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Crease-crashing Crosby goes to the next level

by Dan Rosen /
Did you see where Sidney Crosby wound up on most every shift against the Washington Capitals?

Do you see where the Pittsburgh Penguins' young captain ranks among the League's top scorers?

We're talking about the front of the net and No. 1 among all players in points and goals thus far in the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Hockey fans, this is not a coincidence.

A lot of critics go searching for what's wrong with Crosby's game before they realize what's right is actually staring them in the face. By nature, people like to see the underdog succeed and the favorite get roasted. It's why we'll get a lot of derogatory e-mails for just printing this article about No. 87.

Crosby, as we all well know, has long been the favorite and, sorry folks, but you can't roast him for anything nowadays. He is delivering on the promise, more so this spring than either of the previous two because he has developed the courageous part of his game.

This is not to say Crosby, only 21, didn't have courage before, but this year he's using it in areas where he can be most effective. It's why he is the best forward in the playoffs and arguably the best overall player so far, though Cam Ward and Nicklas Lidstrom could stake a claim to the latter.

Crosby already has 12 goals in 13 games this postseason, a striking difference from even his regular season when he scored a steady 33 goals in 77 games.

While 12 goals in 13 games is remarkable for anybody, let alone Crosby, who hasn't scored nearly a goal a game since he played for the QMJHL's Rimouski Oceanic, what matters is not so much how many he has, but how he is getting them.

Nine of Crosby's playoff goals have come after he's positioned himself right around the blue paint. They're not the most artful or colorful goals. He's not deking around four guys and using a toe-drag to get around the fifth before potting the puck into the net.

No, he's a bona-fide goal scorer now because he's using the lunch-pail and hard-hat approach. To steal a line from Carolina coach Paul Maurice, Crosby combines world-class talent with a fourth-line attitude.

This isn't totally surprising, but it is relatively new. Consider that Crosby scored only six goals in 21 playoff games a year ago, and just one of them came after the Penguins had established possession in the zone and No. 87 found his way to the front of the net.

We're not saying that Crosby has developed into the next Tomas Holmstrom this year because he doesn't plan on making a living around the crease, where the beating you take is almost unfair.

Then again, Crosby doesn't need to post up and get checked from behind all game long.

He is shifty enough that when he wants to get to the front of the net, unless you have someone playing him one-on-one all the time, he's going to find his way there. Usually, he'll find an opening in front of the right post so he can whack home any loose change with his forehand.

He scored four of his eight goals in the Washington series from the right post, including three with his forehand. By the time the Capitals defensemen found him, he was celebrating again.

All this brings us to the obvious question on everybody's mind now: Is Crosby the best player in the world?

Bruins/Hurricanes Playoff Gear Hurricanes Gear Penguins Gear Everybody within the game has an opinion, but it says here that it's too hard to determine. That may be toeing the line, but if anybody tells you definitively that so and so is the best player in the game bar none, well, you've found the wrong person.

Nobody can say that. Instead, what we can say is Crosby is among the best because he combines all the tasty ingredients from the other top players.

He doesn't have Alex Ovechkin's power, but Crosby's legs are like tree trunks and he is hard to knock off the puck. He's not as deceptive as Pavel Datsyuk or as controlled as Evgeni Malkin, but Crosby is sneaky and he is rarely, if ever, out of position.

There's arguably no one in the game that is more cerebral than Lidstrom, but few forwards think and analyze hockey better than Crosby. His own teammate, Maxime Talbot, called him "a hockey geek."

He may be, but this geek is no pushover. He's got the guts of a champion.

Now he just needs the ring.

Contact Dan Rosen at

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