PITTSBURGH — Some coaches call them bump shifts. They are the shifts right after an opposing goal is scored that are so crucial to try to reclaim momentum. Give the team a bump.
In crucial moments, nobody is better than Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. You saw it on display in a big way during the Penguins’ 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 2 on Friday, just 51 seconds after Columbus’ Brandon Saad scored to pull the Blue Jackets even in the second period.
The assist followed a first-period goal from Crosby as he took his turn in the rotation of Penguins stars stepping up with big games against the Blue Jackets. Phil Kessel did it in Game 1. Crosby did it for most of Game 2, and Evgeni Malkin got in on the act with his 49th career playoff goal.
And that has been the difference so far between these two teams. The Penguins have been opportunistic. The Blue Jackets have not. Their offensive players, for the most part, haven’t cashed in on their opportunities.
The Penguins are up 2-0 in this series, outscoring the Blue Jackets 7-2, but the Blue Jackets have outplayed the Penguins for stretches. They’ve imposed physical play and a strong forecheck at times — just not consistently enough.
On some level, it has to be frustrating. The Blue Jackets do everything well, they’re grinding out shifts, hitting the Penguins, maxing out effort — then the Penguins get one opening and score. Their stars rise up. The Blue Jackets’ biggest star, Bobrovsky, hasn’t been able to match it.
It’s what happens when you have world-class talent, when you have three of the best pure offensive players in the game in Crosby, Malkin and Kessel. They’re taking turns so far in this series and the Blue Jackets haven’t had an answer for it.