LCS Hockey: Born Again
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June 19, 2019
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Shoot the Puck!




No Shoot McGee
photo by Matthieu Masquelet

Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals stuck it to Kid Crosby yesterday, whipping the Penguins 5-2. The Birds had no answer for Washingtonís physicality. And thatís been the problem in Pittsburgh all season. The Pens are far too easy to play against. Jarkko Ruutu, Ryan Malone, and Gary Roberts arenít walking through that door, people.

The Pens are 2-1-1 since the coaching change but have allowed 16 goals in the four contests. While Dan Bylsmaís more aggressive style is wildly entertaining, leading to fire wagon hockey against Montreal and Philadelphia, it canít hide the teamís glaring weaknesses on wing or prevent Marc-Andre Fleury from surrendering soft goals, something he now does on a nightly basis.

Bylsma also hasnít been able to solve Pittsburghís putrid power play. The Pens went 1-for-8 with the man-advantage against the Caps, squandering a five-on-three and recording 10 total shots while giving up five short-handed.

Pittsburgh was playing its third game in less than four days and the second of back-to-back road contests, so expecting the Pens to get two points out of Washington was a bit much. But it was still rather embarrassing watching them get pushed around like that.

The game further cemented Ovechkinís status as the best hockey player in the world. The Russian Nightmare had a goal, an assist, five hits, and nine shots. He brought it each and every shift. The speed of the leader determines the rate of the pack.

Meanwhile, Kid Crosby had one assist and wasted most of his energy yapping with the opposing bench. Far too concerned with answering verbal challenges than physical ones, Crosby nearly came to blows with Ovechkin on one occasion. But Sidís misplaced intensity did little to fire up his teammates. No one even came to his defense. Shameful.

Iíve been real sour on Crosby lately, and for good reason. Whether itís the knee injury or a lingering cold, Crosby has been anything but dominant in February, posting one goal and five assists through the first eight games. He exploded for two and two against the Flyers, but it was back to the same old shenanigans yesterday, passing up shots, making poor decisions with the puck, and generally playing like an average good player. Not great. Good.

One sequence in the third period highlighted the foolishness. The Pens were on the power play when Sid busted into the right circle and had a good look at the net. Instead of pulling the trigger, Crosby threw a pass across the slot, handing it to Alexander Semin for a gift-wrapped two-on-one.

All Crosby is right now is Fast Adam Oates. Thatís it. Heís not an all-time great. Heís not a transcendent talent. Heís Fast Adam Oates.

Nothingís changed since Crosbyís rookie season. He remains pass first, pass second, pass always. His game hasnít evolved. If anything, itís regressed. Stats donít lie. Check out Sidís career goals- and shots-per-game numbers.

Year       G/G     S/G
2005-06   0.48    3.43
2006-07   0.46    3.16
2007-08   0.45    3.26
2008-09   0.38    3.00

For whatever reason, Crosby refuses to shoot the puck, with his 3.00 shots-per-game average this season the lowest of his career. I could stomach the shot numbers if he had Jari Kurri and Glenn Anderson on his wings, but thereís no excuse for Crosby passing up shots on this inept Penguin squad.

Itís not merely about scoring goals. Shots dictate tempo. And shooting will only make him a better playmaker. If Crosby starts putting more pucks on net, defensemen will step up and challenge him more, opening passing lanes and creating opportunities for his linemates. Why would anyone worry about Sid shooting the puck right now? Heís a one-dimensional player, and that dimension depends on the likes of Pascal Dupuis and Ruslan Fedotenko to produce goals.

In his first three NHL seasons, Crosby went without a shot on seven occasions. Heís already notched seven shotless games this season. In fact, Crosbyís recorded one shot or less an unforgivable 20 times. In those 20 forgettable contests, heís produced three goals and 19 points, and the Penguins have gone 6-12-2.

Crosbyís posted four or more shots 25 times this season. When he does, the Penguins are 15-8-2. And in those 25 games, Crosby bagged 18 goals and 45 points. Thatís right. Eighteen goals in 25 games. Thatís a 0.72 goals-per-game average, good for 59 goals over a full slate.

If Crosby shoots the puck, the Pens win. Period. Four shots a night isnít too much to ask. When Crosbyís headís in the game, and heís shooting the puck, heís the best player in hockey. Unfortunately, he doesnít bring that same approach night in and night out. Itís not for a lack of effort. No one works harder than Sid. Itís some bizarre mental block preventing him from shooting. Heís too unselfish. And it must end.

Of course, it doesnít help that Crosby uses inferior equipment. But even a curved blade wonít matter if Sid refuses to shoot the puck. So letís start there and work our way up to the big-boy stick.

CROSBY STATS BY SHOT TOTAL

ZERO SHOTS
GM   G   A   PTS    Record
 7   0   6     6     2-5-0

ONE SHOT
GM   G   A   PTS    Record
13   3  10    13     4-7-2

TWO SHOTS 
GM   G   A   PTS    Record
 9   2   9    11     4-3-2

THREE SHOTS
GM   G   A   PTS    Record
 6   0   4     4     3-3-0

FOUR SHOTS OR MORE
GM   G   A   PTS    Record
25  18  27    45    15-8-2



LCS Hockey: Born Again
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