Given that the Pittsburgh Penguins have a 3-1 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final, given that they haven’t trailed for a second in any game – their one loss came in overtime – and given that two of the final three games, if necessary, are in Pittsburgh, many analysts assume that the Penguins will beat the Sharks and win their first championship since 2009.
And if they do, there’s no denying who their most important piece has been.
“The Conn Smythe, to me, is Sidney Crosby,” NHL.com senior writer Dan Rosen said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “It’s not a wrong choice to pick Phil Kessel. It’s not wrong. But I just look at it and I say, ‘Who has been the most impactful player in all areas of the ice?’ It’s not like Kessel is blowing Crosby out in points. He’s got, what, maybe for more points than Sid has?”
Yes. Kessel has 21 points this postseason. Crosby has 17. Both have 11 assists.
“Sidney Crosby is just doing everything,” Rosen said, “and he’s doing everything right. He’s playing hard in the D-zone, he’s winning face-offs, he’s setting up goals, he’s been impossible to check, especially on home ice – he’s doing every little thing.”
He’s also doing the easiest yet hardest thing to do – something he hasn’t done the last several years.
“He’s skating away,” Rosen said. “When guys go after him, he skates away. He’s not yelling at the officials, he’s not whining at the officials, he’s not yelling at the bench for the other guys, he’s not fighting back. He’s skating away. And a perfect example was Game 2 of this series. Joe Thornton takes some liberties on him, cross-checks him, knocks his helmet off in the corner away from the officials. In the past, I think Crosby would have turned, he would have whacked Thornton and he would have gotten a penalty. Instead, he skated to his helmet, picks it up and went right to the bench. It’s a little thing and it’s easy to by-pass it and say, ‘Well, that’s what he should do.’ But that’s not what he always did. I think that’s the real maturity in his game. He’s been their best player throughout this whole playoff run.”
The Penguins can close out the Sharks in Pittsburgh in Game 5 on Thursday. The puck drops at 8 p.m. ET.