Was it fast hands that allowed Sidney Crosby to win the faceoff that led to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ overtime goal in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final, or has he been pulling a fast one on opponents?
Crosby orchestrated the deciding play, directing teammates Conor Sheary and Kris Letang where to stand and promising he’d win the draw against San Jose forward Joel Ward. He won it cleanly and drew it back to Letang, who faked a shot before passing to Sheary for the winner Wednesday. The 2-1 victory gave the Penguins a 2-0 series lead as the Final moves to San Jose’s SAP Center for Game 3 on Saturday and Game 4 on Monday.
It was a great story, but San Jose forward Logan Couture called foul. Asked Wednesday how Crosby seems to consistently win offensive-zone faceoffs, Couture replied, “He cheats.”
“He times them and [linesmen] don’t kick him out for some reason, probably because of who he is,” Couture said, alluding to Crosby’s superstar status.
There’s nothing wrong with timing the puck drop, but San Jose defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic contended Crosby took too long to settle in after drawing up that decisive play. “Maybe he should have been kicked out. It took a while to get into the faceoff,” Vlasic said. “But what do I know?’’
Crosby took 1,907 faceoffs during the regular season and won 51.7%, 40th among the top 100 players by total faceoffs, according to puckbase.com. He won 56.1% of his offensive-zone faceoffs. In the playoffs he has won 52.7% of his draws, including 55.8% of those in the offensive zone.
As expected, Penguins Coach Mike Sullivan defended his player.
“The way I look at it, that’s all part of being a center-iceman, trying to figure out a way to get an edge and be successful,” said Sullivan, a center in his playing days. “Sid isn’t doing anything their guys aren’t doing.”
“There’s a lot of noise. People are going to want to tell you how well Pittsburgh is playing, how poorly you’re playing, how you have no chance to win. We need to tune all that out, make sure we’re ready for Game 3,” he said. “That’s the only thing that matters right now. I think we got better and we have to keep building our game. Our Game 2 was better than our Game 1. I’m sure [Game] 3 is going to be better than 1 and 2 were.”
Sharks’ Braun takes brief leave
San Jose defenseman Justin Braun spent Thursday with family in Atlanta following the death of his father-in-law, former NHL standout Tom Lysiak. DeBoer said Braun would return late Thursday or early Friday and will play in Game 3.
Hockey has been a refuge for Braun. “You can kind of forget about all your problems and whatever you’ve got going on in life when you’re on the rink. It’s always been that way,” he said. “It’s always a good place to be, kind of a warm place. Guys are joking around, which kind of takes your mind off things.”
Pittsburgh forward Evgeni Malkin and his wife, Anna Kasterova, became parents of a son, Nikita, on Tuesday. The baby weighed 7 pounds, one ounce — echoing his father’s uniform number 71.
“It’s a great moment in my life,” Malkin said Wednesday while still wearing his hospital bracelet. “I’m a happy guy. I just enjoy with my two families, my family at home and my family here.”
Longtime New York Rangers voice Sam Rosen won the Hockey Hall of Fame’s Foster Hewitt Memorial award for outstanding contributions as a hockey broadcaster, and former Chicago Tribune sportswriter Bob Verdi won the Elmer Ferguson Memorial award for excellence in hockey journalism. They will be honored Nov. 14, in conjunction with the Hall’s annual induction ceremony.