Some people wondered whether Sidney Crosby would shine or fade in his first ever game seven. After all this was perhaps the biggest stage of the biggest game he’s played in, this season anyway. Sure the Penguins went to the Stanley Cup finals last year, but with his arch nemesis Alex Ovechkin on the other side of the puck the media raised the stakes.
Crosby has been compared with Alex Ovechkin almost non-stop since the two arrived in the NHL together in 2005. Each has won major awards, each has guided his team into the playoffs -- but not until this year's Eastern Conference Semifinal series have the two been matched up head-to-head. [NHL.com]And this head to head battle has been one of the ages. The Magic/Bird-Kobe/Lebron match up of hockey couldn’t have been more exciting. Both carried their respective teams to hard fought wins. Both had a hat trick in the same game. But as I said here, we now know at the end of this series who is the best player in the league, right now.
In my opinion, [Crosby is the] best all-round player in the league. He proved it tonight, and no disrespect to any player," Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero told ESPN.com after the Penguins had advanced to a second straight East finals. [ESPN.com]Shero, though obviously bias, is actually right. Crosby ended up with 13 points charged by 8 goals. He had 4 of the Penguins first 5 goals in the series. He had a hat-trick in game 2 only to result in a loss. In last night’s game he nearly carried the team on his back, quieting the crowd by scoring the first goal to start the in-game momentum shift. And most importantly, they won the series.
Though the media hyped this out of control [for good reason], there was little talk about the third wheel in this spoke, Evgeni Malkin, in this series anyway. Geno (as he’s known) did have some pockets of success as in game 5 when he scored the game winning goal in overtime. And he has scored 19 points second only to Crosby and Ovechkin, so he's by no means quiet. But you just didn’t feel that this Art Ross winner was on center stage with Sid and Ovie. It’s as if he took a back seat to Crosby. In my opinion, he in fact did, and somewhat purposely. Though Malkin did have an outstanding season this year and carried the team [along with Hossa] through the later half of last years regular season, he has had a few games in these playoffs that seem as if he’s taken a day off. He did say in an interview in Russian that he’s not the best with the American media and would rather leave that to Sid. And there you have it. But Crosby has not only taken on the media, he’s also taken his challenge to the ice.
There is still time left in these playoffs for Crosby to show why he’s been compared to Gretzky and the like. There are still 8 games left to win for Sid the Kid and his Penguins until they would be able to raise the Cup for the first time in Pittsburgh since 1992. Will Crosby continue to carry his team into the Cup finals and eventually through them? That remains to be seen. But if this Penguins team can continue to forge through the playoffs the way they have with their unstoppable forecheck and lock down defense, they just may….they just may.