’s speedy to admit if he’s not successful nan correct aliases if he wasn’t right, which creates respect. And he’s done that from Day 1 (this season).
“That’s why he’s easy to woody with, easy to beryllium astir and easy to follow.”
All these seasons later, and possibly much than astatine immoderate clip before, nan Penguins are pursuing their leader. They’re astir apt not holding up their end.
“We request to find a measurement to complement him a small spot more,” Karlsson said. “We request to play amended erstwhile he’s not connected nan ice.”
When he is, though, Crosby remains a guiding light, moreover if he is nary longer viewed arsenic nan world’s champion lucky player.
“Isn’t he?” Karlsson said. “I deliberation he’s been that since I entered nan league. He’s ever been No. 1 connected my list. And still.
“Just watch Sid. Watch him.”
(Photo: Jeanine Leech / Icon Sportswire)