Sidney Crosby had those looks about him in these Stanley Cup playoffs.
Those familiar with him know the signs: a steely, focused stare in his eyes; a pulsating thrust in his skating stride; powerful and indefatigable but also creatively calculating with and without, on or away, from pucks — the complete package. A generational talent and franchise pillar who knows something unrecognizable to everyone else.
In Crosby’s view, his Penguins are Cup-capable.
And until he was felled with a chicken-wing shot from Jacob Truba late in the second period of Game 5 against the Rangers — a now-infamous unpenalized direct blow to the face of hockey at the world’s most famous arena Wednesday night — Crosby’s play confirmed his confidence.
The Rangers had no answers for Crosby and his wingers, Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust. Then, Trouba eliminated Crosby from the equation.
And wouldn’t you know it, that elimination not only helped the Rangers avoid elimination; Crosby’s uncertain status — he’s being evaluated for a concussion, a source said —for the remaining games in this best-of-seven series had a lot of people in the hockey world again writing off the Penguins as of Thursday morning.
Those obituaries had already been written once this postseason. Before this series, the young Rangers were said to have all the advantages, other than experience, on the seemly old and flailing Penguins.
Crosby long ago stopped caring about what people outside his dressing room believed about him, his teammates and his organization. He’s heard and read it all over 17 seasons. If nothing else, if his upper-body injury is another concussion scare, at least Crosby will be sheltered from the flood of pessimism about the Penguins’ chances to close out the Rangers without the best captain in professional sports.
But he’s not the only leader among these Penguins, even though he is clearly their example-setting alpha.