What it Takes

Sidney Crosby returned to the NHL last night and scored 2 goals and 4 points after missing nearly a year of action. 

There is no question that Crosby is the best player in the NHL, and last night was just another piece of evidence.  There are definitely other tremendous players in the NHL, but none have the three-zone dominance of Crosby. 

After the last two seasons, I find it almost comical to think that people could still believe that Alex Ovechkin is the world’s best player.  Ovechkin’s numbers have been down the last two years, but that’s not why he doesn’t match up to Crosby.  Ovechkin is only the best player on his team when he allows one of his teammates to get him the puck in the offensive zone.  He is in fact one of the worst players on his team in his own end because he is terrible defensively. There are a number of players I would rather have on my team than Ovechkin.  Two of the easiest to name are Pavel Datsyuk and Martin St. Louis.   

Datsyuk has great vision and is surprisingly strong on the puck.   He is a magician with the biscuit in the opponents end and one of the best defensive centermen in the game today.  Pavel won the Selke trophy, given to the league’s best defensive-forward, in 2008, 2009 and 2010.  Datsyuk plays a three-zone game just like Crosby, but with less explosive power.

Martin St. Louis is another player who is equally strong in each zone.  He has scored 80 or more points in each of the last five NHL seasons including 2007-2008 when his Lightning team put up the league’s worst record.  He is the main reason Steven Stamkos is the scorer that he is and I am willing to bet Steven would agree with me.  It has always been said that your best players should be your hardest workers and that is definitely the case for St. Louis.  He is a heart and soul player and a leader on his team.

The bottom line is Sidney Crosby is the best hockey player in the world and will be for as long as he plays.  Truly great players must be devoted to excellence in all three zones, for the whole shift, every shift.  That is the case with Crosby as well as with Datsyuk and St. Louis.  Until Ovechkin figures this out, he and his team will continue their losing ways.

Takes Two to Tango

There was quite a bit of commotion surrounding Tampa’s 1-3-1 trap and Philly’s unwillingness to break the puck out in last night’s game in Tampa Bay.

As you can see in the video the Flyers would not advance the puck into the Lightning’s neural zone trap.  The play was blown dead in accordance with rule 72 which places the onus on the attacking team to keep play in continuous motion.  The Flyers continued their refusal to advance the puck a number of times after the instance shown in the video, each time forcing the referee to stop the play.

Former coach Mac Crawford shared his opinion on TSN during the game and said that Tampa Bay was to blame for the inactivity.

“This is typically something that could really hurt hockey,” Crawford said.  “Fans don’t want to watch that type of system where nothing happens.”

Aaron Ward, former NHL player and three-time Stanely Cup winner, also spoke about the matter on TSN.

“You know what’s in your locker room,” Ward said.  “Play to your strengths.  Understand what you have out there. Ohlund is gone, Hedman is gone, you wanna win a game and that’s what the National Hockey League is about, winning games.  Is it fun to watch?  No.  But, the bottom line is, in the National Hockey league you are judged on wins and wins alone and the two points in the column.”

I tend to agree with Ward on this issue.  The rules are in place for a reason and they clearly state that it is up to the attacking team to adjust to their opponents defensive strategy.  It is interesting to watch coaches battle each other with different strategies and last night peter Laviolette declined Guy Boucher’s invitation to dance.