I’m very much pro-Sidney Crosby. I think he’s the best player in the world, I think he’s mature and sensible off the ice, and I think he’s a good role model. But man, that was some grade A bullshit from him last game, wasn’t it? He seemed to entirely forget there was a massive playoff game at stake, and found himself all-consumed by Flyer-hatred. There could’ve been no puck out there and he would’ve been just as effective.
In a presser today, Dan Bylsma called Crosby’s antics “calculated,” remarkably without sarcastic air quotes. His post-whistle spats were as calculated as getting rear-ended in your car.
I wouldn’t have thought his performance was so bad if he didn’t wear the “C.” He does hate the Flyers, he does want to punch their noses through the back of their heads, and sometimes it’s okay to let that be known. But you pick your spots in hockey, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that done as poorly as Crosby did.
Hockey is a physical game, and things happen. Sometimes you want to snap your stick over your knee and impale someone with the sharper half. The problem is, it’s also a team game, and the goal of every team is to win, not injure people. So, you can’t very well act on your every whim, take penalties and lose, then hold your head high in the locker room. You’re only as strong as your weakest link, so if you’re the link that keeps snapping, you’re kind of messing up the fence.
You have to wait until the next time you play that team to physically settle scores (which you should never do, of course, but let’s put our naivete’s aside for a second), preferably when the score is 6-0. Maybe it takes a few games. You never know how long you’re going to have to wait, but you write your list like Steve Buscemi in Billy Madison and wait. The time is never “when it’s 5-4 during the crucial third playoff game on the road as the captain.” If his actions were indeed “calculated,” he’s horrible at math.
Everyone wants to play like Crosby did at times – selfish, angry and petty. If you’ve ever been to a game and felt true adrenaline (as fans at that one likely did), I’m sure you can imagine what it’s like to be in the game. It’s very hard to compose yourself and drive that energy in the right direction. True pros can.
Think of some of the best captains in recent NHL history: Nick Lidstrom. Joe Sakic. Steve Yzerman. Reserved, mature, smart men. There are other types of captains, of course, but the best of them are able to sense when their team is losing control, and rein it in (and vice versa, which was not the issue the other night). At the very least, they wouldn’t go out and set the example that it’s okay to lose track of the moment and have fun between the whistles.
The coach is partially responsible as well – Bylsma should’ve called a timeout somewhere when the Penguins were losing their heads – but on the ice, the Pens should expect better from Sid. This was the moment they needed him to score the big goal, tie the game up, and think about the right things instead of getting distracted.
(Part of me thinks Crosby may have had some effect on the play of James Neal, who was playing like a man possessed. When Crosby and others started focusing on the garbage, he did too. He had two goals, one assist, a billion hits and was a plus player yesterday, still had extra energy to give more, and chose to put it towards violence instead of the hatty. If his captain is channeling his energy better, maybe he is too. Who knows?)
It was easy to forget the score at times, even when it was close. When Crosby grabbed Hartnell by the back of his jersey and started a scrum from nothing for no reason, the Pens still had a chance to win. Where were his priorities?
I like when players are passionate, and love to see it boil over from stars once in awhile. But you pick your spots in hockey, and yesterday was an opportunity for Sidney Crosby to choose to lead. He failed to.