The last time we saw Sidney Crosby, he didn’t look so good. He had gotten slashed then cross-checked, and was diagnosed with a concussion. That was four days ago. Here’s what Crosby looks like now:
Crosby missed Game 4—obviously—but refused to rule himself out for Saturday’s night’s Game 5 in Washington, where the Penguins have the opportunity to close out the second-round series.
“Having gone through this, I like to think I’m pretty aware of my body at this point,” Crosby said. “I understand the importance of making sure you’re good before you come back. I have a lot of belief in our staff here that they’re going to do everything in their power to make sure I’m good when I come back. I trust them. I trust the process that you have to go through. Whenever it’s time, I’ll be ready.”
This all feels very iffy, considering Crosby missed the majorities of two separate seasons after taking headshots in back-to-back games, and then another in his eighth game back. We don’t know a ton about brain trauma, but we know it comes easier with repetition and a lack of recovery time. I’m not super eager to see Sidney Crosby skating around in a playoff game in the same calendar week that he got laid out and helped off.
And yet Crosby may be more holistically flourishing that Alex Ovechkin these days. Ovechkin, who’s been quiet this series (though he’s not the only one on the Caps) and has owned up to it, practiced with the third line today.
Washington coach Barry Trotz didn’t outright call it a demotion, but come on.
“We are just looking at different things,” Trotz said. “We have been using 11 forwards the last couple of games. We are just trying to find a way to do something different.”
“It was an opportunity for us to put him in there and get some reps with Lars (Eller) and Tom (Wilson)” on the third line Friday. It is an opportunity for us to get a little more production out of the third group. They have not been hitting the back of the net a lot.”
Meanwhile, Andre Burakovsky—the Caps’ best forward in the last few games—skated on the top line alongside T.J. Oshie and center Nicklas Backstrom.
This is a panic move. It’s the kind of thing that when the season ends even after making the panic move, everyone looks back on the huge lineup change—again, moving Alexander Ovechkin to the third line—and says, “damn, they really panicked.” They’re one loss away from remembering this season as the one with the most talented Caps team in history, and that still shit the bed in the playoffs and ended by freaking out and pinning blame on Ovechkin.
Oh look, here’s the annual Ovechkin trade talk. I honestly feel physical regret for believing this year was going to be different.
Ovechkin and Backstrom, the longtime stars of the Capitals, are approaching the end of their primes. Oshie, Justin Williams, and Kevin Shattenkirk are UFAs this summer; Burakovsky and Evgeny Kuznetsov are going to need to paid; there are big decisions to be made, and a window that’s not going to stay open for that much longer.
Ovechkin and Crosby have been bound together their entire careers, unfairly but inevitably. There’s something fitting about them arriving at the same crossroads here and taking opposite paths, and it’s even more appropriate because the directions they’re heading are really thanks to broad team efforts on both sides.