by Tony on 11/19/08 at 11:57 AM ET
Certainly, discussing anything with constructive criticism of Sidney Crosby will stir up some, shall we say, interesting comments (especially all of those “Crysby” and “Cindy” ones, quite mature, eh ??).
That said, in my view as a Penguins fan, it’s entirely justified to criticize Crosby when it’s warranted.
I’ve done it in the past when Crosby was going overboard with passing up shots (although he’s done better lately, relatively speaking), and now I’m going to do it again:
Has Sid has become, or is quickly becoming, a liability on the shootout ??
That’s not an easy thing to say, considering you’re talking about one of the top three players in the NHL. On the surface, NHL fans that don’t watch the Penguins very often would think it inconceivable that Crosby wouldn’t be in HCMT’s shootout lineup.
It’s also not easy considering that Crosby has scored a couple of the most notable shootout goals in the short shootout history of the NHL. The first was the great “water bottle” backhanded goal to the top shelf to beat Jose Theodore and the Canadiens in November 2005. And then there was this past New Years Day, when his shootout goal against Ryan Miller and the Sabres won the Winter Classic for the Penguins.
In addition, Crosby has had seven game deciding shootout goals in his short career, which is tied for third most all-time.
However, to be fair, it must also be noted that Crosby overall is now 9 for 32 for 28% after his futile attempt last night against the Wild’s Niklas Backstrom. It must be taken into account that Crosby’s 32 attempts are tied for fourth all-time as well, so that could be a justification for a smaller shootout goal percentage. He’s 0 for 4 this season, while he was 2 for 7 in ‘07/‘08, 5 for 15 in ‘06/‘07 and 2 for 6 in ‘05/‘06. Over his career, he’s also had a span in which he missed in 10 straight shootout attempts (Evgeni Malkin had a streak of 9 himself, FYI).
Being a successful shootout specialist in today’s NHL is certainly not easy. Besides the obvious skill set, it takes plenty of originality and diversity. You simply cannot use the same one or two moves and expect to score at a reasonable rate of success, scouting and video study have seen to that. It’s in that respect that defenseman Kris Letang hasn’t scored this year after his spectacular shootout performance last season. Teams simply know that he’s either going to the top shelf now, whether that’s on his forehand or backhand.
Not that a schmuck like me can ever pretend to tell a world-class talent like Crosby how to do anything hockey-related, but it’s that originality and diversity that he’s been lacking lately. For starters, he hasn’t been skating towards the goal with as much speed as he did in the past. Some skaters on the shootout do better when they come in slower, but Crosby is not one of those types. His stickhandling ability allows him to come in faster, thereby giving less time for the goalie to react. In addition, it also appears that he’s been resigning himself to only make a subtle move or two before shooting. In fact, there have been times lately (like last night) that he’s barely made any move and just tried a wrister to the five hole in vain.
Removing Crosby, if HCMT were to do so, may not be as shocking as one might think. Therrien already doesn’t have the league’s scoring leader, Malkin, in his top three, and it’s arguable that Malkin has the moves to be one of the best shootout specialists in the NHL, if he works at it. He also has sniper Miro Satan, who’s been quite successful on the shootout himself. There have also been fans clamoring for Jordan Staal to get a chance on the shootout.
If I had to put money on it, I don’t see HCMT taking Sid off the top three. I just don’t think Therrien will remove his Captain from there. But the stats don’t lie.
By the way, I have to give some props to the folks at nhlshootouts.com. They’ve got some outstanding shootout stats on their site, be sure to check them out.
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Welcome to The Confluence, a Pittsburgh Penguins blog since 2006.
Originally at Blogspot, then at MVN, TheConfluence has over 1500 articles reporting Penguins news as well as jumping on my soapbox to opine constructive Penguins criticism.
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