His teammates weren’t exactly eager to go over the well-worn “When will Sid return and what will it mean?” question yet again.
“Sid? Skating? I have no idea about that,” winger James Neal said in the rapidly emptying Penguins locker room. “We aren’t worried about Sid or thinking about Sid right now.” He stopped for a moment, clearly upset by the subject matter. “Look, Sid’s been an important part of this team, but right now no one in here’s worried about Sid. We need to worry about ourselves getting better.”
Defenseman Brooks Orpik was more diplomatic. “Yeah sure, it helps, I guess,” he said when asked if Crosby’s presence on practice ice would be a boost. “He’s nowhere close to coming back. You know, it could be next week, it could be next year. We know he wants to get back, but we can’t just wait and hope he’s the answer.”
The Caps’ mostly desultory 1-0 win Wednesday was the sixth loss in a row for the Penguins. It was a game most notable for its chippiness until Tomas Vokoun’s spectacular goaltending in the final minutes.
Certainly the Caps aren’t the least bit concerned about the Penguins’ troubles, although anyone who cares about hockey can’t be pleased at the notion of the sport without Crosby, either short term (this was the 14th straight game he has missed) or long term.
“I’d like to see him out there if all our guys were out there too,” McPhee said, standing a few feet from Crosby in the press box between periods. He paused for a moment. “Of course, it’s better for him to be down there playing. When he plays, eight [Ovechkin] plays better.”
When Crosby is healthy and Ovechkin is Ovechkin, the entire sport is better. Caps-Penguins and Crosby-Ovechkin were supposed to be the rivalries that carried the NHL into the 2020s or until the Staal brothers’ children are all ready to play in the league.
Without them, hockey is not the same. And it won’t be — can’t be — as thrilling as it was when they were trading goals and trading barbs while their teams traded wins and everyone held their breath waiting to see who would make the next spectacular play.
Now the sport simply holds its breath, hoping one will shed the pinstripe suit and the other will shed the invisible shackles he has been wearing. It can’t happen soon enough.
For more from the author, visit his blog at www.feinsteinonthebrink.
com. For his previous columns for The Washington Post, go to washingtonpost.com/feinstein.
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Summary and stats: Capitals 1, Penguins 0
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