April 26, 2008
Diving in hockey is a lot like masturbation: Everybody does it, but it's not exactly a preferred topic for public disclosure. So it's understandable when Sidney Crosby denied his reputation for open-ice embellishment before the Pittsburgh Penguins' series against the New York Rangers: "I haven't changed one bit -- I never dove and I don't ... So it's just part of the playoffs, part of the gamesmanship. If I go down, it's because I've been forced down. If not, I'll find a way to stay on my feet."
Calling Crosby a liar might be a little harsh, as it's completely possible that he's convinced himself what he does isn't "diving" but rather "drawing a penalty." No matter what his psychological plausible deniability is, he's a player that'll hit the ice once in a while to grab his team a power play; hell, if Peter Forsberg (video) thinks you're a diver then, son, you're a diver.
While we were all waiting for Sean Avery's antics or Marc-Andre Fleury's five-hole or the Rangers' bum-rushing of opposing goal creases to become the story of this series, it has quickly become Sidney Crosby's Louganis routine. The New York media has taken the knives out, and Pittsburgh's head coach has quickly responded -- although perhaps he should have kept his trap shut.
From Arthur Staples of Newsday, who writes about Rangers coach Tom Renney's concern about diving in the series and the referees buying it:
Koharski did it when Crosby rounded the net and fell without a touch from Brandon Dubinsky in the second period, and Sutherland did it at a much more crucial time, with 3:20 left in the third.
Marty Straka, a guy whose word I trust a lot more than Crosby's on this subject, was so incensed he got a game misconduct after time expired in the game. He didn't want to discuss anything afterward. Shanahan said it was a "weak call." Jaromir Jagr: "I expected something like that."
Complaints like the one above in the New York media drew a strong rebuke from Penguins Coach Michel Therrien today. John Dellapina of the Daily News had a good transcript:
"We all know what Tom Renney's trying to do. He tried to do it before we started the series. He tried to do it last night, I saw his comments today. He's trying to get attention to the referees and complaining about the penalty last night at the end of the game."
"Sidney took a shot in the face from Avery in the first period. Sometimes he's going to draw penalties. Sometimes, there's not going to be any penalty. But he's going to keep going there. And eventually, he'll draw a penalty if he keeps going there. And he knows.
"He's not going to go to the outside. That's the way he is. He's not going to take the easy road. He's going to take the tough road and try to succeed. And yesterday, on that play, he had a step on (Straka) and if he didn't get hooked, we're probably going to go on a breakaway. And he drew a penalty.
"I'm kind of disappointed they complained about it."
Some pretty strong words there from a coach after just one game in this series; strong enough that he may have actually just screwed his star player.
"We certainly didn't come into the room and throw down our equipment and say we got hosed by the refs. So I'm kind of surprised that Therrien's making a big issue today. I'm actually really surprised. But if he wants to bring the referee's attention to it, that's fine."