It was a Pittsburgh Perfect night tonight for the Penguins.
Not since Mario Lemieux came back from retirement has Steel City been so emotional about the return of a hockey player. But keep in mind, this is no ordinary hockey player. This is Sidney Crosby, the Golden Boy of hockey.
Out for 11 months after suffering a Grade II concussion, the topic of Crosby's absence, though glaring and apparent, was starting to fade away. But when the Penguins announced that Crosby’s doctors cleared him to return to the ice on Monday against the New York Islanders, the NHL radar almost blew up. His return was so hyped that I was brought back to 1995, when at the tender age of 9 I witnessed Michael Jordan’s monumental return to the NBA.
The immense hype over his comeback overshadowed everything else, mainly the concern that there would be too much pressure placed on the Kid. After all, he’d just come back from a serious concussion. No mere human being can be expected to do superhuman things after going through an ordeal like that.
Tonight’s game also marked the first time in the last 103 regular season games that Crosby, Malkin and Staal were all in the lineup.
With that being said, it's pretty safe to say that the Penguins just took over as the top team in the NHL.
Sid picked up right where he left off on December 28th, 2010 (the last time he scored a goal) with a sharp backhand that sent the puck flying right over Anders Nilsson’s shoulder.
And the points just kept rolling in for Pittsburgh’s star of the night. 10 minutes after opening up the scoresheet, Sid nabbed the assist on Brooks Orpik’s slapshot.
In the second period, Kris Letang took a beauty of a feed from Crosby, passed it on to Evgeni Malkin, and once again Nilsson was undressed.
Surprisingly, the next Pittsburgh goal, courtesy of Steve Sullivan, did not involve Crosby at all. But no matter, he’d make up for it in the final frame.
Sid started the game, and he ended it with another sweet backhand, just two minutes into the third.
Two points and two assists in his first game back since January 5th. He’s already surpassed 10 other players on the roster on the stats sheet. The kid just insists on creating a spectacle.
Anyone who decided to tune in to Crosby’s first game back was certainly not disappointed with his debut performance. Hype or no hype, Crosby played a solid game at both ends of the ice. He even took a couple of hard hits and bounced back quickly, showing that he’s not exempt from the fast-paced physicality of the game.
In the span of 60 minutes, the National Hockey League was reminded of why Crosby is the ultimate representation of the game. Regardless of how big the stage is, he shows up and manages to fill the entire space with his larger-than-life presence, skill, and all-around greatness as a player.