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Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Crosby Effect, by @Jagrmeister

You know what it felt like. We all woke up Thursday morning thinking yesterday was going to turn out the
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)
same way Wednesday nights game did. A blowout of epic proportions, as expected for the top seeded team in the Eastern Conference.

Friday afternoon eventually turned into a celebration when we all heard of the news that our beloved captain was ready to go after being out a month. With a dominant performance from the Pens topped off nicely with the Crosby cherry on top.We were stoked. But at some point in the first period things just went awry.

Those privy to analyzing hockey as a sport raised the appropriate question of Crosby's return and how it would effect the chemistry of the game. His linemates have been playing with different (less skilled, save 71) players. But was chemistry really going to be an issue? We all remember (and saw it sprinkled about on Facebook and Twitter yesterday) the video of the last time Crosby returned from injury, incidentally against the Islanders. 

Just 8 minutes into last evenings game we nearly saw a repeat of the same thing. After Malkin hoisted a backhander from Iginla just 43 seconds into the game, then Crosby found the back of the net twice thereafter, it appeared the chemistry debate was over. Until...

Well, we know how the game ended, and we're pissed about it. Some fans balked at it, while others remained calm and sought to spread the proper perspective of playoff hockey.  We're not going to win 16 games straight, just doesn't happen that way. 

Now, I prefaced all of that to lead to my point here. While chemistry wasn't the issue, the Crosby Effect was. This "effect" is nothing new by any stretch of the imagination. Bill Simmons wrote extensively on something called the Ewing Theory which sought to establish a point where good teams happened to play as good (if not better) when their star player was out. And while I'm not here to offer full support of it, I am here to tell you that when a star player returns from injury, the role players tend to slack. 

Think about it: In sports, when a good player goes down the rest of the team steps up. Last week I wrote a post on the positive effect of Crosby being out and the rest of the team stepping up. There's merit to that, I don't think you can deny it. But what sometimes happens, as I believe did last night, is when a superstar player like Crosby returns to the lineup, the "rest" of the team tends to shrink back and not take as much initiative. If you want proof just look at the shot totals for the superstars and the rest of the team. Crosby and Malkin tallied 18 of the 33 total shots. 

You can't necessarily fault them entirely. It's human nature to defer responsibility in a given situation. But what happens is role players tend to lean on their stars a little too much upon their return. In my opinion the worst thing that could have happened is for Malkin and Crosby to score off the bat. Why you might ask? Because then the role players would shrink even further back. Hence the Islander comeback. 

I think we're going to see a very different Penguins squad tomorrow. One more determined, and one less reliant on the two headed monster. Do 87 and 71 need to dominate? Yes, that's how we won the Cup in 09. But the role players need to keep on doing what they were doing when these guys weren't (aren't) in the line up. 

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