CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP, Pa. — No points in two playoff games for Sidney Crosby? That’s just not normal.
The Penguins’ captain, who has three Stanley Cup rings and 185 points in 162 playoff games, hasn’t had a sniff in Pittsburgh’s first-round playoff series against the Islanders, who lead two games to none.
The Islanders threw different matchups at Crosby and have kept him away from the front of the net and off the scoresheet. All Sid the Kid has to show for his two games on Long Island are three shots on goal and one hooking penalty.
“I think we’ve got to have the puck more,’’ coach Mike Sullivan said after the Penguins’ light skate in their suburban Pittsburgh practice facility on Saturday. “I think when Sid’s line is at its best, they command a lot of puck possession, a lot of offensive zone time. So we can do a better job hanging on to pucks. There are some areas where we think we can help them, strategically, to try to allow them to have more success.’’
One of the things Sullivan will try in an attempt to help Crosby is to alter his line a little bit. At practice Saturday, Sullivan put Dominik Simon, a 24-year-old Czech forward who had eight goals and 20 assists in 71 games in the regular season, on Crosby’s line.
Simon, who scored only two goals in the last 40 games of the regular season, is expected to link up with Crosby and Jake Guentzel for Game 3 in Pittsburgh on Sunday.
“He sees the ice well, he holds on to pucks, he has a good shot,’’ Crosby said of Simon, who replaces Bryan Rust at right wing.
“He’s really ‘stiff’ on the puck and he makes plays,’’ Sullivan said of Simon. “And so, even though he may not score, his line scores. And when his line scores, he’s a part of it. So he’s a guy that’s good in traffic, he’s good in the battle areas, he’s strong on the puck, he’s got a good 200-foot game.’’
The Penguins put 44 shots on goal in their 4-3 overtime loss in Game 1 on Wednesday but were foiled by the stellar goaltending of Robin Lehner. They had 33 shots in their 3-1 loss in Game 2 on Friday but said they believed they played better and generated more scoring chances in Game 2.
“Last game, I thought, was an improvement from Game 1,’’ Crosby said. “I thought [Guentzel] had a couple good looks. He had an opportunity to take the puck to the net a few times. You know, shots on goal are great, but I think that it’s a mindset of taking the puck to the net and taking the shots from there.’’
Said Guentzel, “I still think we can create more, and we know we’ve got to be better. And tomorrow’s got to be our best.’’
Defenseman Kris Letang said the Penguins must cut down on their turnovers.
“They play a man-on-man kind of style in their zone, and it allows you to have a little bit more room to create offensively,’’ he said. “But you have to hold on to the puck a little bit more.’’