Just seconds before 10 p.m. on Friday night, Marc-Andre Fleury was faced with a flurry.
He slid and dived, slithered and lunged to do all he could to keep the Penguins from falling into a 1-0 series disadvantage against the New York Rangers in the first game of the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Derick Brassard beat Fleury just over three minutes into overtime to push the Rangers to a 3-2 victory and an all-important win on the road in a playoff series.
But don’t put this on the goalie.
Don’t put this on the defense.
Don’t put this on the CONSOL Energy Center crowd, a bad matchup, coach Dan Bylsma, luck, providence, destiny or anything else.
It’s about time to get really frank and forthright here: It’s time this should be put on Sidney Crosby.
There, I said it. No more excuses.
The guy with the 12-year, $104 million contract — who is making $8.7M this season — can’t be pedestrian when the regular season shifts into the postseason.
He was again on Friday night. And that’s not good enough. It is truly that simple.
Sid was a minus 3 in Game 1 against the Rangers. He generated only three shots in almost 20 minutes of ice time.
He hasn’t scored a goal since Game 4 of the Ottawa series last season, marking 12 consecutive playoff games in which the captain hasn’t found the back of the net.
It isn’t that he isn’t just scoring goals, but Crosby hasn’t been creating the quality chances that he normally does and he certainly hasn’t been back-checking in a manner that customarily supplements his offensive game.
But back to the fundamental point: The guy who accumulated 36 goals in 80 games this season, and was a plus 18, shouldn’t have two fewer goals than Brian Gibbons and one less than Craig Adams in the postseason.
But he does.
The guy who was awarded the big contract because he was saddled with the responsibility of playing big when the situations are the biggest shouldn’t have a plus-minus in seven playoff games of minus 5.
But he does.
Superstars are superstars and get paid superstar sums because their pedigree merits that they should come through when the circumstances are greatest.
For Crosby, at this time of year, it isn’t about setting others up or taking a good shift but coming up empty time after time. It isn’t about blending in being part of the mix.
No, guys of his aristocratic status in this game — or any sport, really — should be standing out and performing above the run-of-the-mill players in the playoffs.
But he isn’t.
There is also a tired narrative floating around — pushed stronger by some than others — that Crosby is playing through injury right now.
So what if he is?
How about I go ahead and grant you that one. OK, he’s hurt.
First, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone in the NHL, as the calendar has now flipped to May, who is playing at 100 percent of his capacity.
More to the point, however, if you elect to take the ice, you are expected to produce. That is to say, if you choose to be out there, you are wide open for criticism if you don’t manufacture the results up to your capabilities.
Consider Sidney Crosby — because he’s out there — fair game.
And consider this direct criticism: If he wants to be designated as the best player in the world, it’s time to start scoring goals when the games are of the most critical consequence.
That time is right now.