Did you hear that Sidney Crosby is back?
Let’s review some excerpts of the AP account of his return against Tampa Bay.
“Sidney Crosby sizzled in his first game since mid January”
“The Pittsburgh star made a dazzling return in his first game in 6 ½ weeks”
“…it was Crosby’s night.”
“Crosby was as fast, fluid, and creative as ever.”
Wow. Sounds amazing. Too bad I didn’t see the game. It must have been an incredible, point-racking-up, dominating performance! I’d better look at the box score to see how many goals and assists he accumulated as he climbs the points standings. What a return! He really is The Next One! Wait, what’s that in the game summary?
This, obviously, is the most heralded secondary assist of all time. There were nine other secondary assists on nine other game-winning goals Tuesday night, but they all obviously are incredibly insignificant. More insignificant: the goal-scorers themselves, who are practically invisible in their non-Sidney-ness. Such scores and assists certainly lacked the grandeur of:
“Crosby cut through the right circle before sending a backhand pass that deflected off a Lightning player and teammate Pascal Dupuis to Talbot in front of the net.”
Hmmm, a blind pass and a couple of lucky deflections to a wide-open teammate. Sounds like dozens of goals scored in the NHL every season. Clearly none as important as Crosby's, though.
A detailed read reveals more of Sid’s heroics:
“He took Talbot’s excellent cross-ice pass near the edge of the left circle and barely missed an open net after being on the ice for perhaps 20 seconds.” A missed open net! The mind is baffled by the magnificence.
“Crosby missed scoring chance after scoring chance before finally setting up Maxime Talbot for the game’s first goal.” Wow! He failed and failed before stumbling into a couple of deflections for his game(hockey?)-saving “setting up” of Talbot.
“He came off the bench and immediately got loose on a breakaway, kicking the puck to his skate while beating defensemen Paul Ranger and Alexandre Picard. But Smith closed his pads to make the save.” Stopped on a breakaway! Good lord! That never happens! All hail Sid!
Anyone else think that perhaps this “Crosby Triumphantly Returns” piece was written immediately after he was injured a month and a half ago? That maybe Alan Robinson, AP Sports Writer, was going with the angle that, no matter what actually happened, “Sid the Kid” was going to “sizzle” in his return (and what’s with Pittsburgh and lame nicknames? Sid the Kid. Big Ben. Pretty creative)? Write up a few generic superlatives, craft a story around them. That seems to have been the plan. I guess we're just lucky he wasn't a star of the game. That would have fanned the flames of fawning passion amongst NHL writers to dangerous levels.
This is what the Capitals face in addition to the Penguins on Sunday (after dispatching Boston again, of course): salivating Sidney apologists just waiting for the chance to write about him “reclaiming” the Best Player in the NHL mantle from Ovechkin (if they ever gave it to Alex in the first place, having knee-jerkingly, perhaps lazily, merely looked one line down on Pittsburgh’s scoring list for the next best player). All it takes is another dazzling assist or two. Then come the stories with leads such as “With all due respect to Alex Ovechkin…” and “Alex Ovechkin must have enjoyed his moment in the sun with Sidney Crosby out…” Actually those aren’t plausible lines, since they mention Ovechkin ahead of Crosby. That’s just sinful.
Want more? Eric McErlain writes about who the best player in the NHL could be. As he says about early this season, “Nobody dared question the supremacy” of Sid.
Crosby is said to have “gutted it out” in the playoffs last season with a broken foot, providing a convenient excuse for his two pointless games to close out a first round loss. Ovechkin, on the other hand, was described as having “flamed out” for going seven games without a goal. The fact that he kept scoring points to stay in the thick of the scoring race is omitted. Also, there is no mention of his debilitating flu during that time.
Then there is the obligatory mention of Malkin and his sans-Sidney rise. At last, in the final, truly damning paragraph, questions as to the potential continued success of Ovechkin and Malkin are raised. Who’s missing? Right, the golden boy. No question about his supremacy or continued success. McErlain does not dare raise this heresy. Sid does no wrong, because it’s been ordained that way and we must follow.
None of this should overshadow the tremendousness of the Caps’ accomplishment last night, of course. Putting a dent in Buffalo’s playoff plans in Buffalo is always a sweet thing (though clearly it will never be as nice as Game 6, 1998. THAT was a Brian Bellows/Joe Juneau-applied dent). Having the somehow-still-reviled-in-Buffalo Alex Ovechkin have a heavy hand in it is even sweeter. And seriously, why still boo him. The turning-into-a-check-from-behind Danny Briere is gone. He bolted from your town and your team. Boo him. That is, when he returns from his shoulder injury. It’s his spearing shoulder, so he can’t play without it.
The huge, huge win keeps the Hurricanes solidly within reach, with the Caps soon to reap the Atlanta-playing benefit the ‘Canes enjoyed last night. Twice. Those four points, plus the two from the game in hand, plus the two from beating Carolina on April 1 = division title. In short, nothing has changed. The inevitable #3 seed remains inevitable.
This complaint-filled rant breaks no new ground, I know. Who hasn’t bellyached about “everybody loves Sidney” outside of Pittsburgh and pseudo-Pittsburgian enclaves in West Virginia? But it’s important to always be mindful of this insidious undercurrent of Sid-worship, and how it threatens to stain everything and everyone in the NHL. It’s decidedly un-dazzling.