The time has finally come for the #87 Center of the Pittsburgh Penguins to make his triumphant return to the line-up at home against the NY Islanders.
And his return to the ice was nothing short of spectacular and was just about everything anyone who is a fan of his or the Penguins could’ve hoped for. Scoring two goals and adding two assists after missing nearly a year of action makes for a pretty special night no matter how you look at it, what team you cheer for and I mean it.
Earlier, SportsRantz asked if Sidney Crosby could match the kind of magic that Mario Lemieux exhibited during his comeback from retirement in 2000. Sure there are some differences – particularly the quality of the teams they faced – but the 2011-12 Pittsburgh Penguins produced a remarkably similar night as Lemieux’s team did on Dec. 27, 2000. Let’s take a look at the shared qualities:
- Crosby and Lemieux made big plays in their first shifts, although Mario was the one who scored a goal while Crosby’s setup for Chris Kunitz didn’t hit the net. Crosby didn’t take much time to correct that and in dramatic fashion.
- Both had big nights overall, as Crosby scored two goals and two assists while Lemieux produced a tally and two helpers. The part that is especially impressive is that Crosby produced those points in far less ice time than Lemieux; Crosby played a little under 16 minutes while Lemieux logged 20:46 in his retirement return.
- The scores were an identical 5-0; Garth Snow stopped 40 shots while Marc-Andre Fleury turned aside 29. Both the 2000-01 Toronto Maple Leafs and last night’s NY Islanders could do little to slow the Penguins down, even if their shot totals showed that they weren’t just rolling over…OK, I lied the Islanders rolled over some..
- Lemieux and Crosby’s famous partners in crime showed up in a big way in those games, too. Jaromir Jagr had the same results as Crosby (two goals and two assists) while Evgeni Malkin generated a goal and an assist.
Now that goes to show that Crosby and Lemieux have a ton of similarities; but enough comparing of the two! Lets return to how Crosby played last night and showed that he may have missed almost an entire year but still has the magic to be the top player in the league.
Crosby’s speed hasn’t faltered from his off-time at all and The speed in which Crosby got around Andrew MacDonald to score his first goal must’ve taken MacDonald by surprise because he was slow to react on the play and got blown right by before Sid finished with a backhand roof shot to beat Anders Nilsson, the Islanders rookie goaltender.
Penguins Head Coach, Dan Bylsma stuck to his game plan for Crosby as well. He let Crosby “run wild” in the first period which led a lot of people to believe that he would log more than 12-15 minutes of ice time. But that was not the case, to preserve Crosby and ease him back into it, Bylsma held Crosby to a total of 15:54 minutes, 21 shifts, 8 shots, 4 points and ended the night with a +3 rating. And out of 103 games, last night was on the 3rd in which Crosby, Malkin and Jordan Staal all played together.
Sid may have looked winded at times in the night but who wouldn’t be after being knocked out of action for nearly a year with a serious concussion. It happens to the best of the players out there and definitely happened to Crosby. The Penguins might be most thankful to Travis Hamonic for not treating Crosby with kid gloves.
Well, Crosby may have lit it up against an emotionless wet blanket of a team in the Islanders who were more than happy to throw out 21 year-old rookie Nilsson in goal to deal with that circus atmosphere last night. We’ll get a slightly better judgment of how far along Crosby is when the Pens face the Blues on Wednesday night and Ottawa on Friday. But none the less the Kid is back and the Penguins look to be the team in the East to beat and everyone’s eyes are on the #87.