Sidney Crosby returned to the playoffs in 2008, making his second straight appearance with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Here is a game-by-game report on how he fared before the Pens lost to the Red Wings in six games in the Cup finals:
Stanley Cup finals -- vs. Detroit Red Wings
• G: 0; A: 1; PTS: 1; +/-: 0; PIM: 0; SOG: 2; TOI: 21:21.
• Summary: Crosby took one of the biggest hits of the playoffs courtesy of Detroit's Brad Stuart. Stuart slammed Crosby into the boards just after the Penguins' captain regained his skates following a fall. The hit left Crosby winded and seemed to affect his play for at least a period of time. In the third period, however, Crosby was involved in the team's final effort to tie the score as time ran down. He finished with an assist, his sixth point of the series, and tied Conn Smythe Trophy winner Henrik Zetterberg for the playoff scoring lead with 27 points.
• G: 0; A: 2; PTS: 2; +/-: 1; PIM: 2; SOG: 2; TOI: 34:37.
• Summary: This might have been Crosby's least impressive game of the finals, even though he did keep pace with Henrik Zetterberg for the playoff scoring lead with an assist on the opening goal. Facing off against Zetterberg's line for most of the evening, Crosby was guilty of a slew of ill-advised passes, a couple of which resulted in odd-man rushes for the Red Wings. Playing in his longest playoff game, Crosby logged 34:37 and was plus-1 on the night.
Trend: Crosby will look forward to better on-ice pairings as the series shifts to Pittsburgh.
• G: 0; A: 1; PTS: 1; +/-: 0; PIM: 0; SOG: 2; TOI: 22:39.
• Summary: Crosby made a nice play just inside the blue line, circling and avoiding a pair of Detroit defenders, to help set up linemate Marian Hossa for the first and only Pittsburgh goal of Game 4. He also drew a penalty by Andreas Lilja to set up the 5-on-3 in the third period that could have turned the tide in the game. He was denied, however, at the side of the net by Henrik Zetterberg during that man advantage. Crosby seemed to be a bit testy in his postgame remarks when it was suggested the Penguins were playing catch-up through most of this series. Said Crosby: "We have to win one. We have to win one to get back. So that's the way we're thinking and they scored two tonight; we scored one. So, I don't think they're running away with it. I don't think we're playing catch-up, either. So we'll battle them in Detroit and see what happens."
Trend: Crosby and the Pens now face the task of rebounding from a 3-1 series deficit.
• G: 2; A: 0; PTS: 2; +/-: 1; PIM: 0; SOG: 3; TOI: 19:41.
• Summary: Pittsburgh forward Ryan Malone described Sidney Crosby's pregame mood as being ultra-focused and very quiet. Malone said he'd never seen Crosby so into the moment. The attention to the task at hand was reflected in Crosby's play in Game 3. He was the best player on the ice, feverishly chasing down loose pucks and setting up teammates. He scored both his goals after passes to Marian Hossa weren't converted. If a team in dire straits takes its cues from its best players and expects them to lead, no one will be disappointed with Crosby's performance Wednesday night.
Said Crosby: "I think it was desperation. I wanted to make sure personally I had a good game. You want to be quiet, but you have to have a sense of confidence in the room, too. I think we all believed that if we put our best game out there, we gave ourselves a good chance. But personally, you just want to make sure you're leading by example and doing your job out there, and that's all I was basically trying to do. I mean, it
's not hard to get up for a game this big, especially in the Stanley Cup final."
Trend: Crosby gets the Pens on the board, in Game 3 and the series.
• G: 0; A: 0; PTS: 0; +/-: 0; PIM: 0; SOG: 6; TOI: 21:01.
• Summary: Well, what can you say when you're halfway to losing in your first Stanley Cup finals appearance and your entire team has failed to score? Crosby once again was dogged on the puck, but he is getting almost no time and little space in which to work his magic. And when he has been able to find his teammates -- such as Ryan Malone in the first period and Pascal Dupuis in the second -- they have been unable to convert.
Trend: The Pens need to get on the board, and Crosby needs to lead the way.
• G: 0; A: 0; PTS: 0; +/-: -1; PIM: 2; SOG: 3; TOI: 18:10.
• Summary: If there is one thing you never have to worry about with Crosby, it's focus. And though the outcome of Crosby's first Stanley Cup finals game was less than stellar, he once again set the bar high for his teammates with his work ethic and diligence in chasing down opponents. Crosby's line spent most of the night facing Detroit's top line of Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Holmstrom, and the two top lines battled each other to a standoff. Said Crosby: "I felt really good. You have to really execute. That's the main thing. Tight games like this, had a few chances and they didn't go in. But that's the difference between executing and not executing; it's the difference in a hockey game."
Trend: The key is to see how Sid responds in Game 2.
Eastern Conference finals -- vs. Philadelphia Flyers
• G: 0; A: 2; PTS: 2; +/-: 2; PIM: 0; SOG: 2; TOI: 15:47.
• Summary: After an off night in Game 4 in Philadelphia, Sidney Crosby was back with a vengeance Sunday (to steal a line from the Flyers' playoff slogan), once again turning in a sublime performance. Crosby had two primary assists on two of the first three Penguins goals and was a force at both ends of the ice. Perhaps the best illustration of his impact was on the Penguins' third goal. Crosby drew an assist on Marian Hossa's blast, but it was Crosby who raced into the Penguins' zone and stole the puck from archrival Mike Richards behind the net that set the play in motion.
Trend: Crosby and the Pens are off to their first Cup finals since 1992.
• G: 0; A: 0; PTS: 0; +/-: -1; PIM: 4; SOG: 4; TOI: 19:49.
• Summary: For the first time in this series, Crosby was not the best player on the ice. It was a performance reminiscent of a brief stretch in the East semis versus the N.Y. Rangers when Crosby seemed just a bit off. On Thursday, he had a number of passes picked off and couldn't seem to get into the flow. At one point in the third, he had a lengthy jaw with former Canadian national junior teammate Mike Richards. The two went to the bench and later got into a scrum as the crowd chanted derisively at Crosby. "We have to play better than we did tonight and give ourselves a better chance. But I don't think you go into every series expecting to win four in a row," Crosby said.
Trend: Crosby loses his cool as the series shifts back to Pittsburgh.
• G: 0; A: 2; PTS: 2; +/-: 2; PIM: 0; SOG: 1; TOI: 20:48.
• Summary: If there has been one element of Crosby's game that has impressed as the playoffs have gone along, it's his ability to contribute defensively as well as offensively. He assisted on the first two Penguins goals and leads the playoffs with 19 points in 12 games. But his ability to disrupt Flyers rushes, to steal pucks in the neutral zone, has been terrific.
"In a big game like that, you're looking for your great leader to show the way, to dictate the way to the rest of the team," coach Michel Therrien said. "There is no doubt Sid tonight, I thought, was fantastic, and he stuck to the plan, too, as well. You can't ask more for a leader like Crosby's doing right now for this hockey team."
Trend: Crosby and the Penguins continue their march through the playoffs.
• G: 1; A: 1; PTS: 2; +/-: 0; PIM: 0; SOG: 4; TOI: 22:36.
• Summary: This was perhaps Crosby's finest game of the playoffs. Not only did Crosby score his fourth goal of the postseason and first since the fourth game of the first round against Ottawa, he also drew an assist on Jordan Staal's empty-net goal. Beyond that, this was vintage Crosby all night. After battling the flu in New York during the second round, Crosby showed more jump than in any game this spring. He beat opponents to the puck and was almost impossible to separate from the puck once he got it.
"I think I just tried to move my feet more. You know, definitely when you are in the playoffs, you always get tons of chances, and you have to work for them, and sometimes you get them, sometimes you don't. That's part of playoff hockey. But you have to give yourself the best opportunity to get those opportunities. And for me, I think moving my feet, I give myself a better chance to create things. And I think I have been focusing on that for the most part," Crosby said.
Trend: Crosby and the Penguins continue their march through the playoffs.
• G: 1; A: 0; PTS: 1; +/-: 1; PIM: 0; SOG: 3; TOI: 20:03.
• Summary: It seems as if this is a continuous tape loop rolling over and over when we discuss Crosby's contributions or, more specifically, his uncanny ability to contribute at key moments. But on another night when it was Evgeni Malkin who shone with his two highlight reel goals (and an assist) all Crosby did was score a goal that set the stage for Malkin's heroics. Less than two minutes after the Flyers had taken a 2-1 lead in a seesaw first period, Crosby somehow managed to redirect a hard Marian Hossa pass from the corner past Martin Biron to make the score 2-2.
Trend: Another team gets a look at the Penguins' juggernaut.
Second Round -- vs. New York Rangers
• G: 0; A: 2; PTS: 2; +/-: 1; PIM: 0; SOG: 3; TOI: 23:14.
• Summary: After enduring his worst game of the playoffs in Game 4, Crosby got off to a slow start again Sunday in Game 5. Passes didn't click; shots were blocked. Yet there he was, working the puck around on the power play, finding Ryan Malone, who dished off a nice pass to Marian Hossa to set up the Pens' first goal of the game. Then, after a couple of good looks near the end of regulation, it was Crosby again working the puck up the ice with Pascal Dupuis shortly before Hossa blasted home the overtime winner. Crosby did not score in this series and was held off the score sheet twice, but he did collect six assists and was there when it mattered most.
Trend: Crosby and the Penguins next face intrastate rival Philadelphia in the East finals.
• G: 0; A: 0; PTS: 0; +/-: -1; PIM: 2; SOG: 2; TOI: 21:04.
• Summary: Not surprisingly, with the Penguins losing their first game of the playoffs, this wasn't a banner night for Sidney Crosby. Not only was he held off the score sheet, Crosby also committed a handful of turnovers that led to scoring chances for the Rangers. He did step into Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi late in the third period after Girardi knocked down Marian Hossa. The confrontation earned Crosby a minor penalty, but it's the kind of stick-up-for-your-teammates play that is usually left to players with less pedigree (not to mention harder hands) than Crosby. But as team captain, he understands the message sent by his actions.
Trend: Sid and the Penguins can't allow the Rangers to get back into this series.
• G: 0; A: 2; PTS: 2; +/-: 0; PIM: 0; SOG: 1; TOI: 19:21.
• Summary: Crosby's two assists were his ninth and 10th helpers of the postseason. His second assist was on the Penguins' winning goal late in the second period. Crosby's 19:21 of ice time follows a trend in which he has played about the same as the rest of the Penguins' top wingers. In fact, Rangers coach Tom Renney expressed surprise before the game that Crosby doesn't play more minutes. The balance in the ice time speaks to the balance in the Penguins' lineup. Crosby, of course, plays more power-play time, but he does not play as much on the penalty kill as others, and the Penguins were shorthanded 8:46 in Game 3.
Trend: Sid's impact has been felt beyond the goals and the Pens are on the verge of a conference finals berth.
• G: 0; A: 0; PTS: 0; +/-: 0; PIM: 0; SOG: 3; TOI: 17:05.
• Summary: Crosby was held off the score sheet for the first time in five games and just the second time this playoff year. For the first half of the game he wasn't particularly effective, although he did force Fedor Tyutin to take a penalty when Tyutin was forced to hold Crosby deep in Rangers territory. He did get slashed in the hand by Sean Avery on a play that was not called. But as the game progressed Crosby's play improved. He had a terrific third period and dominated play during a power play with Blair Betts off for slashing, although the Penguins did not score. "We had some great chances. We could have had more than one goal. The chances were there. It was a tight game and that's to be expected in the playoffs, especially against that team. For sure this was a well-earned win," Crosby said after the game.
Trend: Without Crosby's points, the Pens are still in control of the series.
• G: 0; A: 2; PTS: 2; +/-: 0; PIM: 0; SOG: 2; TOI: 18:40.
• Summary: You can look at the score sheet and point to the two assists on critical Pittsburgh goals and figure Crosby had a pretty decent night. But for much of the first half of the game, when the Penguins were looking for anything approaching traction, Crosby was the best player on the ice. He made defensive plays, threw body checks and created scoring chances. In short, he led the way for a team that early on had lost its way. "I don't think you're ever happy on the bench when you're down three-zip, but there's a difference between not being happy and quitting," Crosby said.
Trend: Crosby and the Pens came back from a 3-0 hole to take Game 1.
First Round -- vs. Ottawa Senators
• G: 1; A: 1; PTS: 2; +/-: 1; PIM: 0; SOG: 3; TOI: 19:22.
Once again, Crosby proved the old adage that if your best players are at their best, then success will follow. Crosby was instrumental on the Pens' first goal, sliding a pass to Evgeni Malkin at the side of the Ottawa goal while the Penguins were on the power play. It was a skilled play made by one of the most skilled players in the game. Later, it was Crosby on the ice in the dying seconds of a one-goal game, coming up with a loose puck and sliding it into the empty Ottawa net for the insurance marker. Crosby also won more than half the faceoffs in which he was involved (13-for-25).
Trend: Why not? Crosby and Co. are off to the second round.
• G: 1; A: 1; PTS: 2; +/-: 1; PIM: 0; SOG: 3; TOI: 20:49.
• Summary: After being shut out in the first game of the series, Crosby now has one goal and five assists in the last two games. On Monday, he seized the moment. Crosby managed to get a bouncing puck past Antoine Vermette and blazed down the left side, beating Martin Gerber with a quick snap shot to the short side. The goal broke open a 1-1 tie and was the eventual winner just 12 seconds into the third period. He added an assist on the fourth goal as well.
Trend: It seems like only a matter of time before Crosby and the Penguins wrap up this series.
• G: 0; A: 4; PTS: 4; +/-: 0; PIM: 0; SOG: 6; TOI: 19:52.
• Summary: After being held off the score sheet in Game 1, Crosby more than made up for the rare point goose egg with a four-assist performance in the Penguins' 5-3 win Friday. It wasn't necessarily the points totals that were impressive (not that there is anything unimpressive about a four-point night in the playoffs), but the timing of the points. The Pens had outplayed the Sens by a wide margin, but the game was still scoreless late in the first period, when Crosby helped set up Sergei Gonchar to get Pittsburgh on the board. Then, with the game tied at 3 late in regulation, it was Crosby protecting the puck off the faceoff in the Ottawa zone that allowed Ryan Malone to score his wraparound game-winner. Crosby almost scored the winner himself with a quick-release backhand from a bad angle.
Trend: Crosby's behind-the-scenes play is factor in Game 2.
• G: 0; A: 0; PTS: 0; +/-: 0; PIM: 2; SOG: 4; TOI: 17:56.
• Summary: Crosby played 17:56 and did not register a point in the Pens' 4-0 win. He threw a couple of nice bodychecks and got into a dustup with Wade Redden and Martin Gerber late in the game to draw a roughing minor. He had four shots on goal and, while overshadowed by the play of Gary Roberts and Evgeni Malkin, was a solid part of the Penguins' attack.
Trend: Crosby & Co. looked at ease, and they are only going to get better.