Home > Uncategorized > Crosby Picks Up Where He Left Off

Crosby Picks Up Where He Left Off

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Sidney Crosby made his long-awaited, highly-anticipated return to the NHL tonight — and what a return it proved to be.

Fans and media everywhere celebrated the arguably overdue comeback from a concussion that sidelined hockey’s biggest and brightest star for 11 months, since Jan. 5 of last season.

So everybody tuned into CBC’s special Monday broadcast between the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders, made marquee and marketable only by Sid the Kid. Some observers had a vested interest, namely Crosby’s fantasy owners. And they had to be rejoicing when No. 87 recorded two goals and two assists for four points in a 5-0 Pittsburgh win.

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Crosby’s point total could have been greater, as he set up linemate Chris Kunitz on the game’s opening shift only to have him hit the post, then later teed up Evgeni Malkin for another one-timer off the iron.

But the points that counted were great enough. Crosby opened the scoring on his third shift just five minutes into the game by burning Andrew MacDonald wide then roofing a backhand over rookie goalie Anders Nilsson, making his first NHL start. His second goal, to round out the scoring in the third period, was the product of hard work, winning a board battle and backhanding another puck from the corner past Nilsson. His assists came off quality passes and Crosby did it all, also winning the majority of his faceoffs.

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I had that game on TV, but once it was 4-0, I began paying closer attention to an online stream of the Edmonton Oilers-Dallas Stars contest for fantasy reasons — owning the rights to Edmonton’s dynamic young duo of Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in my keeper league, while not owning a single Penguin or Islander.

Even without watching his every move, it was obviously a stellar start for Crosby, who still has 61 games left to catch Toronto’s Phil Kessel in the Art Ross and Rocket Richard races. Kessel is the frontrunner for both trophies, with 29 points and 16 goals to date.

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Regardless, Crosby’s presence going forward should provide a big bump in offensive production for those GMs who patiently — but painstakingly — stashed him on their Injured Reserve.

It should also put the Eastern Conference-leading Penguins (12-6-3) over the top, but who cares about real life standings when fantasy fortunes are at stake.

In my keeper, now that Crosby’s back, he’s a bargain with a $56 salary in a $250 cap system. He’s cheaper than other stars such as Alex Ovechkin ($75), Steven Stamkos ($72), Evgeni Malkin ($68), Daniel Sedin ($60), Pavel Datsyuk ($57) and Ryan Getzlaf ($57), and only $1 more than Henrik Sedin and Ilya Kovalchuk.

Crosby’s scored at a higher point-per-game pace than any of those players — or any player period in recent memory — and Monday’s debut assured he hasn’t lost a step. I guess dominating the NHL is just like riding a bike, and serious concussions can be overcome as previously evidenced by Patrice Bergeron and Pierre-Marc Bouchard.

If Crosby can stay out of opponent’s crosshairs — as all hockey fans should hope for, rival fantasy GMs or not — he’ll be one of the best long-term keepers in the game.

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As for my keeper team, it was another whirlwind week full of frustration, then elation and lastly suspense that saw Period 6 end in a 5-3-2 win. It was technically tied 4-4-2, but I prevailed when Roberto Luongo was ruled out for Sunday’s start against Ottawa thus forcing my opponent to forfeit the save-percentage category after not meeting our league’s minimum goalie requirement of two starts per Period.

Either result seemed unimaginable after an atrocious start that had my 15 active forwards combining for one goal and three points heading into Saturday’s full slate.

At first, I feared the Hockey Gods had turned on me for calling them out in last week’s column. My top player, based on salary and career statistics, Alex Ovechkin, disappeared from the face of the planet, finishing Period 6 with zero — yes ZERO — points and an equally disturbing minus-5 rating.

Things went from bad to worse mid-week, when Nashville’s rookie sensation Craig Smith did his best Patrick Stefan impression by failing to score into an empty net.

But, as is the case every Period, all was not lost with Saturday still to come and my opponent also struggling to some extent.

Saturdays, with their 10-plus games, always shake things up and this was no exception for my team, which went from trailing 7-2-1 to leading 5-4-1 in a matter of hours.

The catalyst for my comeback was those aforementioned Edmonton kids, with Hall netting his second career hat-trick and Nugent-Hopkins setting a personal best with five assists in a 9-2 shelling of Chicago.

All total, my forwards racked up six goals and 10 assists that night, then Carolina’s Jeff Skinner helped me hang on with one of each on Sunday.

Skinner made up for only having one other assist last week, but overall my team slumped statistically — up front with Tyler Seguin (one assist), James van Riemsdyk (one goal, minus-4 on Philadelphia) and Valtteri Filppula (one assist, minus-4 on Detroit), and on the back end with Victor Hedman, Zach Bogosian and Ryan McDonagh all pointless.

Luckily others picked up the slack, with Jonathan Quick maintaining his consistent, winning ways in goal for the most part, Scott Hartnell also enjoying a big Saturday with two special-teams goals and Jeff Petry picking up three defence helpers in that lopsided beating of the Blackhawks.

Another less-heralded contribution was Matt Frattin’s first career NHL goal in his 17th game for Toronto, as the Leafs lit up Ovechkin’s Capitals 7-1. Most would have dropped Frattin after his early drought, but I still have hope for the former Fort Saskatchewan Trader (AJHL).

Just like I still have hope that former Burnaby Express (BCHL) star Kyle Turris will be traded — or signed — by Phoenix before the Dec. 1st deadline that rules him ineligible to play in the NHL this season.

Turris, though, aside from AHL and junior prospects, is my only player on the shelf. Shockingly — and knock on wood here — I’ve yet to miss many games due to injuries and my two available IR spots have remained empty to this point in the season. Not many fantasy GMs can say that, so I’ll take the good with the bad and keep on keepin’ on as I currently sit alone in second place, albeit a distant 15 points back of our leader.

That leader, also last season’s playoff champ, should have his work cut out for him in Period 7. He’s facing our reigning regular-season champ who enters this week tied for third and also happens to be his cousin, making their matchup all the more intriguing. Here’s hoping for a hard-fought tie or an upset based on this season’s standings, anything to allow the rest of the pack, myself included, to gain ground.

Meanwhile, the DailyCourier draft at Officepools.com has become somewhat of a lost cause for me. As a rotisserie box pool with no transactions, all I can do is idly watch as my hand-picked 20-player team plummets toward last place in the 160-team league — and sadly I don’t even have Crosby to dig me out of that hole.

Entering Monday’s games, I was tied for 155th with 247 points, a slim 13 points from the bottom and a massive 99 points from the top. Leader Puck Nucks had 246 points, followed by Schwarzeneger (344), JAM15 (342), Cathy’s Rockets (340) and Parksbranch.08 (339) to round out the top five.

Larry Fisher is a sports reporter for The Daily Courier with a keen interest in fantasy hockey. Follow him on Twitter @LarryFisher_KDC or email larry.fisher@ok.bc.ca for fantasy-related feedback.

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