Rozner: NHL wants you rooting for Penguins' Sidney Crosby
The Nashville Predators were only seconds away from killing off a 5-on-3 in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.
It was late in the first period and the Preds had already seen a goal taken off the board by a ridiculous video review of an offside call.
That was a bad look for NHL.
It got worse when the Penguins scored on the 5-on-3, just after Sidney Crosby got away with a blatant interference -- or some might say an elbow -- behind Nashville's net.
Of course, the NHL defended the Crosby play, as it does every Crosby play, and the national NHL media immediately agreed.
Sidney Crosby can do no wrong. Ever.
It's hockey blasphemy for a fan to say anything bad about the league's reigning superstar, and it's certainly unacceptable for anyone commenting about the game to question Crosby's character, style or, well, anything for that matter.
Can't be done.
Except, it should be. Crosby is a dirty player, he's a diver and he's a whiner.
He's also supremely talented and a certain Hall of Famer. The Pens are back in the Final because of him.
His ability puts him among the best of all time, but the way he behaves is unbecoming of someone considered a top 20 player all time. By the time he's done, he might be top 10.
Yet, some of us think of Crosby and think of the unpleasant.
He's always been the embellishing type, and Jonathan Toews was none too pleased when Crosby was flopping around on the ice like a fish during the game at Soldier Field in 2014. It was an international showcase for the game and Toews did not appreciate Crosby's antics.
Toews mocked him, asking -- in so many words -- what are you doing to our sport when so many people are watching?
"That's weak," Toews yelled at Crosby. "Stay on your feet!"
You can Google Sidney Crosby's top dives.
You can Google his whiniest moments.
You can Google his dirtiest plays.
You can even Google his infamous sticks to the groin.
Last March, in the span of a week, Crosby took the fingertip off Ottawa's Marc Methot with a slash, and hacked Buffalo's Ryan O'Reilly in the cup from behind.
This is a man with some of the most brilliant hand-eye in the history of the game, and he appeared to know exactly where he was trying to catch Methot.
He did. The bloody video is not great for the game.
As for O'Reilly, and at the risk of sounding graphic, a stick from behind can reach some sensitive spots that might not be entirely protected as a cup shifts around during a game.
No joke. It was very dangerous.
But, as usual, both plays got a firm defense from his public relations firm, also known as the national hockey media, who get paid to cover the game and apparently have a vested interest in promoting Crosby and the NHL.
Of course, the NHL did not suspend Crosby a single game for either infraction, while Methot missed three weeks.
The NHL did not investigate the Methot slash. Actually came out and said they would not. Why would they, right? Crosby is their poster boy.
"We all know who he is. The guy is just a whiner beyond belief," Senators owner Eugene Melnyk told TSN 1200 radio in Ottawa. "You do this kind of stuff … I don't care if you're the No. 1 player in the league. You need to sit out a long time for this kind of (play)."
O'Reilly was not nearly as angry, especially after Crosby apologized.
"I'm watching the puck and next thing I remember is getting a stick right to the crotch," O'Reilly told the Buffalo media. "I got up slowly and turned around. I was trying to see who it was.
"And then off the faceoff he comes up and says 'Yeah, sorry about that. I was going for your stick.' I was like 'Ah, it happens, I guess.' It would have been nice to have a penalty."
Going for your stick? Who in the name of Dino Ciccarelli believes that? No one, if you watch the video.
But Crosby never deserves a suspension. You know this because headline after headline says so.
And now he's back in the Final and trying to lead the Penguins to the first NHL repeat in 20 years.
It should be something to celebrate. If you don't feel the need, rest assured you are not alone.
• Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.