Before we start, let’s get this out of the way: we are in no way, shape, or form, saying that the Pittsburgh Penguins are better off without Sidney Crosby.He’s the undisputed best player in the National Hockey League, and as long as he’s around the Penguins will Stanley Cup contenders, if not favourites.
But Crosby has been out since suffering a concussion on January 5 — co-star Evgeni Malkin has missed just as much time — and the Penguins just keep winning.
They’ve gone 12-9-5 while Crosby’s been out, and though that’s below their first half pace when Crosby was healthy, its been more than enough to keep them among the Eastern Conference leaders.
In fact, with the Philadelphia Flyers struggling mightily, Pittsburgh has pulled within two points of first place. Again, they’ve done that without the NHL’s eighth leading scorer, who played in only 41 of his team’s 67 games.
Crosby is invaluable, but the experience and responsibility that other Penguins have gained in his absence could prove to be even more invaluable during the playoffs. Youngsters like Dustin Jeffrey, Kris Letang, Jordan Staal, and Tyler Kennedy have been thrust into huge roles of late, and the growing supporting cast will only make Crosby’s job even easier when he returns. When the young Penguins have struggled, the team’s extremely deep and versatile blue line has bailed them out, but Pittsburgh’s recent success has come as the team has grown together instead of relying on their star to carry them.
That Pittsburgh has been able to weather the storm without Crosby is impressive on its own, but we can only imagine how good Pittsburgh will be when Sid returns. Without Malkin and Crosby, Pittsburgh hasn’t drawn much attention since the Winter Classic. But assuming Crosby is back in time for the playoffs, there won’t be a better bet to win it all than the Penguins.
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