First off, congratulations to the Penguins for winning the 2009 Stanley Cup. Few people were betting on them to win game seven in Detroit after the home team won every game the rest of the Finals, including me, but they pulled it off with a well-deserved victory.
I think maybe the most impressive thing about Pittsburgh's victory is that they did it even though Pens captain Sidney Crosby was effectively neutralized by the Red Wings. Crosby had three points, all of them coming in games three and four of the finals, and was -3. By comparison, Crosby's shadow, Henrik Zetterberg, had six points and was +3, but when Zetterberg didn't score a point in game six or game seven, well, the Wings were sunk. Even though Detroit was seen by many heading into the series as having superior depth, when Pittsburgh got just one point from their two best players, Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, in games six and seven and Detroit got none from Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, their best, Pittsburgh came out on top, thanks to guys like Max Talbot, Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy.
As for Crosby, after being a polarizing figure throughout the finals, exchanging slashes with Kirk Maltby, sitting out the third period of game seven with a knee problem thanks to a hit from Johan Franzen, causing a stir by sitting out one of the media days, and generally not playing up to his usual standard, he managed to create some controversy once the game was over too.
Obviously this Sidney Crosby not shaking Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom's hand thing has gotten blown out of proportion somewhat, thanks largely to public statements made by Kris
Draper and Henrik Zetterberg on the subject. Crosby was basically celebrating a little too much with some of his teammates at one end of the ice while the Red Wings lined up for the traditional series-ending handshake. Some players, most notably Lidstrom, waited for a handshake from Crosby, Pittsburgh's captain, before finally giving up and leaving the ice. Crosby was unapologetic, going so far as to shift some of the blame to Lidstrom for not waiting long enough. Crosby also said he felt he had the right to do some celebrating with his mates, and he's got a point.
The problem is that Crosby is the team captain, and the captain has to lead the handshake line, especially in that situation. No exceptions; the fact that Crosby didn't have the presence of mind to organize his teammates into a proper handshake line is a little disappointing. I've always enjoyed the sportsmanship and tradition of the series closing handshake, and I'm sure Crosby does too. I believe him when he says he didn't mean to snub the Red Wings. I think it's something another player, particularly a guy Crosby's age who's mistake can be written off to youth and enthusiasm, could've easily gotten away with.
Crosby's status as the 'face' of the NHL only magnifies things. Yes, it's a youthful mistake and, as Lidstrom says, something he'll learn from. But you're the captain. You have to lead the handshake line with the losing team, no matter how much you want to celebrate. There's no two ways about it.
posted by Brian P at 8:46 PM