While listening to the Penguins Hotline podcast from last night's 4-3 home loss to the Buffalo Sabres, I couldn't believe my ears. On the recording of the Penguins Radio Network's postgame call-in show, provided through the Pittsburgh Penguins' official Web site (penguins.nhl.com), host Bob Grove was lamenting the fact that Sidney Crosby had just set a career high for ice time in a regular season game with 27 minutes and 34 seconds.
First of all, more than 10 of those minutes came on the power play, a fact that Grove eventually mentioned. The Pens were given eight chances with the man advantage, including three separate 5-on-3s, and if I'm Michel Therrien, I want my best player on the ice for just about all of my team's time with a two-man advantage. Even though the Pens were only able to generate one goal on the power play, I find no fault with how MT allocated his players' ice time. (Hidden in all this discussion is that Evgeni Malkin was on the ice for 25:54, 11:17 of which was on the PP.)
Secondly, and most importantly, my main gripe with Therrien's coaching of Sid during his first three years in the league was that he wasn't getting enough playing time. There was many a game in Crosby's career in which I found myself wondering why a strong young man in obviously fantastic cardiovascular condition was skating for fewer than 20 minutes a game. Now that MT has finally decided to take the shackles off of 87 (and Geno as well), I find it ironic that I'm hearing complaints about the best talent in the National Hockey League playing "excessive" minutes.
Crosby is 21 and Malkin is 22. Both still have a few years to go before they reach their respective physical peaks as males. Trust me, they can handle a couple more minutes a game, especially while fellows like Miroslav Satan and Petr Sykora continue to have trouble finding the back of the net. After a nine-win November, the Penguins are now 1-2-1 this month. Certainly, improvements and changes can and will be made. Just don't nitpick about supposedly too much ice time for two of the best players in the world.