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Crosby's critics are barking up the wrong stick

by Phil Coffey /
There are days I think global warming, the Kennedy assassination and the start of World War II are going to be blamed on Sidney Crosby.

Get over it people! Really, I almost fell off my chair when I read the ruckus that sprang out of Crosby breaking a stick in frustration the other night. Yep, he's certainly the only player in NHL history to ever do such a thing. A real trailblazer for sure.

And I don't want to hear anymore talk about the fact that Crosby has been known to curse a blue streak on the ice. Let me enlighten everyone: if the NHL started banning players who cursed like stevedores there wouldn't be any games. The bench and the ice during a game, especially a Stanley Cup Playoffs game, is not a place for gentile society. There are no discussions of fine art and literature and that's what makes it great. No, this is not a sport for the meek, so busting a stick and dropping a few off-color phrases isn't a reason to dump on Crosby. If I'm running the Penguins or any other team for that matter, I want that kind of passion and intensity from my best player and captain.

"You know, it was a situation in a game where I think he felt like we could do more and there was more to be done out there," coach Dan Bylsma said of Crosby breaking the stick in Game 2, a loss against the Canadiens. "Whether it's the power play or the referee or not cashing in on the chances that were there; there's some times that frustration is evident in everybody. That was maybe what we saw. But again, we've also talked about it as a group and as players, and we're well aware of it, and I think we readjusted as the game went on and Sid adjusted and got back to focus on playing as well."

"There's nothing I can say," Crosby said when asked about his stick-smashing episode. "There's no excuses."

Nor should there be. In a collision sport like hockey with a lot on the line, an occasional twig will break. Let's move on.

"I think a lot of what happens with Sid is that he is so emotional and he invests so much into the game and sometimes he lets it show," Bill Guerin told's Shawn Roarke. "I don't see a problem in that, but I think a lot of the times, people take it the wrong way. Inside our dressing room, we don't.

"We know what Sid is about. It's only for good reasons. We all handle things differently, too. Yesterday, he was letting his emotions show and personally, I don't have a problem with that."

Crosby is used to it all by now and he has found the necessary ability to let the criticism roll off his back, even if others make a bigger deal of it that is deserved.

"It's not the first time," Crosby said. "It probably won't be the last. The sad part is every time somebody brings up something about me, I have to answer about them."

Just part of the process -- The hockey gods giveth and the hockey gods taketh away. Boy, we sure have seen that in the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, especially in the Eastern Conference, where the Philadelphia Flyers saw injuries take out three important forwards -- Jeff Carter, Simon Gagne and Ian Laperriere.

And the Boston Bruins are on the receiving end of the "taketh away" portion of the program, seeing Marco Sturm and now David Krejci lost for the remainder of the playoffs to injury. That effectively wipes out the euphoria of getting Marc Savard back for the second round of the postseason.

But as we all know, this is part of the Yin and Yang of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, where it never is a good idea to get too happy or too sad, because you don't know what's coming over the hill.

"I know that other teams are going through it," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "You're talking about Sturm, who was your top goal scorer this year. You're talking about Krejci, who was one of your top centermen. It's never easy to lose guys like that. We've got two guys (Dennis Seidenberg and Mark Stuart) who were part of our top four D's that are out of our lineup still.

"It's part of the game," Julien said. "It's one that you can't dwell on because it takes away the focus from what you need to do to succeed. That's where, as a coach, you look at what you've got, and you've got to make the best of what you've got.''

Sturm was lost to a torn MCL in his knee in Game 1 against the Flyers. Krejci suffered a dislocated wrist in Game 4 and had immediate surgery.

"I mean, I'm still speechless," Sturm said. "After the ACL from last year, I just never thought there was going to be another injury like this. It's a tough one, but I always came back from big injuries and I'm going to do it again. But it's definitely tough."

The Flyers lost Carter and Gagne to foot injuries against the New Jersey Devils in the first round and then saw Laperriere felled by a brain contusion after being struck by a Devils' shot.

Amazing recovery -- Jordan Staal played only 13:24, down from his playoff average of 19:23 minutes, in Game 4 against the Canadiens. He took a couple shots and won three of five faceoffs. What made the effort remarkable was last weekend the first reports out of Pittsburgh were that Staal was done for the postseason after suffering a severed tendon in his foot.

Despite the seemingly dire nature of the injury, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma insisted on saying Staal was day-to-day and now the coach has been vindicated.

"I know there were a few chuckles when I said he was day-to-day, but he is day-to-day," Bylsma said Wednesday after Staal practiced with the Pens. "We would not be risking anything, in terms of his health or the procedure that he had. He just has to heal from a surgical wound and get back in his boot and be comfortable doing that, so there's not a risk in terms of weighing if he should play or not."

Effort applauded -- Speaking of Laperriere, he has been a Flyer for only this season, but the veteran forward has made quite the impression on a fanbase that appreciates effort.

During Game 4, the video screen at Wachovia Center showed Laperriere watching the game and it prompted a long standing ovation.

"I still can't believe it," Laperriere told reporters. "I mean, I've been here for seven months and to show me they appreciate what I do, I don't have the words to describe it."

Well Said I -- "When I've practiced against him and tried to take a run at him, I've bounced right off and I'm 225 pounds. I know what the Canucks are going through trying to deal with him." -- Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook on teammate Dustin Byfuglien

The non-denial denial -- You can tell Bill Guerin is a wily veteran based on the way he answered this question about why he didn't play in Games 3 and 4 against the Canadiens.

"I can't really say what I've been dealing with," Guerin smiled to the media scrum. "I've just been, uh ... resting comfortably. My goal is to play in Game 5. ... The injury was hockey-related. Like I said, I've been resting comfortably."

So Bill, did the injury happen during the series or was it a holdover from the first round?

"I could answer that a number of ways, but it is something that's been lingering, and it did happen during the Canadiens series. How's that?"

Good enough to get him a job as a White House spokesman.

Zen master -- So Guerin is the king of not saying anything about an injury, which in his line of work is perfectly understandable. Now, let's call the Red Wings' Henrik Zetterberg the master of understatement.

Zetterberg was a big part in the Red Wings staying alive against the Sharks Thursday night, assisting on 2 goals and going plus-4 during the Johan Franzen Show.

So Henrik, big win, eh?

"Sometimes everything works well for you. I think we scored four goals in our first five shifts. It (Z and Franzen) worked before so he wanted to try it again. We had a good outcome."

Yep, a 7-1 win is usually considered a "good outcome."

Stupid, stupid, stupid -- The always honest Dan Boyle doffed his helmet to the Red Wings after the 7-1 stomping in Game 4, but he was not at all pleased by the show he and his teammates put on the ice.

"They played well, you've got to give them credit," Boyle said. "But we did a lot of stupid things we hadn't done in a while."

Bad deal -- You can say that the trade of Raffi Torres to the Buffalo Sabres didn't work out because Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier said it didn't.

Torres came to Buffalo from Columbus for Nathan Paetsch and a draft pick. He scored 5 assists in 14 regular-season games and 2 assists in four playoff games. Now, Torres is an unrestricted free agent.

"It didn't benefit him, and it didn't benefit us, and it didn't work," Regier told the Buffalo News. "When we looked at him, we looked at him from the standpoint of a bigger body and somebody who had played well in the playoffs for Columbus in the previous year. Quite honestly, me personally, I wasn't looking at his 19 goals as much as I was hoping that he could give us some competitiveness and board work in corners.

"I felt badly for him. He's an unrestricted free agent, and he's a good player, and I hope things work out very well for him."

Well Said II -- "This was one game. I think always we're good out there. Now we have a chance to go back home and recover and get back again. After the win and after the loss, now we have to handle ourselves after the loss. Hopefully we'll get back to the (drawing) board tomorrow and put our gloves on and get back to work." -- Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov after Thursday's 7-1 loss to the Red Wings

Say something nice -- The Red Wings' Mike Babcock got the easiest question on record the other day when he was asked if he could say something nice about Nicklas Lidstrom.

"That I can do. He's a good man. He's been fantastic because leadership to me is about doing things right. He still says the right things, but it's more about his actions and what he does. It's always been about the team. The bigger the game, the bigger the stage, the better he's played. He's not 25 anymore, but he's still an elite player."

House money -- Fact is, the Montreal Canadiens weren't given a snowball's chance in summer of beating either the Washington Capitals in the first round or Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round of the playoffs and don't think the Habs aren't enjoying making the soothsayers -- yours truly included -- look bad.

"We have nothing to lose because we're not even supposed to be here," goalie Jaroslav Halak said. "No one gave us a chance to go through the first round and right now, even in the second, people thought we'd lose four straight. But here we are."

Go to the net, arrive in ill humor -- The Chicago Blackhawks are conjuring up their inner Broad Street Bullies, perhaps in honor of the terrific documentary being shown on HBO.

In any event, the Blackhawks have taken the famous line of the late Fred Shero to heart -- "Go to the net and arrive in ill humor."

"My job is to get position and make them work around me," said Dustin Byfuglien, a leading proponent of getting to know Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo up close and personal. "They've got to worry about me coming in and getting hit. Our plan all series has been to get to the net."

Heat is on, already -- The Nashville Predators had barely broken up following their elimination from the playoffs by the Chicago Blackhawks and GM David Poile already was setting goals for next season.

"I'm telling you that if David Legwand doesn't score more than 20 goals next season," Poile said, "I'm not going to be very happy."

Well Said III -- "There is something special about playoff hockey for a lot of reasons, and one of them is that road buildings are crazy. They're out of this world. For a lot of [our] guys, this is going home. The atmosphere in the city and the building is unique. We know it's going to be loud. It's something that we have to be aware of." -- Penguins coach Dan Bylsma prior to Game 3 in Montreal.

Keeping it in perspective -- We make much of having home-ice advantage in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but how important is it really?

"Well, the big thing is, no fans ever scored any goals, let's get that straight," the Red Wings Mike Babcock said. "We've played better on the road in the playoffs, to tell you the truth."

The task ahead -- New Atlanta Thrashers GM Rick Dudley knows what has to happen for the fans to flock back to Phillips Arena.

"This is no different than many places I've been, including Chicago," Dudley told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "They soured on the product, and now we have to give them something to get excited about. We have to do a good job selling our players who are going to be stars. We have to do a good job on the ice, so they come to the games."

My bad -- There have been numerous too many men on ice penalties this postseason and the reasoning goes from the decibel levels inside the various arenas to just the general intensity and confusion of the playoffs. But Blackhawks coach knows where the blame will always come to rest.

"That's another trend that has been very unusual; the frequency of those penalties," Quenneville laughed. "But at the end of the day it's always the coach's fault."

Well Said IV -- "My wife actually mentioned it to me yesterday -- I was driving the kids around, and when we got back, my wife said to me, 'Where's that Pavelski from?' And I said, 'Why?' 'Well, he's a stud.' And I said, 'Well, he played at Wisconsin -- thanks for the tip.' " -- Mike Babcock on the Sharks' Joe Pavelski

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