Kovacevic: The smartest man in hockey
He's the pitcher with the 99 mph heat who still can fan the Mendoza Line hitter with a filthy curve.
He's the quarterback capable of a full-stride Hail Mary who still can look off the safety and audible a screen.
He's Sidney Crosby.
And for all his marvelous athleticism, the hyperdrive skating, the heavy shot, the velvet touch, the one facet of his all-around extraordinary game that goes largely unappreciated, I think, is that he's not only the best player in hockey but also among its brightest.
Maybe the brightest, given the velocity at which those brain cells are forced to keep pace.
"He's right there," Jarome Iginla was saying Friday night after the Penguins fended off the Senators, 4-3, in Game 2 of this Stanley Cup playoff series. "It's almost like there's nothing he does that surprises you. I mean, there's all the skill, but there's also the compete level, the speed he's doing everything with ... yeah, he's that good, that smart."
Care to debate?
Better question: Which of Crosby's three goals do you think resulted more from his physical gifts than his guile?
My count is exactly zero, but hey, let's have a little fun breaking it down, anyway ...
First period, three minutes in, Crosby wheeled up the left side of the neutral zone. Had options to his right. Sized up what was ahead. Chose the latter.
Of course he chose the latter.
It's only Erik Karlsson, the Norris Trophy winner, right?
Well, not so fast. For one, Karlsson didn't claim that Norris for anything he'd ever achieved inside his own blue line. For another, as most in these parts will recall, Karlsson's Achilles tendon was severed in February, and he conceded this week he's "not 100 percent."
Don't think for a second Crosby wasn't processing that thought with each churn of his skates. The ice is his chess board.
"No, I didn't know it was him," the captain replied when I asked.
That's up to you, but he continued: "I think he was getting ready to gap up, and I was able to catch a stride there. He's a great skater, so being able to catch a step and get around him ... it worked out pretty well."
Actually, it was a puckish Picasso. Karlsson backed off as if Crosby were approaching with an elephant gun, the forward danced inside the defenseman, then flicked the puck through Craig Anderson's five-hole.
Karlsson was asked about the play and shot back, "Were you blind?"
End of interview session.
He knew who got torched.
Next came my favorite.
Sixteen minutes in, Crosby again whisked up the left side, this time breaking free by simply gaining a step on a three-on-two. To his right was Chris Kunitz, farther over Pascal Dupuis a bit late.
Anderson clearly had seen this clip before. You know, the one where Crosby looks the goaltender dead in the eye, tees up ... and feeds Dupuis for the alley-oop.
So Anderson wouldn't bite. And still got beat.
Of course he did.
Crosby rifled the puck to that short side the keeper unwisely abandoned.
"I knew Duper was coming, and I was kind of running out of room down there," Crosby recalled. "But I wasn't sure if Anderson would come off the post or not. Just kind of threw it to the net."
Sure he did.
Believe him yet?
A minute into the second period, Penguins on the power play, Crosby was left alone atop the left circle.
"Shooooooooot!" the crowd implored.
Nope. Not yet. Crosby had Iginla at the goal line and cast him a glance. Chris Phillips, the Senators' most experienced defenseman, abandoned the slot to go that way.
Of course he did.
That's what Crosby anticipated and, the moment Phillips was screening Anderson, Crosby shot and found the far side.
On this one, he acknowledged a least a little intent.
"Yeah, I did wait for Phillips to come across there. Just wanted to have some traffic."
If looks could kill, with the glare Anderson gave Phillips right before Paul MacLean yanked him, Phillips would no longer be with us.
Don't sweat what followed. Big leads can bring bigger complacency, and the Penguins bent but didn't break down the stretch. Bottom line is they chased Anderson, generated 42 total shots and could have had a bunch more.
Also, they showed the Senators something - someone, rather - they aren't close to having on their side.
One last one ...
Ottawa was pressing hard with five minutes to go, and squirtbug Cory Conacher was chasing Crosby all over the surface. Whacking him, too.
Crosby fought through, claimed the puck, bolted up ice and, when Conacher's stick flew up and caught him on the Iron Jaw helmet - and it really did clip him - Crosby made plenty sure that didn't escape the eye of the men in stripes.
Power play, Pittsburgh.
Game, set, match and halfway to a series victory.
Here's betting he wouldn't confess to being smart there, either.
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.
- New Penguin Kessel’s shot is what makes him special
- Ex-teammates say Kessel unfairly criticized
- Russian winger Plotnikov could join Penguins in August
- Penguins’ Kessel ‘thrilled’ with chance to play with Crosby, Malkin
- Hurricanes owner rips Rutherford, Penguins
- Penguins notebook: Rutherford proves savvy in deal
- Penguins get their man in making trade with Toronto for Kessel
- Penguins sign defensive prospect
- Examining the draft trends of the last 3 Penguins GMs
- Starkey: Kessel worth Penguins’ inquiry
- Starkey: Rutherford hits jackpot with Kessel