Bob Smizik: Crosby remains missing in action

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The day after the Penguins were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs by the Ottawa Senators in 2007, teenager Sidney Crosby met with the media and made the startling announcement that he had played the five-game series, in which he scored three goals with a broken foot. Crosby acknowledged he hid the injury, which occurred during the regular season, to keep opponents from exploiting his vulnerability.

Kind of makes you wonder what news Crosby will break when this playoff series concludes. The way he’s playing, that conclusion could come very soon. Like Tuesday night.

The Penguins lost to the New York Rangers last night, 3-1, at Madison Square Garden to even their second-round series at three. Game 7 is tomorrow night at the Consol Energy Center.

Crosby played 24 minutes, 23 seconds and had one shot on goal. For the series, he has one goal and is a -1. For the Penguins 12 postseason games, he has one goal and is a -3. Not quite what’s expected from the man universally regarded as best player in the world.

There’s no explaining both Crosby’s lack of production and his passive style of play.

Penguins radio analyst Phil Bourque was asked why Crosby wasn’t shooting more. He said:

''Great question. I don't have an answer. It’s kind of mind boggling that Sid isn't pulling the trigger more.’’ Bourque then cited two examples, one in the first period and one in the second, where Crosby normally would have shot and did not.

In Crosby’s defense, he did play very well in the two earlier games of this series at Madison Square Garden. He was among the best players on the ice in game 3 and he scored a goal in game 4. But he was back being a non-factor in games 5 and 6, both of which the Penguins fell behind early and lost.

Crosby’s declining play began long before the playoffs and dates, according to some, as far as the Olympics. That would almost preclude a injury. Surely, if Crosby had been hurt in the regular season, the Penguins would have rested him since the team played a long string of near-meaningless and meaningless games in the final weeks.

It’s also possible he’s hiding an injury, but that theory, too, does not reek with logic. Crosby’s a smart guy. He’s not going to jeopardize his health and his team’s chances by playing hurt. The idea, advanced by some, that he’s hiding more concussion issues also does not have much of a foundation. No one is more aware of the dangerous long-term implications of such a plan than Crosby.

He is 26 and coming off a season in which he won the scoring championship and will win the Hart (MVP) Trophy. He’s in his prime. Yet, he's not playing like it. It is truly an inexplicable situation.

Something else going against the Penguins is that the Rangers have the better goaltender. That’s not a knock on Marc-Andre Fleury. It’s a credit to the brilliant play of Henrik Lundqvist.

There were positives to take out of the game. The Penguins threw 37 shots at Lundqvist and played a strong third period.

But they need more. They need Sidney Crosby -- the real Sidney Crosby.

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