My brother, a hockey fan who despises the NBA even more strongly than I do, has long made the argument that part of the NHL’s struggle for publicity stems from how fundamentally different the roles of its stars are from those of the stars in the NBA. If you attend a Lakers game, you know almost unequivocally that Kobe Bryant is going to score 20 points with a shot at 30 or 40, and he’ll have the ball in his hands on nearly every possession throughout the entire game, whereas if you attend a Penguins game — such as the Pens’ unimpressive 5-3 clunker in Tampa Wednesday night — you very plausibly might see Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin manage just one secondary assist between them.
The disparity in star power between NHL players and NBA players isn’t solely a factor of the sports’ differing popularities or the way that they’re promoted, but also results from this primary, fundamental difference within the sports themselves. If you’ve never seen a basketball game, you’re still not going to watch a Heat game without noticing LeBron James; if you’re not a serious hockey fan, though, you very well could’ve missed Sidney Crosby Wednesday night.
I’ll save the finer points of this argument for another day, but it’s a nice, general, roundabout segue into my minorly disgusted reaction to the Pens’ loss to Tampa, in which Sidney Crosby played possibly his worst game of the year, managing 3 shots and a Minus-1, providing absolutely zip on the power play, and turning the puck over with Cutleresque frequency. The Pens managed to lose a game in which they scored two shorthanded goals on the same Tampa power play, got goals from Matt Cooke, Pascal Dupuis, and Craig Adams, and managed to chase the clueless-looking Mike Smith just 12 minutes into the game.
Fleury did his part too, allowing 4 goals on 30 shots (.867 SV%) including the first shot of the game for his second straight start, this time on a harmless wrister along the ice from Tampa’s most dangerous sniper, Dana Tyrell. The equally unstoppable Teddy Purcell added a goal on an untipped wrist shot from above the circles (the Pens had a tough time containing the notorious -Ell Twins), Vinny LeCavalier threw an unstoppable power play one-timer past Fleury to tie it, and Marty St. Louis forced a breakaway through two Penguin defenders and chipped the winning goal over a failed Fleury poke-check. Stir in another sweet 0-for-5 on the Pens’ power play and voila! A regulation loss after being up 3-1.
Jordan Staal is allegedly slated to return Friday against Philly. If his weight still isn’t up to par, he has my permission to eat Mike Comrie.