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Grove: What’s Wrong with Sid? Here’s 3 Tweaks



By Michael Miller (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

What’s wrong with Sidney Crosby?

That’s a common question these days around Pittsburgh, prompted by Crosby’s unusual pace of production to start the season (13 points in 19 games), his 11-game goal drought and the team’s mediocre start. Crosby’s slump has coincided with the Penguins rough stretch which includes six losses in the last eight games heading into tonight’s home game against Buffalo.

**Update:  40 points in 43 games, including four against the Islanders on 1/4/18)

It’s true, putting up numbers is part of Crosby’s job description. It’s also true that as captain, he inherits much of the responsibility for helping the two-time defending champions get their game back in order  – whether or not you believe their schedule (a league-high 19 games played, a league-high 13 road games played, a league-high six sets of back-to-back games) has been a factor.

**Update: The Penguins are still second in the NHL with 43 games played

Wrong or Right?

But in times like these, I tend to point to what is right with Crosby. He’s competing hard, as he always does. Playing the whole rink, as he always does. He’s getting a typical number of chances.

According to, Crosby’s scoring chances are on par with his career averages. Last season, Crosby averaged 2.48 scoring chances per game. This season? 2.68.

**As of 1/4/18, Crosby has slumped to 1.68 per game. 

His whole career, he’s basically invested in a holistic approach to the game that means putting in the work on-ice and off-ice, in-season and off-season, and believing that when he’s playing the game the way he knows how his skills and instincts will take care of the numbers and he can focus on simply winning.

That’s what carries him through slumps, including the very similar drought he had back in November 2015. Crosby had just 10 points through 19 games and only two goals in his last 13 games under coach Mike Johnston, whose system, of course, did not really suit Crosby’s offensive game. Many will want to remember that the hiring of Mike Sullivan a little more than three weeks later got Crosby back on track with his metrics. But that’s not what happened…

Sail into the Wind

As bleak as things were back then, Sid just stuck with it. He had 10 points in his final 10 games under Johnston and thus had returned to his more typical production routine by the time Sullivan arrived with a way of playing that was better suited to the stars he had inherited. Then the Penguins promoted Conor Sheary, Bryan Rust, and Matt Murray and acquired Trevor Daley and Carl Hagelin and, as they say, the rest is history.

As much as we’d like to think otherwise, Crosby, like his teammates, is more man than machine. He fires shots off the goal post sometimes. He partially fans on two-on-one passes sometimes. Or, gets stopped by Braden Holtby and Pekka Rinne sometimes. He gets frustrated and takes penalties sometimes (although, yes, we’re seeing a bit more of that than usual).

Stuff happens. Crosby keeps going. Things return to normal.

Sidney Crosby Kickstarts

There are some things I believe would help Crosby show up on the scoresheet more often:

  • Better Power Play Touches. Crosby can be effective down low on the power play or in front of the net, but right now he’s not seeing enough of the puck. It’s primarily a Malkin-Kessel-Letang (or Schultz) play at the moment, and it’s easier for teams to take away passing lanes to Crosby than it is to take away passing lanes from the High slot? Back to the right half-boards in an occasional switch with Malkin? Sid is spending a lot of time winning puck battles or retrieving pucks on the power play but needs more time and perhaps different spaces in which to make plays.
  • Linemate Stability. Certainly Sullivan has had good reason to try and end the Penguins’ scoring issues by moving the parts around, and certainly, Crosby can and has played with most of the forwards on the roster. But he’s played with five different sets of wingers in the last eight games, and that never makes things easier when they’re not going in.
  • Better Breakouts. The Penguins need more efficient puck movement to Crosby in the defensive zone. One of the hallmarks of the Penguins’ game under Sullivan has been the ability of wingers on the half-wall in their own zone to quickly and efficiently find their centers with speed exiting the zone. I don’t think it’s happening across the board as often for the Penguins this season. The longer the puck is on his stick, the more good things happen and the more penalties he draws (he’s on pace to draw only eight this season after drawing 21 and 19, respectively, the last two seasons).

Maybe Crosby’s slump will end tonight against the Sabres, a team he’s tortured in the past. Maybe not. But if you want to worry, worry about the bottom six production. The number of penalties the Penguins are taking. Their recent penalty-killing issues. Or, their backup goaltending situation.

Don’t worry about Sid.

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The unofficial historian of the Pittsburgh Penguins and columnist here at Pittsburgh Hockey Now. If you’re not following him on Twitter @bobgrove91, you’re missing out on a world of insights, stats and trivia.

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4 years ago

It seems like every two or three years people ask these same questions about Sid; “Is he starting to decline?”, “Why isn’t he scoring?”. He always ends up answering with brilliance. I have no doubt that the end results will be the same this year.

4 years ago

Honestly, Sid should be allowed to bring the puck up a few times as a D-man. It would forced D to back into the zone and Sid could pass and shoot. Try some new things. Maybe, Sid can talk to Bryan Trottier legendary Center 80’s Islanders. 4 straight Cups. Sid has plenty of pressure to win 3 straight. A guy like Trottier could give him tips. He’s 30 now. Ain’t a kid anymore. Maybe, a little more rest 4 Sid and strategic placement on ice. Remember with all the road games, home team gets last change. Pens at home will… Read more »

4 years ago

Nice article. These are same things I knew what he needs because he always plays great offensively and defensively every game with lock-in mentality .The media and fans can say whatever they want, Sid is fine and he just frustrated with line constantly changing and I think he irritated with fact of Kunitz and Cullen been gone possibly Hasiney and Streit. I believe it has something to do with him deserving of line consistency and Jake plus Rust brings that. Sullivan happen to let Jake and Rust stay together for a long term until maybe Sprong comes up. No Sheary… Read more »

4 years ago
Reply to  Tiny

Jake and Rust are better long term wingers for him, it’s evident and you can’t deny it, it should last night like it did in the beginning of the season and the time they already played together in previous games.. If Sullivan want to keep him going he happens to let these two wingers stay with him because they bring speed, forechecks, support, playmaker abilities, defense, support near Crosby, time and space and consistency every night even though they are going thru a little goal slumping if not going to the net .. If they stay together they can create… Read more »

4 years ago

Play Sid with Geno and Kessel. Sometimes too-obvious is too-obvious for a reason. The coaches like to spread out the offensive capability. Great, but when you’re getting shut out or scoring 1 per game so often, maybe it’s time to just get Sid the feel back. Some great NBA’ers, when their shooting percentage drops, they practice lay-ups, then two-foot jumpers.

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