It’s rare that a game goes by where Sidney Crosby doesn’t make his presence felt on the ice. Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final was no different, although the Penguins’ 6-0 beatdown of the Predators reminded us that even the best player in the world likes to test how much he can cross the line.
Crosby was all over the ice on Thursday night, making an impact in all sorts of ways, good and bad. He’s a superlative talent of the highest order, but this is playoff hockey, and that means everyone is seeing where they can give their team an edge. Sometimes it’s an incredible pass. Sometimes it apparently means letting a water bottle pop out of your hands.
We got the full Sidney Crosby Show in Game 5, so let’s run through all the big moments.
A one-man rush draws a penalty
Crosby splits the defence, draws a penalty, then hits the post. pic.twitter.com/3LogKSOMb7— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) June 9, 2017
This is how Crosby started Game 5: by bifurcating the Predators’ defense, drawing a penalty, and hitting a post in the process. Justin Schultz ended up scoring on the resulting power play to give the Penguins an early lead. Crosby naturally had an assist on Schultz’s goal, but you could basically give him two for his effort to draw the power play, too.
Crosby pushes Subban’s head into the ice
What was Crosby thinking here? Presumably he was tired of whatever Subban had done to provoke him, but still, the whole “pushing an opponent’s head into the ice over and over” response was a bit much. Both players earned penalties for the tussle, then the Penguins scored during 4-on-4 play. Victory, Crosby, I guess.
After the game, Predators coach Peter Laviolette commented on the play. “I don’t understand it. I really don’t understand the call,” Laviolette said, via Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski. “I saw my guy get his head cross-checked into the ice 10 times. I don’t even know what he did, P.K. I’m not sure. I disagree with the call.”
The “10 times” thing might be an exaggeration, but it’s not hard to see where Laviolette is coming from.
Crosby, meanwhile, said after the game that Subban was “doing some kind of UFC move on my foot.” Not sure that flies as an explanation for what he did, even if there was some provocation for it.
Milbury defends Crosby, says Subban “had it coming”
During the intermission after the first period, NBC analyst Mike Milbury defended Crosby’s actions, saying Subban “had it coming.” What does that mean? We didn’t get an explanation, but Milbury said he enjoyed watching the play.
Because that’s what we really want from our greatest hockey stars: awkward wrestling and head bashing!
Crosby throws a water bottle, Penguins score a goal
See that little projectile? That’s a water bottle that Crosby threw onto the ice right before Phil Kessel scored to give the Penguins a 5-0 lead.
Did Crosby intentionally throw the bottle onto the ice? He appeared to tell a referee afterward that it was an accident, but the Penguins got lucky that there was no penalty levied against them. In the end, it seems like just another example of Crosby seeing where he could cross the line — and successfully getting away with it.
Crosby also had three assists
It wouldn’t be a classic Crosby game without a bunch of points, would it? The center recorded three assists in the victory, which gives him a playoff-high 19 in 23 games. Despite often being matched up against Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis, he has seven points in five games against the Predators so far.
His assist in the second period to set up Conor Sheary’s goal was a backhanded thing of beauty:
We have a feeling a birthday wish just came true... pic.twitter.com/f4NuPbklPR— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) June 9, 2017
Crosby hardly even gets a look to where he’s passing before making the play, but knows Sheary will be trying to get his space in the slot. The Predators were stuck with Matt Irwin on the ice coming off the end of matching penalties, and Crosby was able to thread the pass through the slot to create a juicy chance for his winger.
This was a totally dominant effort by Crosby
When you talk about the best player in the world, you think of nights like this one. Whether it was a controversial tussle with a fellow superstar or an otherworldly pass that only Crosby could make, the superstar center showed in Game 5 that he’s still able to make an unparalleled impact in big games.
Even his possession numbers were strong — the center led all Penguins in overall Corsi at 60 percent (15-10 in shot attempts), per Natural Stat Trick.
Crosby may be closing in on 30 years old (he’ll be that age at the start of next season), but there’s a reason it still feels like the hockey world revolves around him. He has performances like Game 5 where his talent is unbeatable, and his willingness to push the line frustrates. And until referees decide they’re going to do something about “playoff hockey,” it’s understandable why Crosby pulls the stuff he does.
The Penguins haven’t won this series yet, but it’s clear they still have the best player in it. Now one win from becoming the first back-to-back Stanley Cup champions since the 1997-98 Red Wings, we’ll have to see just how much further Crosby is willing to go to make it happen.