Crosby is About to Climb

Some players are held to a higher standard. Nobody is exclusive from criticism merely because said athlete makes the most money or wears a “C” on their jersey. These are the players who should have their games picked apart on a nightly basis.  This is understood.

Being everything mentioned above while throwing in the title of Best Player in the World — we shouldn’t be surprised when some analysts whose research only extends to seeing the Pens on Rivalry Wednesdays (which, to be fair, was every other Wednesday there for some time) hit the panic button while there was still time to get passengers to their lifeboats.  This isn’t new.  Not to Crosby.  Not to fans.

But the point here is that there is nothing wrong with Sidney Crosby.  He’s fine.  Any criticism to this point is largely unjustified.  It’s a given that team defense is typically paramount in the playoffs, but now consider that a post hit and a couple missed nets are all that stand in the way of his PPG in this postseason being 1.5, which is well above his career postseason average of 1.26.

To further that point, he was a +41 in 5-on-5 shot attempts in the Columbus series.  With Crosby on the ice, the Pens’ relative shot attempt average (Corsi) was 10.6% greater than when he was off — highest on the team, highest in the series.  Nobody carried team puck possession more than Crosby.  And that 10.6% number is the highest Crosby has had in any regular season or playoff the last three years.  So much for a lack of leadership.

Now that it’s understood he has actually been really good, here’s why he’s going to get better.

Crosby will probably see plenty of the Rangers’ top defensive pairing of Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi in this series.  While directly matched up against those two in four games this regular season, Crosby was a +21 in even-strength shot attempts.  That pairing did combine to block 37 shots in the first round against Philadelphia but were somewhat inconsistent, combining for a minus-14 at 5-on-5 shot attempts.  Furthermore, McDonagh missed the final two weeks of the regular season with a shoulder injury; it’s difficult to imagine him currently being at 100%.

Even if Crosby once again dominates possession, in this series he’s facing a legitimate elite goaltender in Henrik Lundqvist.  The head-to-head stats between Crosby and Lundqvist over the course of time certainly favor Crosby, and how about this: the goals weren’t always coming off his stick,  even though he has clearly gotten the best of Lunqvist.

Crosby, in 46 career regular and postseason games against Lundqvist: 16 goals, 42 assists.

Those games are in the past, however, and what really matters is the here and now.  The key to a series victory for New York rests solely with Lundqvist, and not many players have seen the type of success against him that Crosby has.

But for those concerned with Crosby scoring goals in big games, since, you know, being a contributing factor to the team scoring apparently isn’t always enough, have some peace of mind as Crosby gets set to face Lundqvist.