He's all yours, Pittsburgh

If not for the fact that he didn’t call him “Cindy,” I might have thought that I was on a message board – the Denver Post‘s Adrian Dater on tonight’s Red Wings-Penguins game:

Absolutely awful performance tonight. I don™t care what the Pens do in Game 6; this series is over. And I suspect the Pens will do what they did last year in a Game 6 at home – play close for a while, then lose to the Wings.

Sidney Crosby is going to turn into John Stockton if he doesn™t watch out. He has definitively proven that he™s not good enough yet to take his team to a championship title. These are his prime years, and this was supposed to be the year he took his team over the top against an older, less-hungry team like the Wings….

I was set to bestow a placement of Crosby into the Pantheon of great players tonight, those who willed their teams to victory in the biggest of games, after a year or two of learning how to win. Instead, Crosby and his teammate – Evgeni Malkin- were terrible. Terrible.

They are excellent, marvelous individual players. But they are losers, in the final analysis. Great players would have found a way to win tonight.

Crosby and Malkin are not great players, therefore.

No, Crosby and Malkin are, respectively, 22 and 23, whereas “old” Red Wings like Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Marion Hossa are, as Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist Joe Starkey points out with glee, 28, 30 and 30. John Stockton? 35 before he even made it to the finals.

I agree about the likely outcome of Game 6, but if Dater was set to place Crosby in the Pantheon of great players tonight, maybe that was his mistake, especially since this team was not even playoff-bound until they fired the coach, got Gonchar back and added Chris Kunitz and Bill Guerin.

And what’s a veteran hockey writer doing wielding hoops analogies? Why not fall back on the already-tired Penguins/Crosby to Oilers/Gretzky comparison, with its theory that the Penguins’ loss last year was the equivalent of Edmonton’s 1983 fall to the Islanders. Gretzky was 23 when he first won the Cup in 1984, but that was his fifth NHL season (and seventh pro). This is Crosby’s fourth. If that’s who we are using as the measuring stick I think maybe Sid’s ok, and will likely have a few more shots (don’t get me wrong, I hope he never makes the final again, since every year the Penguins do the Flyers won’t, but that’s neither here nor there).

Frankly, with its veteran goaltending, vastly better blue line and overall defensive play, a fully healthy Red Wings team could have easily won this series 4-0, and almost took it 4-1. If in fact they are a little hurt and tired, that may also be because they had to play a real (and young) opponent in the conference finals, whereas the Pens ran into a team – an “aging” team, you might even say of certain Carolina players – that peaked with its two early upsets.

(Both links via Kukla’s Korner… or rather, @kuklaskorner)