In the first-round playoff matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers, Sidney Crosby has been at the forefront of the Penguins’ success. They now lead the series 3-1, thanks mainly to the play of their captain. Crosby has been dominant through four games, and the Rangers have yet to find an answer for him.
Crosby has been nothing short of, well, himself, this postseason. He has produced a league-leading nine points in four games. In Game 4, he notched his 200th career playoff point, becoming only the sixth player in league history to hit that mark.
From a numbers standpoint, Crosby is doing it all in every facet of the game. He is producing 2.25 points per game, winning over 55 percent of his faceoffs, and playing a tad under 23 minutes per game. All of these statistics are higher than his career playoff averages, proving just how locked in he is right now. Not to mention, eight of his nine points have come at even strength.
As the regular season concluded, Crosby was voted the “most complete player” in the league by the NHL Players’ Association, gathering 29.5 percent of the vote. To that point, many would argue that during the most important time of the year, when Crosby is playing at his best, there is still no one better. His production in the first round of the postseason so far certainly supports that argument.
Rangers Have No Answer
Through four games, there seems to be little resistance from the Rangers to thwart Crosby’s offensive attack every time he touches the ice. Even though he most consistently matches up against K’Andre Miller and Jacob Trouba, two strong, powerful shutdown defensemen, there has been no dip in Crosby’s performance. It seems as though every time he hops over the boards, Pittsburgh fans are on the edge of their seats, waiting for something spectacular.
As much as that may be a testament to Crosby’s brilliance, the Rangers will suffer a quick playoff exit should it continue. Although the question is, specifically, why has New York been unable to contain him? Other than the fact that he’s Sidney Crosby, of course, he continues to do certain things on the ice that have made him successful his entire career. For instance, his ability to control play below the faceoff dots making it so difficult for the opposition to get puck possession. Crosby constantly makes it a grind for opposing defensemen and causes havoc in the offensive zone.
Throughout the series, the Rangers have often been pinned in their own zone by the Penguins’ top line. This has allowed Pittsburgh to generate offensive opportunities in abundance, which, in turn, has made it very difficult for the Rangers to contain the Penguins’ captain. They are unable to possess the puck while he is on the ice, allowing him to generate chances for himself and his teammates at will. Crosby has displayed this skillset his entire career, and there is simply not much the Rangers can do to prevent it, aside from spending more time at the other end of the ice.
Game 2 versus the Rangers:
As seen above, Crosby’s strength and determination to maintain possession allowed him to overpower three Rangers players, resulting in a goal, and he’s done this repeatedly throughout the series. As head coach Mike Sullivan often says about Crosby, “He’s inspires the group,” which has been the case with his team exceeding playoff expectations thus far. This type of play from Crosby has been a handful for defenses the last 17 years, and the Rangers are no exception.
Crosby’s Quest for Another Stanley Cup
Crosby has been labeled by many a “consummate winner,” someone who is internally motivated to win and will stop at nothing to do so. Having won everything there is to win in the game of hockey, that claim now seems obvious. In the 2016 Stanley Cup Champions Film, Sportscaster Paul Steigerwald mentions, “Sidney Crosby has this aura around him. He feels the responsibility to lead his team and be the guy that everybody expects him to be. He’s on a mission to win a Stanley Cup.” In the 2022 Playoffs, that’s still the case; Crosby is “on a mission”. We see his motivation on every shift, and the team has followed his lead to take a stranglehold on the series against the Rangers.
The Penguins have had early playoff exits every year since their back-to-back Stanley Cup victories in 2016 and 2017. However, the hype and feelings of excitement seem to be back this season, with the Penguins’ captain leading the charge. He seems more motivated than ever to bring home his fourth Cup. Fortunately for Pittsburgh, the Rangers have failed to prevent Crosby from taking over the ice and being the dominant force that he can be when playing at his absolute best.
My name is Ray Lindow and I am a recent graduate of Duquesne University. I have spent almost my entire life playing and following hockey. My passion for the game runs deep, and I could not be happier to be writing for The Hockey Writers and covering the Pittsburgh Penguins.