Crosby and Penguins need to put frustrations aside

Crosby5.jpgI’ve written before how Sidney Crosby’s obvious frustration was a
good sign for the Canadiens
, and as the series has worn on you’re seeing
that frustration more and more. Crosby was able to get his first goal
of the series in Game 6, although he was held to just three shots in the
game and overall has just five points in the series.

Not that big
a deal if the rest of the team was picking up the slack, but with
Crosby and Evgeni Malkin struggling we’ve yet to see the secondary
scoring of the Penguins truly step up.

At the heart of the matter
is the emotional makeup of the Penguins as they gear up for tonight’s
big game and whether Crosby’s outbursts have been a detriment to the
team. The Penguins have played at times like a team that is scared to
make a mistake while the Canadiens continue play loose, knowing that
they were never expected to make it this far.

The pressure is all on the
Penguins at this point, and it’s showing.

This isn’t so much
about the Habs’ ability to keep Crosby in check as it is about some of
the troubled signs we’ve seen at times as he’s been continuously
frustrated by the Canadiens. There’s no doubt that the Habs are playing
Crosby as physical as they possibly can and those that feel that the NHL
and the officials are all on his side don’t have much of a leg to stand
on as he’s constantly grabbed, hit and taken down to the ice.

We’ve
seen Crosby unleash a two-handed slash with his stick at the goalpost,
angrily throwing the broken stick away. Last game we witnessed Crosby
take on a few Canadiens after time had expired in the team’s 4-3 loss.

While
I think his complaints to the officials are a bit overblown — every
player in the NHL does the same thing — the issue here is how visible
Crosby is and how every action he takes on the ice is intensely
scrutinized.

He’s an incredibly talented player who has been
elevated to divinity status in the hockey world, aided by being named
captain of the teams he’s on. Winning the Stanley Cup and an Olympic
gold medal as captain have seemingly made Crosby into an infallible
leader on the ice, where no matter what he might do it’s perfectly fine.
He’s won a Stanley Cup and a gold medal, there’s no use in questioning
his leadership ability.

But this is a new season, a new team and a
new run for the Stanley Cup. What he’s done before was great, but
seeing him come close to falling apart at times has been troubling.
There’s no way to tell whether his actions are affecting the rest of the
team but we’ve yet to see the Penguins come completely apart. But as we
approach tonight’s game, and the feeling of how each team is
approaching the game, you have to wonder if the pressure is getting to
them.

The Penguins, like the Boston Bruins, need to put use their
emotions more efficiently. It’s fine to be angry, it’s fine to be ultra
competitive and frustrated, but when you aren’t putting that energy
towards your actual play on the ice is when the problems start.

The
Edmonton Journal has a good blog entry today on this subject, taking
excerpts from the book Simply the Best: Insights and Strategies from
Great Hockey Coaches. I
thought this quote was exceptionally relevant:

*
Pat Quinn:
“I think body language and self-talk are really
important and revealing. I used to watch a young Trevor Linden in
Vancouver come to the bench like it was the end of the world, and I’d
say, ‘Wake up. If you’re afraid of mistakes, don’t show the rest of the
world.’ Davey Keon was not much older than me when I first started
playing in Toronto, but he was very accomplished at a young age. One
night I came back to the bench and banged my stick after a shift that I
didn’t like. Dave told me, ‘If you do that again, I’m going to give you
the stick. You don’t show 20,000 people that you’re unhappy with
yourself, and you don’t show the other bench either.’ It made a lot of
sense to me.”

Well said.

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    Stars, Rangers do their Caps – Pens impression in wild win for Dallas

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    If you watched only Tuesday’s Dallas Stars – New York Rangers game and yesterday’s manic Washington Capitals contest, you might believe that you were transported to the days of the 1988 Smythe Division.

    Just ask Justin Williams.

    That Penguins – Capitals game ended with an 8-7 overtime victory for Pittsburgh, while tonight’s 7-6 win for the Stars against the Rangers wasn’t far behind.

    All the goals

    Henrik Lundqvist gave up seven goals, eventually giving way to Magnus Hellberg in the third period. It’s been a rough go of things lately for the future Hall of Famer, with tonight marking the low point.

    The Stars opened up leads of 3-1 in the first period and 7-3 through the first two frames, but as you can guess from the score, the Rangers stormed back with three goals in a surprisingly tight third period.

    Kari Lehtonen saved the day for the Stars, stopping 12 of 12 after taking over about halfway through the third for Antti Niemi.

    Much like with the Penguins – Capitals clash, it was about more than just seeing a lot of goals.

    More than just a high-scoring game

    Cody Eakin and Chris Kreider were in the thick of things. Eakin scored his first goal of 2016-17, a 7-3 tally that absurdly ended up being the game-winner. Kreider began the Rangers’ rally with his 18th goal of the season, hit Eakin with his own helmet during a fight and created his typical brand of chaos.

    As much as this might sting the Rangers, and as concerned as they may be about Lundqvist’s play, at least it looks like Ryan McDonagh avoided injury despite this scary fall:

    OK, so these four teams dropped the gauntlet for wild games this week. Who’s going to carry the torch on Wednesday?

    Report: Islanders granted permission to interview Gerard Gallant

    NASHVILLE, TN - JANUARY 29:  Head coach Gerard Gallant of the Florida Panthers speaks during Media Day for the 2016 NHL All-Star Game at Bridgestone Arena on January 29, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    Gerard Gallant might not go long between head coaching gigs.

    The New York Islanders have received permission to speak with Gallant, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

    Gallant was an assistant coach with the Islanders from 2007 to 2009, so there’s some familiarity there with GM Garth Snow (it was early on in his reign). Gallant was unceremoniously fired by the Florida Panthers in late November, with plenty of rumors circulating that he didn’t jive well with the franchise’s analytics-driven mindset. Gallant denied those claims, for whatever that’s worth.

    (If such rumblings are true, perhaps Gallant would agree with the questionable logic of giving limited, but heavy-hitting forward Cal Clutterbuck a contract extension. That would be an interesting question to ask him during an interview, eh?)

    Doug Weight is currently considered the Islanders interim head coach after the firing of Jack Capuano.

    About the only bummer for everyone outside of Weight is that the Islanders already played their three games against the Panthers this season, so we’d have to wait until 2017-18 for whatever drama would come of that.

    Robin Lehner’s furious anger seemingly directed at Sabres after being pulled

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    Update: There’s now full video to get a better sense of Robin Lehner‘s behavior.

    The Maple Leafs ended up beating the Sabres 4-3 after Buffalo made the game awfully interesting.

    ***

    Late last season, Ben Scrivens expressed relief in avoiding a fight with Robin Lehner, the Buffalo Sabres goalie he called “a bit of a psycho.” It sure seemed like the Sabres were the target of his frightening anger on Tuesday.

    Lehner really didn’t seem too happy after being pulled from the game, whether that anger was directed at Dan Bylsma, his Sabres teammates or … everyone?

    Watch him rage out after getting the hook following Toronto’s three-goal outburst in about nine minutes:

    /Cowers in fear.

    Onlookers seem to believe that the tension was real.

    Raise your hand if you wouldn’t want to be around Lehner right now. Here’s the impressive Auston Matthews 3-2 goal that ended his night early:

    Jared Spurgeon shows he has hands like a surgeon (Video)

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    Minnesota Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon has a pretty good knack for scoring goals, especially considering the fact that he doesn’t always take a ton of shots.

    Maybe Bruce Boudreau should consider asking him to fire away a little more often.

    You won’t see many prettier examples of hand-eye coordination than Spurgeon’s power-play goal from Tuesday’s game against the New Jersey Devils, which gave the Wild a 1-0 lead. Watch it in the video above.

    It’s almost impressive enough to justify rhyming his last name with surgeon. You know, theoretically.