I know the majority of you read this headline and either scratched
your head in confusion or slammed your keyboard in anger. “How could
this even be a debate,” you ask. “They don’t even play the same position
and aren’t even on the same team.”
Stay with me on this one.
into tonight’s Game 1 between the Montreal Canadiens and Pittsburgh
Penguins, I started to think of the keys to victory for each team. Based
on first round performance, my thoughts would turn to Sidney Crosby for
the Penguins and Jaroslav Halak for the Canadiens. There’s no doubt
that each player was instrumental in their semifinals success, but which
player is more important to their team at this very moment in this
It’s a tough debate, especially considering that they play
different positions, figuring which team can least afford their player to
Despite the incredible numbers put up in Vancouver and
Detroit, there’s no doubt in my mind that Crosby was the best player in
the first round. When the Penguins looked as if they would continue
their inconsistent ways against the Senators, Crosby took over each game
and became the leader of his team en route to a convincing series win.
the Penguins afford Crosby to stop producing, if for some reason he
slows down against the Habs? The Canadiens showed they know how to shut
down the best players in the NHL if given the chance. With Crosby, the
Penguins also have a number of players capable of stepping up in Evgeni
Malkin and Alexei Ponikarovsky (among others), but we’ve seen this
season that the Penguins go as Crosby goes.
Halak starts to stumble the Canadiens will falter. The Habs relied on
his out of this world goaltending to surprise the Capitals in the first
round, but they also proved they have the team defense, shot blocking
skills and opportunistic offense to be able to take down the best teams
in the NHL. So if Halak is unable to continue his incredible run of
stellar play in the past three games, do the Habs even have a chance at
winning? The last three games of the series were won based on incredible
goaltending, and some great defense.
For me, you’d have to think
that the Habs would suffer most if Halak started to fall apart, rather
than the Penguins if Crosby fell to earth. I know it’s tough to compare
the two, but the Canadiens feed off the play of Halak in goal, and now
all eyes are on him to perform. The Penguins know what it takes to win,
they’ve been there; if Crosby were to stumble you have to think there
are players on that team that know when and how to step it up.
or Crosby, who’s most valuable? You have to go with Halak in this one.