Dubinsky, Johnson try to stop Penguins' Sidney Crosby
April 18, 2014 11:51 PM
Sidney Crosby reaches for the puck against the Blue Jackets' Fedor Tyutin in the first period of Game 1 Wednesday night at Consol Energy Center.
By Shelly Anderson / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
It makes no difference to Sidney Crosby.
There pretty much always will be a most-wanted flyer of the Penguins center and the NHL's regular-season scoring champion on the wall of opposing coaches who are strategizing ways to slow him.
It became obvious Wednesday in Game 1 of the Penguins' first-round playoff series against Columbus that the Blue Jackets have given the assignment of checking Crosby primarily to center Brandon Dubinsky and defenseman Jack Johnson.
It's up for debate how effective they were -- Crosby had an assist and three shots -- or will be as the series heads into Game 2 Saturday night at Consol Energy Center.
Crosby neither gave Dubinsky rave reviews nor expressed frustration about being his target.
"I don't think anything different than any other player that would typically play in a matchup or try to be in a shutdown situation," he said Friday of Dubinsky's performance in Game 1, a 4-3 Penguins win.
"They try to finish their hits and take your time and space away. I don't think [it's] anything that you wouldn't typically see."
A big part of Dubinsky's play is being physical. The 6-foot-2, 216-pounder had nine hits in Game 1, more than anyone else, although officially Crosby was the victim on only one of them.
When the Penguins are at home, as they were in Game 1 and will be in Game 2, they hold the advantage of getting the last line change. The Blue Jackets still managed to get Dubinsky on the ice a lot against Crosby.
The strategy didn't fluster Crosby.
"You always want what's best for your team," he said. "If your coach sees that it's better to get some momentum in getting lines out there, that's great. If he wants specific matchups, you deal with it. As a player, you have to do the same thing [regardless of matchups] and prepare for anything.
"What makes our line, or any other line for our team, successful doesn't change no matter who they play against. That's pretty clear."
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma -- who seems to roll his forwards lines based heavily on things such as whether he's looking for an offensive punch or to protect a lead -- said he is more concerned with the defensive matchups.
Columbus' maneuvering to get Johnson on the ice against Crosby didn't bother Crosby any more than dealing with Dubinsky.
"Again, it's the same thing," Crosby said, adding that by now he's used to taking whatever the opposing coaches cook up to try to slow him.
"You play all season, hopefully, with the playoffs in mind, so. If that's the case, you don't have to change anything. You try to play the same way. If anything, the intensity and level of competing is a little higher, but I don't think a whole lot changes besides that."
The Blue Jackets' strategy paid off early in Game 1. Crosby was on the ice when Dubinsky helped set up Johnson's goal for a 1-0 Blue Jackets lead.
Johnson and Crosby have a friendship that extends more than a decade to when they were teammates and classmates at Shattuck-St. Mary's, a boarding school in Minnesota.
Crosby's Game 1 assist, in the second period, came on the power play, and neither Dubinsky nor Johnson were on that penalty-killing unit.
In the face of shutdown assignments by opposing player, Crosby simply throws himself headlong into the game. Sometimes literally.
Late in the game, with the Penguins clinging to a one-goal lead, Crosby dove, stick extended, to knock the puck away from Johnson.
It would be surprising if Columbus let up on Crosby in Game 2. Probably just the opposite, although Crosby was hesitant to admit that opponents pick up their intensity specifically against him in the playoffs.
"Uhhh, a little bit," Crosby said. "Guys probably go the extra stride or two to finish their hit, or after-the-whistle stuff they probably look for a little more.
"But, as far as your typical end-to-end, normal stuff, I don't think it really changes a whole lot, no."
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