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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Crosby’s Return Not All About Offensive

Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Written by Rich Miller, talent network news staff
Twitter @rmillertime24


From the moment #87 touched the ice Monday night all eyes were on him, even those of the Islanders.  That’s what makes Crosby such a difference maker; other teams have to account for him every shift.  This could not have been any more evident after his first goal.  Initially Crosby was deep in his own end helping behind his own net, but when Deryk Engelland cleared the defensive zone to Pascal Dupuis on the half-boards, Crosby hit speed burst.  The rest is history.
Sidney Crosby Returns, Pittsburgh Penguins

That type of speed from the center position is unusual, unheard of, and unbelievable. It makes defenders have to back up, which means they cannot join odd man rushes, which means less scoring chances for the opposing team.  It makes opposing centers focus on #87, instead of their wingers.  It makes everyone wearing black and gold jobs a little easier as well.  Crosby covers so much space on the ice defensively; it lets the Penguins defenseman have the ability to be more aggressive.  As a defenseman there is no greater solace than knowing your center will be there to help you.

Not only do the Penguin defensemen get a chance to expand on their abilities, but the wingers do as well.  Less time spent back checking as a winger means more time trying to find open areas on the ice in transition. If you find open space, Crosby will find you.  This is where wingers with great speed and skating ability, i.e. Pascal Dupuis, become immediate threats.  Dupuis is one of the few people on the ice that has enough speed to skate with Crosby. Dupuis by himself is an average player at best, but with Crosby opening up space for him and less defensive obligations, Dupuis becomes very dangerous.

Finally, the person who will benefit more than anyone else from Crosby’s return: Marc Andre Fleury.  Fleury faced 29 shots last night from a porous New York team, but not many were quality chances and he was more of spectator whenever Crosby was on the ice.  Already arguably the best net minder in the game, Fleury now has three exceptional two way players covering the center of the ice, with arguably the best overall defense directly in front of him as well.  Crosby’s return already has people talking about scoring races and Hart trophies, but the one award I would definitely be willing to bet on is a Vezina for Fleury.

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