Monday, October 19, 2015

Weekend wrap: Where's Sid?

A look back at the biggest games and emerging story lines of the NHL weekend.

Theme of the Week: Where’s Sid?

The Penguins have been one of the season’s biggest early disappointments, following up an aggressive offseason with an uninspiring 0-3-0 start. They’ve followed that with a pair of wins, so we can at least suspend their teamwide emergency status. But while the wins are coming, the goals aren’t — as a team, they’ve managed just seven on the year. And nobody’s been a more glaring omission from the scoresheet than Sidney Crosby.

Five games into the season, Crosby has yet to record a point. That matches the longest pointless streak of his career, and it comes despite skating with the Penguins’ shiny new toy, winger Phil Kessel. And it’s not purely a case of poor luck — Crosby was held without a shot in each of the season’s first two games, and had only one against the Maple Leafs on Saturday. And his slump is affecting his teammates; the Penguins’ power-play unit is 0-for-17, making them one of only two teams in the league without a man advantage goal on the season.

It goes without saying that Crosby will snap out of his funk, and likely sooner than later. He went into the season as the odds-on choice to win the Art Ross as the league’s top scorer, and would probably still be the favorite today. Nobody in Pittsburgh is panicking, and with nobody running away with the Metro — it’s the only division without a four-win team — the Penguins and their fans can afford to have some patience.

For his part, Crosby is talking about the importance of trusting the process over results, which is both the right approach and something you rarely hear from hockey players. And there is some element of bad luck in play here; Crosby has historically been one of the league’s best at driving on-ice shooting percentage, and while he has posted career lows in that category in each of the last two years, even those numbers are miles ahead of his current 2.6 percent. That’s the kind of bad luck you can see without a spreadsheet; Kessel missed an open net on Saturday on a nice setup by Crosby, costing him an assist.

So the luck will turn around, the puck will start going in, and Crosby will be back among the league leaders soon. And when that happens, the Penguins might finally start to look like the team we all thought we’d see back in the offseason.

Cup Watch: The League’s Five Best

The five teams that seem most likely to earn the league’s top prize: the Stanley Cup.

5. Nashville Predators (4-1-0, +4 goals differential) They’ve looked good, although it’s mostly come against bad teams. The schedule gets tough starting now, with the Lightning, Ducks, Penguins, and Sharks up next.

4. Dallas Stars (4-1-0, +6) Five games in, they’ve been pretty much exactly what we were expecting. No team is averaging more than their 3.8 goals per game, and the goaltending has been, well, good enough.

>> Read the full post on Grantland

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