DETROIT — Sidney Crosby gets his due credit for many, many things he can do on the ice rink. His vision, his backhand, his passing, his corner work, his skating, his baseball ability. Just a few things he's put on a pedestal for regularly.
While his skating ability is usually praised for his peerless stop and start work behind nets, or for the way he can lean on an edge to the point that his skate boot is nearly touching the ice, his overall balance is an asset that's often overlooked.
Sure, it's discussed when referencing those other things, but it's typically a supplement to his other abilities. This balance is normally on display while using edges to leave opponents behind, but it was tested in a new way during the Penguins' 4-1loss to the Red Wings, Tuesday night at Little Caesars Arena.
Crosby was driving to the Red Wings' net, away from the puck, and he was met with the guiding shoulder of Filip Hronek. Now, Hronek certainly doesn't appear to intentionally lead Crosby into a situation where his face could kiss the crossbar, but that's where he ended up.
Fun fact: As an amateur, I was ejected from a single game. It was for checking a player into the goalpost. Turns out that's a big no-no. But back to the world class guy ...
Crosby's balance is on full display here. Take a look at the first image up top; my favorite from the sequence is what kicks off this View's gallery up there. I was able to do something pretty fun with this though, using the rest of the images in the sequence.
I've done this a few times to show sequences I've really nailed or for a GIF of a play the TV angle doesn't do justice to. But ... this one. This one is one of the best I've been able to put together. Twenty-one photos of Crosby crashing the net, literally, with a 0.1 second delay between them creates this buttery smooth animation of Crosby's net collision and the blizzard it created fading into the wind:
[caption id="attachment_800736" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]
I could fidget with the photo crops for hours and get it to line up perfectly and look almost TV-like, but I'd rather talk to you guys about what's going on up there.
Balance, yes. But take a few minutes and really admire what's happening. These nets aren't easy to knock off, but they certainly don't stop Crosby at full speed. Crosby does that part on his own to help create the snow storm.
He digs his edges in to elevate the spray, reaches out with an arm, grabs the crossbar while coming to a complete stop, stays on his feet -- which are extended into the very back of the net, uses his core and arm strength to bounce out of the net and take off in the other direction.
The only part of his gear that touches the ice is his right glove, and it's almost in a running-a-shuttle-for-the-NFL-Combine kind of way. For fun, look at the right side of the GIF and watch the fan wearing a Penguins jersey's jaw drop as she seems to be the only person visible who noticed the incident.
In all the ways Sidney Crosby has put his balance and core strength on display in this league, this example will remain a favorite in a long line of underappreciated hockey abilities. And it could have ended much, much worse.
WHOSE LINE IS IT ANYWAY?
Jake Guentzel is listed at 5'11", 180 pounds. Dominik Simon at 5'11", 190 pounds. Not so easy to distinguish the two lefties while padded up and skating. You'd have to look at the score sheet to see which one scores goals to tell the difference (see, I can say bad things about Simon, too).
At 16:52 of the second period, Simon got the puck at center ice and drifted backward with it as if he was a basketball player looking to get both feet outside the three point arc for a shot. He backed a few feet into the Penguins' side of the ice and flipped the puck ahead while he, Phil Kessel and Nick Bjugstad went for a change.
The problem? Simon drifted so much he made it impossible for the linesmen to ignore the icing call.
Simon swapped for Guentzel just after the dump in, and with the number of bodies trading places in the Penguins' bench area, someone lost the proper bodies who should be on the ice.
[caption id="attachment_800724" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]
Guentzel remained on the ice, skated into the Penguins' end with his palms out and asked -- audibly, which is unusual for me to hear a lot from my photo hole -- what the call was. I couldn't hear the response, but it had to be icing, and I confirmed it as such on the NHL play-by-play system.
Guentzel nodded in response, was joined by Kessel and Bjugstad as linemates for the draw and was able to stay on the ice in place of Simon.
Tricky, tricky. Here's the full thing from the icing to the puck drop, thanks to Chris Benson's detective work when I asked him about it mid-game:
Thankfully, the Penguins' home feed of the game didn't cut away from the game. The Red Wings did, however, as they thought it was a too many men call which would have sent the game to a media time out.
Because they kept rolling, showing the tired Penguins, we get to see the subtle head shake of Kessel as he circles back to the action from the bench. You can see Guentzel question linesman Greg Devorski in front of my hole between Sections 106/107 and you can see him continue to look to the bench and then back at Devorski. Then again to the bench, and back to the Devorski.
He knew he beat the system this time. Magic.
DETROIT ROCK CITY
Detroit can rock, we know this. Heck, Kid Rock has a place in the arena if you're looking for a spot for Easter brunch and you live near the city. So, yeah, rock is a thing out there whether you're thinking of KISS or of the man with the last name.
I've well-documented to this point my love for '90s music, so I got excited when with 28 seconds remaining, Lit's 'My Own Worst Enemy' came on. It wasn't just me, either. The Little Caesars Arena crowd, a good hybrid of Penguins and Red Wings fans, was belting the lyrics along with A. Jay Popoff's recording.
The puck dropped, the music stopped ... well, the music stopped from the speakers above the ice. The music continued from the fans around the arena, though.
Perhaps it was the perfect timing of when the music faded out. With three seconds gone, and 25 remaining, the song was lined up for the fans to belt out "Please tell me ... Please tell me whyyyy ..."
And they went on from there, audibly to not just me but to the people watching along at home, right until the game's final buzzer. What a scene.
This one sounded better from the Detroit feed, so have a watch and a listen -- you'll hear it!