NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins
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Pittsburgh Penstravaganza!

Without Sidney Crosby, can the Penguins beat the Capitals? Win the Stanley Cup? A Q&A with Dave Lozo

Dave Lozo asks (himself) tough questions about the Pens advancing without their captain.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Sidney Crosby has a concussion. This is bad. In every way imaginable. There’s no telling what this could mean for the rest of Crosby’s career and beyond, but it’s already obvious what this could mean for the Penguins’ chances of getting out of the second round, never mind winning the Stanley Cup.

On Tuesday, the Penguins announced Crosby was out for tonight’s game and will be re-evaluated after Game 4 to see if he is available for the rest of the series. This is the same team that, after Monday’s game, wouldn’t even disclose if Crosby’s injury was to his head or his knee.

If we assume Crosby is done for at least the final four games against the Capitals, are the Penguins, who hold a 2-1 series lead heading into tonight’s crucial Game 4, doomed to lose? After all, they are already without Kris Letang, Matt Murray and Conor Sheary, who also got a concussion in Game 3.

Just how screwed are the Penguins? I sat down and once again talked to myself about what not having Crosby will do to the team’s chances of repeating.

Q. Can we have Tom Sestito kill Alex Ovechkin?

A. That’s probably not the right way to—

Q. I don’t care. Can we do that?

A. There’s no way, despite what you read, that Ovechkin and Matt Niskanen intended to—

Q. Look, I don’t care. Can we do that?

A. He didn’t get called up. It’s not happening.

Q. Oh, you meant on the ice in Game 4? I meant, just like, on the street outside the arena. And I meant it literally. Can we do that?

A. Someone please alert the Pittsburgh police.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Q. Fine, fine. If you’re going to rat, forget about it.

Are we done? Does having a 2-1 series lead even matter if Crosby doesn’t come back?

A. You’re asking the guy who said “Caps in 5” when it probably would have been “Pens in 5” or “Pens in 4” if Crosby didn’t get concussed, so what do I know? The Penguins rolled the Blue Jackets in five games without Letang and Murray and were up 2-0 in this series without those same key guys, so what’s one more devastating loss to the lineup?

Q. Am I wrong, or did you just dodge the question?

A. For someone inquiring about murder a second ago, you sure are perceptive. Yes, there’s a very good a chance that when Crosby went down Monday, so did the Penguins’ chances to repeat as champions.

Q. You’re telling me we can’t win two of four against the Capitals without Crosby? We almost won Game 3 without him.

A. You’re a “we” fan, huh?

Q. I already let you know I was OK with murder, so do you really want to make fun of my use of a pronoun?

A. As I was saying, yeah, this is hockey. You can take two out of four without Crosby. But you need a lot of things to go your way over these next few games to pull this off.

Q. Like what?

A. You know how Marc-Andre Fleury has been standing on his head for three games?

Q. I do!

A. That can’t stop in even the slightest way. The Capitals have been pretty much running things at 5-on-5 and that was before Crosby went down, so that’s likely to only get worse for the Penguins. That means more pucks toward Fleury, which means he may actually need to be better. That’s almost unfair to ask of someone with a .933 save percentage in the playoffs after they had a .909 save percentage in the regular season.

Q. Who else can do more?

A. Let me just skim the lineup. Let’s see. Malkin, no … Kessel … Guenztel … Hornqvist … geez, not too many Penguins forwards have underperformed in the playoffs, huh? I guess Sheary, but he won’t be in the lineup. Kunitz? Can you really expect more from Chris Kunitz?

Q. Are you telling me the Penguins’ hopes will come down to how much the Penguins get out of Fleury and Kunitz?

A. Sort of.

Q. So should I just jump off a bridge now or…

A. Look, hockey is a ridiculous sport. How often do you hear about teams lamenting how they outplayed a bad team and lost? How the other team had all the puck luck and that’s why they won? The Penguins could be that bad team that catches all the breaks!

Q. What about the Capitals choking?

A. Oh yeah, good point. That’s always an option. That never goes away.

Q. Thanks. That’s all you needed to say.

A. Happy to help. Good luck and, please, do not—

Q. I know, I know. No murders.

A. Thank you.