Having two of the best players in the world will keep you in every game that you play in, but they won’t win you every game that you play in.
This was evident in Saturday’s game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Sidney Crosby has scored goals in eight of the team’s first 10 games and leads the NHL in points, but he was held off of the scorecard for only the second time this season by the Maple Leafs, who defeated the Penguins by a score of 4-1.
Evgeni Malkin had one of his better games, showing the hustle that hasn’t been there at times. However, fans could see him slowly bow out as the constant barrage of body checks thrown by the Leafs were delivered shift after shift. He recorded an assist on the team’s lone goal, but never seemed like a real factor to put the puck behind the net.
When your stars are held in check, that’s when your secondary players are suppose to step up and carry the slack. Superstars are called so for a reason, and it isn’t expected for them to carry a slump for an extended period of time, so the role players will only have to carry a team for a game here and there.
That’s the job of Beau Bennett, James Neal, Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis and Jussi Jokinen, recognized as the next tier of talent behind Crosby and Malkin. However, two of those players are out due to injury, and only Jokinen showing the ability to create on his own, leaving the talent pool thinner than the Penguins would hope to be at this early stage in the season.
So when Crosby and Malkin are held in check and two key forwards out with injuries, where are the Penguins are suppose to go to? The hope was that Brandon Sutter would take strides in his offensive game, but now through 11 games, he has still yet to score a goal yet. After a quick start to his season, Chuck Kobasew has gone quiet even with the opportunity to play on a line with Malkin, leaving ‘Juice’ as the only player producing.
Don’t expect both Crosby and Malkin getting shut down at the same time to be a common theme. If the Pens don’t see a bump in production from their role players, they could dig themselves into a slight hole until Neal and Bennett come back.
Anthony Murphy is a contributing writer for RantSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter @AMurphyTFC.