New York Islanders are shutting down Sidney Crosby completely

Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins. Adam Pelech, New York Islanders. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins. Adam Pelech, New York Islanders. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Up three games to none, the New York Islanders are a game away from eliminating Pittsburgh from the playoffs. One reason for their success is a complete shutdown of Pens star center Sidney Crosby.

The New York Islanders hold a three games to none in their best of seven opening round playoff series with Pittsburgh. One of the Isles big keys has been keeping Pittsburgh’s all-everything center Sidney Crosby pointless. Not only has “Sid the Kid” been kept off the score sheet, but NYI has also taken the league’s second-highest active point scorer (Joe Thornton leads) out of his game.

Looking over the Pittsburgh Penguins roster, it’s easy to see the players an opponent has to keep in check. Crosby, along with Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Kris Letang are among the leagues best players. This year they were joined by Jake Guentzel at the top of the team’s points scored leaderboard. The straw that stirs the drink as Reggie Jackson would say is Crosby.

The 14 year NHL veteran (has it really been that long) is coming off the sixth 100 plus point season of his career and his first since leading the league with 104 points in 2013-14. This year, Crosby had 35 goals and 65 assists. He was once again dangerous on the power play putting up 12 and 17 respectively. Five-on-five, five-on-four, or four-on-five, he can score at any time from almost anywhere.

There are several articles on Crosby’s scoring drought in this series. He’s an incredible -4 overall. New York Islanders goalie Robin Lehner has been outstanding, yielding only five goals in 103 shots over the past three games. The NY Post had a nice article today by Brett Cyrgalis praising defensemen Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock for their play against Crosby in the defensive zone. On the duo’s strong play Pelech said:

"“They just mentioned it before the series started, but for us, I guess over the past few months, we have been playing against the other top lines, so it’s something we’ve become used to and it’s an exciting challenge for any ‘D’ pair to play against a player like him.”"

 All about the dot

Here is a little deeper dive into one of the ways the Islanders are taking Crosby out of his game. It all comes down to the dot. The Isles are beating him in the faceoff circle which is putting a serious cramp in Pittsburgh’s offense.

Over his career, Crosby has won 52.5 percent of his career draws in the regular season and 51.8 percent in the playoffs. A drop off in the post-season is expected, due to better competition, but in his case, it’s been negligible. In 2018-19, he had one of his best set seasons winning 1012 draws for an impressive 55.4 percent clip. In this series, Crosby is at 46.9 percent in the three playoff games so far. New York Islanders fans it gets better.

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One of the reasons why he has 446 career goals is due to his prowess at offensive zone (OZ) faceoffs. He has won a hair under 55 percent of his draws in the plus zone. This season he was second in the league, winning 60.4 percent of OZ faceoffs (minimum 200). Against the Islanders, he has won 13 out of 27, which works out to 48.1 percent.

Going a bit further, Pittsburgh as a team only won 50.6 percent of their total draws (2482) and 53.1 percent of their OZ draws (858) in the regular season. Crosby accounted 40.77 percent of all wins and 54.6 percent of offensive zone wins. New York’s domination of him in the dot during this series, especially in front of Lehner, has been crippling to the Pens offense.

It’s crucial to Pittsburgh’s game plan that Crosby wins faceoffs, especially in the OZ so that they can set up their offense. Without this key piece of the puzzle, their results have been sub-par, especially compared to their normal output.

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So while Lehner and the defensemen have been getting their well-deserved props, other players are also responsible for the Isles stifling D. Credit also needs to go toNew York Islanders centers Valtteri Filppula who has won 65.4 % of his total draws this series and 70% in the defensive zone (DZ), as well as Casey Cizikas (56.4, 57.7) and Mathew Barzal (52.2 overall).