The last time we saw Sidney Crosby make his return to action it came on home ice to standing ovations and a four-point night against the Islanders. This time he was against New York’s other team, the Eastern Conference leading Rangers, on the road and the reception was just a bit colder.
Each time Crosby touched the puck the boos rained down. Every time he went into the corner to battle for a puck or cut through the ice with each smooth stride, Rangers fans implored their team to get physical with him. Some of those jeers and taunts were classically New York colorful and sometimes resembling a Roman gladiator mob at its ugliest.
While this comeback game wasn’t nearly as offensively explosive, Crosby says he had to do things different this time.
“I was just trying to calm myself a little bit more than I was last time,” Crosby said. “I didn’t want to get caught trying to do too much… Just making sure I was responsible out there, doing the right things, all those details… Especially in big games like this.”
Don’t be mistaken, it was a big game. For the Rangers, a win would’ve kept the Penguins off of their heels. Instead, the Penguins are even closer to snatching the lead in the division and conference from them. Adding a player of Crosby’s caliber to the lineup makes things feel almost unfair.
Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma had to fight himself from beaming over having a wealth of riches at his disposal in Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, and a healthy Kris Letang. Having all of his stars back at full speed, Bylsma’s confidence in his team and how they match up with opponents is sky high.
“It’s not out of the realm to see 71 out there, or 11, or 87,” Bylsma said. “Any of those lines can play against any line in the league and so matchups aren’t something we’re going to stretch ourselves to worry about.”
That might sound cocky to some fans, but with the Pens back at full strength it’s the sort of confidence you’re allowed to have. When asked if Crosby’s performance can put an end to the questions about whether he can fit into the lineup that’s now on a 10-game win streak, Bylsma breathed a sigh of relief.
“I hope so,” Bylsma said laughing. “I’m sure there’s going to be another one somewhere.”
If that question is going to happen it’ll have to wait until the Pens actually lose a game. For Crosby, the boos and insults will keep coming on the road but as long as the wins keep coming, the opposing fans and critics will be going home angry but silent.