Flyers prevented Crosby from becoming a factor

Flyers winger Jaromir Jagr, an ex-Penguin, pats Sidney Crosby as they pass in the handshake line after the game. Crosby didn't register a point in the final two games.
Flyers winger Jaromir Jagr, an ex-Penguin, pats Sidney Crosby as they pass in the handshake line after the game. Crosby didn't register a point in the final two games. (YONG KIM / Staff Photographer)
Posted: April 23, 2012

Sidney Crosby was making no excuses. On a day that his Pittsburgh Penguins team needed him to recapture his Stanley Cup-winning past, Crosby's lack of production drew notice.

The Flyers closed out their first-round series with the Penguins with Sunday's 5-1 win at the Wells Fargo Center, winning this sometimes crazy matchup four games to two.

On the surface, Crosby's statistics looked solid - three goals and five assists for eight points in the six games.

Yet Crosby didn't register a point in the final two games. On Sunday, his plus-minus rating was a minus-3, and his faceoff percentage was 45 percent.

With all the time Crosby missed because of a concussion suffered in January 2011, it was understandable to wonder whether he was affected after colliding with teammate Evgeni Malkin late in the first period of Game 5.

Crosby appeared shaken at the time and didn't play close to his high standards on Sunday. But he said after Game 6 that nothing was wrong.

"I had no problems," Crosby said.

If there were no physical problems, he certainly had plenty of woes trying to generate offense. Claude Giroux's big hit on Crosby six seconds into the game and Giroux's goal 32 seconds into the contest set the tone for the Flyers.

"It wasn't planned to hit Crosby," Giroux said. "It's just sometimes when you have a chance to hit another player you just have to go out there and do it."

Yet it was part of a plan to contain the superstar center.

"We wanted to stay close and play physical, and with every good player you have to take time and space away, and we did that, and we always played hard against him," Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen said of Crosby.

Giroux sent Crosby and the Penguins a clear message to open the game.

"He played well, and he wanted to show in that first shift that he was ready to go," Crosby said. "You get hit sometimes, and it alters the game, and they got a great start, which they wanted, and he got everybody into it."

Because of his concussion, Crosby didn't play last season after Jan. 5. He came back early this season but then experienced more concussion problems, along with a neck injury, and appeared in just 22 regular-season games. However, he had given the Penguins a major boost by returning to the lineup in mid-March.

"I think these six games were probably Crosby's six best games out of the last 14," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.

Even Sunday?

Bylsma danced around that issue.

"Whether it was just one player, I think the Flyers played their best defensive game of the series today in addition to getting out to the first goal and the power-play goal," he said. "They were the best at the other side of the puck today."

Pittsburgh was a trendy pick to win the Stanley Cup, and the late-season return of Crosby was the big reason. And Crosby, who totaled 31 points in 24 playoffs games while leading the Penguins to the 2009 Stanley Cup, certainly bought into that line of thinking.

"I think everyone believed we had a team capable of doing it, but, that being said, there is a lot of hockey to be played to do that," Crosby said. "I don't think we were caught looking too far ahead or caught up in the expectations."

They simply didn't get the job done.


Contact Marc Narducci

at 856-779-3225, mnarducci@phillynews.com,

or on Twitter @sjnard.

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