We saw this coming, right?
Sidney Crosby had been cast behind teammates Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel, both of whom had career years, or at the very least close to it. Momentum continues to build in the ‘Connor McDavid is the Best Player in the World’ camp. Factor in years by the likes of Nathan MacKinnon and Taylor Hall, No. 87 falls even further back in the fold.
We’ve seen this play out before – it’s bad news for the rest of the NHL when it happens. For now, it appears to be bad news for the Philadelphia Flyers, who were waxed (to put it lightly), 7-0, by a Crosby-led Pittsburgh attack in the Wednesday’s playoff opener.
Good luck to anybody that comes within Pittsburgh’s path as the Penguins try to become the first team in 35 years to three-peat as Stanley Cup champions. Because if Wednesday’s shellacking was any indication, Crosby is about to rip off a monster postseason and will his team to another deep playoff run.
Crosby had about as quiet an 89-point season you can have. All the talk was Malkin, Kessel. The year MacKinnon, fellow Cole Harbour native, had. How McDavid was the best player in the league. It’s not rabbit ears, more a simple reminder of who the sheriff is.
Remember when his game had supposedly fallen off in 2015, how he wasn’t the best player in the world? He only went onto have a second-half tear, win a Stanley Cup, win the World Cup of Hockey, lead the league in goals, win another Stanley Cup in an 18-month period. That’s just the latest example. Like most athletes of his ilk, he can do pretty much what he damn well pleases virtually on demand.
Crosby’s final line in 16:13 of ice-time on Wednesday – three goals, a plus-five rating. Linemates Bryan Rust (goal, plus-5) and Jake Guentzel (goal, three assists, plus-4) combined for five points and a plus-nine rating to go along with Crosby’s third career playoff hat trick.
There was his patented bat-the-puck-out-of-the-air goal to start things out, then picked up a nice goal on a puck that pretty much deflected off a Philly stick and landed perfectly on his tape at the edge of the crease.
For good measure, Crosby completed the natural hat trick by redirecting a Brian Dumoulin shot out of the air.
You knew what was going to happen right from the opening faceoff, when Crosby bulldozed counterpart Claude Giroux like a bull in a china shop right off the draw, and got possession going in Pittsburgh’s favor right off the hop. Giroux and Selke Trophy candidate Sean Couturier were on the ice opposite Crosby for 5:01 and 5:07 of five-on-five play, respectively, per naturalstattrick.com, with the Penguins scoring three times within that matchup.
Again, good luck, rest of the NHL.