Kovacevic: This one's hard to digest
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Sidney Crosby can't eat salad.
Mourn all you want the Penguins' ugly, unsavory 4-3 loss to the Islanders in Game 2 Friday night at Consol Energy Center. There's certainly plenty there to want to toss back up, from lazy breakouts to loose defense to Marc-Andre Fleury's uh-oh-are-we-back-in-Philly flop on the winning goal.
Have at it. It's all fair game.
Whatever you say, it won't be worse than Kris Letang's richly representative assessment of the locker room sentiment: “We really did a bad job of managing the puck, and the way they came after us ... it was just bad.”
Me, I can't get over the salad thing.
See, it's like this: The captain of the franchise and the foundation upon which a fourth Stanley Cup will rest for years to come, he came back to participate in a playoff game about a month after having his mouth mangled, well beyond the four lost teeth and shattered jaw.
Crosby's oral surgeon cleared him to play Thursday, and he was out there Friday. Without benefit of a full-contact practice. With a funny-looking jaw shield that didn't look like much protection at all. And taking on an opponent that just had its star beaten to a pulp and would be licking their lips for a chance to return the favor.
That somehow failed to inspire this group on this night.
In the days after Crosby's injury, he had to eat through a straw. He hated it, as would anyone sucking down a steady stream of protein shakes and liquid veggies, but he did what was needed to maintain some semblance of his usual weight.
On April 10, he graduated to mashed potatoes. He called that meal “like, the best thing ever.”
Now, he's able to pick at some solids but still can't eat salad of all things because, per his description, it just takes too many bites. He also can't peck away at wings, carve up a steak, chomp into an apple. There's still too much swelling.
I can't tell you exactly how much weight Crosby's lost in the past month — that's info NHL teams guard like stolen gold this time of year — but I can tell you he looks thinner. And I can tell you from watching him huff through a couple recent skates and through the second and third periods Friday night, he isn't in his optimal shape.
Still, the Kid came out flying, scored twice in the opening eight minutes, set the building ablaze, even went diving headfirst for a 50/50 puck late.
Asked how he felt afterward, Crosby's response was telling: “Eh, all right. Definitely a lot of rust. But there isn't a lot of time, so I've got to find a way.”
That somehow failed to inspire this group on this night.
The Penguins moaned a lot afterward about “puck management,” including Dan Bylsma: “We turned the puck over a lot. When they get turnovers, they come back at you real quick.”
I'll spare you the euphemism: Poor “puck management” means your team lacks focus and discipline. It's not talent. It's not skill. It's flat-out not being ready.
How does that happen?
To this team?
After all that's gone wrong the past three springs, not least of which was losing their previous three Game 2s and lasering in on that very topic the past couple days?
“We know we didn't play the way we needed to,” Crosby tried to explain, still breathing hard minutes afterward. “Obviously, they got a few bounces, but they worked for them. And I … I don't think we feel like we did enough to deserve that one.”
Maybe the Penguins could start by learning from Crosby: Just because the great ones make performances like his comeback Friday look easy, that doesn't mean it is. So many of his most famous traits have come through simple sweat.
This team, special as it appears on paper — and as it did in Game 1 — is no different: The skill is there, and the work ethic's there to match.
But lapses of this level stem from leadership, and that makes a mess like this all the more maddening. Because that's there, too: In addition to Crosby and other longtime leaders, the roster has two recent NHL captains in Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow, similar to how the teams of the 2000s added Gary Roberts and Bill Guerin for that extra postseason push.
So let's hear it.
Better yet, let's see it.
There's no earthly reason why the Penguins shouldn't win this series. It says right here they will.
But only if Game 2 leaves them with a taste even worse than what Crosby's been taking down.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers veteran linebacker Harrison focused on stretch run
- Steelers notebook: Tomlin ends practice with third-down work
- Emotional send-off awaits Pitt seniors
- Harrison man held in jail on molestation charges
- Friends, family, history lure natives back to Western Pennsylvania
- Security policies limit ‘insider threat’ at airports, TSA says
- Artis leads Pitt to lopsided victory over Cornell
- Pirates sign free agent 1B-OF Goebbert, RHP Webster
- Crosby scores twice, Malkin delivers OT goal as Penguins beat Blues
- Penguins co-owner Lemieux snuffs rumored rift with Crosby
- Warrants issued for women accused of prostitution in New Stanton sting