Monday, April 1, 2013
The wait for Crosby begins for Penguins
By Scott Burnside
What an interesting week ahead for the league-leading -- and possibly record-setting -- Pittsburgh Penguins.
On the record front, the team has won 15 straight games and can tie the NHL record for consecutive games won in a season with wins over the Buffalo Sabres at home Tuesday and at Madison Square Garden the following night against the New York Rangers. If the wins keep coming for the Pens, they could establish a record at home Friday night against the Rangers.
Although the Penguins remain the highest-scoring team in the league (3.36 goals per game), no team wins 15 straight, especially given the condensed post-lockout schedule, without being able to shut down opponents. The Pens have done that in spades of late, winning the past three games by shutout and allowing only nine goals in their past 11 games.
Wow. Also impressive is that starting netminder Marc-Andre Fleury and veteran backup Tomas Vokoun have been equally responsible for the top-end goaltending the team has received. Each has registered two shutouts during the streak.
But the assault on history has taken a distinct back seat in Pittsburgh over the past 48 hours, as the Penguins are waiting to find out how long they will be without captain Sidney Crosby, who took an errant puck to the mouth during his opening shift of Saturday's 2-0 win over the New York Islanders. Crosby, the NHL's leading point-getter, suffered a broken jaw and is out indefinitely.
Immediately, folks began to speculate on how long Crosby, who spent the weekend in a hospital, might be absent from the Pens' lineup. Four weeks? Longer? The bottom line is that no one knows. And no one will know until later this week, when doctors reassess the damage and the outcome of surgery performed shortly after the incident. If it's possible to gain any kind of vibe from those close to the situation, it's one of cautious optimism. That there don't appear to be any concussion-related symptoms is good news for the Pens, as is the fact Crosby's jaw is not wired shut.
The Pens have virtually locked up the Atlantic Division title, although the East's top seed could still be at play if they were to go into a slide and the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens kept up their winning ways. Certainly without Crosby and top-four defensemen Kris Letang and Paul Martin, both of whom also are out with injury, the team's depth is going to be challenged in the short term.
But isn't that why GM Ray Shero acquired Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow to bolster the forward contingent and Douglas Murray to add to an already solid blue line? We're guessing Shero didn't expect to see that depth challenged quite so quickly, but perhaps better now than in late May. As for making further additions, don't expect Shero to make any more moves by Wednesday's trade deadline -- certainly none as impactful as his earlier acquisitions.