The Pittsburgh Penguins lost Monday night's game to the Washington Capitals in overtime by a final score of 3-2. More importantly, the team lost their captain, Sidney Crosby, to a devastating head injury that will keep him off the ice for at least the team's next game. Crosby received a cross-check in the back of the head from Capitals' defenseman Matt Niskanen during the first period leading to a major penalty and a game misconduct for Niskanen. Niskanen will not receive any discipline from the NHL league offices following the hit, much to the displeasure of many Penguin fans.
Crosby spent several minutes lying on the ice after the hit while being attended by the medical staff. The entire stadium seemed to go quiet while Crosby was helped off to the locker room. He was unable to return to the game and despite a two-goal comeback in the final two minutes to force overtime, his presence was undoubtedly missed on the ice. The team had a difficult time creating offense in Crosby's absence and could have been shut out had it not been for the heroics of Evgeni Malkin. The Penguins have overcome the injury bug throughout the entire season, but this one to their captain may be a tall pill to swallow.
Sidney Crosby has dealt with several concussions over recent years and had even missed the first six games of the 2016-2017 season due to concussion symptoms. Concussions are not like other injuries where a specific timetable can be given, but Penguins' head coach Mike Sullivan seems hopeful to have his superstar back in the lineup sooner rather than later. Craig Custance of ESPN wrote about the injury today following Sullivan's press conference and quoted him in his article.
"He's very upbeat and positive. We're very optimistic and hopeful we'll have him back in a timely fashion."Even with the head coach's optimism, Crosby is still going to miss the next game Wednesday night with a chance for the Capitals to tie this series heading back home. Sidney Crosby is often called the best hockey player in the world and most nights it is hard to argue. Crosby is as dynamic as it gets on both ends of the ice and without him, the Pittsburgh Penguins are an average hockey team. He is one of those elite superstars that is able to make the players around him rise to his caliber of play. Rookie Jake Guentzel plays on Crosby's top line and led the NHL in playoff goals so far with seven. Coincidence? Think again.
Without the likes of Crosby on the ice, the team must look for leadership to come from someone else to continue their quest to Lord Stanley's Cup. Evgeni Malkin has led all players in the postseason with 15 total points and will need to continue his dominance now without the assistance of his captain. Picking up the slack for Crosby will not be easy for Malkin because of all of the attention he will now draw as the team's top center. If the team has any hopes of advancing to the Conference Finals, they must rely on the stick and skates of Malkin to carry this team as much as Crosby did in the first several games of this playoff run.
There has been much speculation on whether or not the hit on Crosby was intentional, but Matt Niskanen immediately put that rumor to rest. Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post quoted Niskanen in her article regarding Crosby's injury.
"Absolutely not. It wasn't intentional. I've seen the replay. In super slow-mo, it looks really bad. I caught him high. He's coming across trying to score. As he's doing that, he's getting lower and lower, and when it's happening that fast, you know, my stick and his head collided. I wasn't extending trying to hit him in the head. It happened quickly."Regardless of the intention or not, the Penguins must regroup quickly against the league's top team without their captain to stand any chance of winning this series and advancing to the next round.
[Featured Image by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images]