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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    PHT Morning Skate: The top 5 second-round matchups since 1980

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    –Yesterday was the start of second-round action in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, so Sean McIndoe breaks down his top five second-round matchups since 1980. The most recent series on the list was the clash between the Blackhawks and Canucks in 2010, while the oldest series on the list 1988 battle between the Oilers and Flames. (The Hockey News)

    –Rod Stewart was incredibly proud of his own, Liam, when he scored his first international goal for Great Britain during the Division 1 Group B World Hockey Championship. Stewart took to instagram to show just how thrilled he was about his son’s accomplishment. (Sportsnet)

    –The Nashville Predators took down the St. Louis Blues, 4-3, in Game 1 of their second-round series thanks to a phenomenal effort from P.K. Subban. You can watch the highlights from Game 1 by clicking the video at the top of the page.

    –Speaking of Subban, he sat down with NBC hockey analyst Pierre McGuire after last night’s win. Subban talked about overcoming St. Louis’ strong third-period push, the scary injury to Kevin Fiala and what it means to be a leader on a championship team. But on a lighter note, Subban also complimented McGuire on “getting better looking every day”. (NBC Sports)

    Jarome Iginla will become an unrestricted free agent this summer. The 39-year-old still searching for his first Stanley Cup, which could be a big factor in his potential decision to hold off retirement. But here’s an interesting bit of information. Iginla, who suited up for the Bruins a couple of years ago, has reportedly purchased a $4.5 million home in the Boston area. Could he be headed back there? (WEEI.com)

    –We’ve heard this story before, but it sounds like Ilya Kovalchuk is interested in coming back to the NHL. If he’s serious about returning to North America, there will be no shortage of suitors vying for his services. The Hockey News looks at some perfect landing spots for the the 34-year-old sniper. (The Hockey News)

    –Unfortunately, Pierre LeBrun was let go by ESPN on Wednesday, but one of his final stories was a really good one. LeBrun mentions the possibility of some fireworks going off during the off-season thanks to the expansion draft and a lack of increase in the salary cap. LeBrun writes: “So much of it comes back to what decisions the Anaheim Ducks and Minnesota Wild make leading up to the expansion draft. The Ducks and Wild can’t protect all of their depth on defense, but there’s no way they’re just going to let the new Vegas Knights take a good blueliner for free in the expansion draft, either. I think they will either made a side deal with Vegas or simply trade whichever defenseman they can’t protect in the draft to another NHL team.” (ESPN)

    Video: Getzlaf, Perry, Kesler lose cool in scuffle with Kassian, Oilers

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    In the first round, Zack Kassian reminded the hockey world why he came into the league with considerable hype as a first-rounder, as he scored some big goals for the Edmonton Oilers.

    Of course, there’s a reason why Kassian has 522 penalty minutes in 313 career regular-season games. He can be a nasty presence who straddles the line.

    He did as much late in Game 1, getting into it with Ryan Kesler, and then things really got out of hand. Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and others were involved in “histrionics.”

    (Who wants to start a Patreon to find out what Getzlaf and Andrej Sekera were saying to each other, by the way?)

    It looks like the players involved were only whistled for roughing minors rather than fighting majors. This caps a tough night for Anaheim, who lost 5-3 and saw Kevin Bieksa suffer a troubling lower-body injury.

    King Leon: Draisaitl collects four points vs. Ducks to give Oilers a Game 1 win

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    So far, the Edmonton Oilers had been showing that they can win tight, low-scoring playoff games. And then the third period of Game 1 against the Anaheim Ducks happened.

    The two teams entered the final frame tied 1-1, with smaller breaks and bounces being the story. Then just about everything happened in the third, with Leon Draisaitl guiding the Oilers to a 5-3 win to take a 1-0 series lead.

    Draisaitl ended up with a goal and three assists, extending his point streak to three games (seven points during that span).

    He wasn’t the only Oilers player to raise some eyebrows, and actually, the other two starring members were a lot more surprising. Mark Letestu seemed to make the early difference with two power-play goals, while low-scoring defenseman Adam Larsson found the net twice, including on the game-winner.

    Phew, that’s a lot to absorb, right? This video captures the wildest scoring stretch of that period, even if there would be more:

    While Connor McDavid hasn’t been bad, he’s been quiet – by his lofty standards – so far in the Oilers’ run, and that was mostly true on Wednesday. He ended up with a mere secondary assist in this one,

    Yet, that might just be part of the good news for the Oilers. They advanced after McDavid had spotty series against the Sharks, and they just gave the Ducks their first postseason loss of 2017 with Draisaitl and others stealing the headlines.

    Things got nasty at the end of this game, with key Ducks such as Ryan Getzlaf being prominently involved. Such moments make it clear that Anaheim isn’t likely to bow out of this one easily (and perhaps not gracefully?) but that should only make for a captivating Game 2.

    That Game 2 airs Friday at 10:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN; you can watch online or via the NBC Sports App. Click here for the livestream link.

    Keep an eye on Oilers’ Slepyshev (the Ducks certainly should)

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    The breaks and breakaways frequently went the Edmonton Oilers’ way as they eliminated the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 of their first-round series. Those results have been more of a mixed bag for Edmonton against the Anaheim Ducks in Game 1 tonight, though.

    Anton Slepyshev is a great example of those ups and downs.

    In Game 6 against the Sharks, Slepyshev used his speed to score a breakaway tally that ended up being the game-winner. (See here for those friendly breakaways.)

    Slepyshev’s been burning the Ducks with his speed on Wednesday, but the Oilers have been burned in the process. For one thing, John Gibson turned aside this big chance shortly after Ryan Getzlaf gave Anaheim a 1-0 lead:

    Later on in that same second period, Slepyshev got a step on the Ducks defense again. This time, he didn’t just fail to score; he took a goalie interference penalty for bumping Gibson.

    With Ryan Nugent-Hopkins being among those hitting posts, it might feel like it’s all against the Oilers this time around, but crossbars/postsanother theme from Edmonton’s Game 6 win vs. San Jose – have more or less balanced out.

    And, one break really went Edmonton’s way: a Ducks defender broke his stick on the Oilers’ 5-on-3 opportunity, opening the door for a crucial Mark Letestu goal:

    The end result is a 1-1 tie, but give the Oilers credit for not getting rattled. If Slepyshev can keep up his efforts, his speed could be a factor in a series that looks like it could be a real tug-o-war.