Starting Lineups: Sidney Crosby And Evgeni Malkin Provide A Preview Of Sochi


The Sochi Olympics Men's Hockey Tournament might as well have taken place Wednesday night. In goal for the Buffalo Sabres stood Ryan Miller, hero of the 2010 games who led the United States to a somewhat surprising silver medal. He may reprise that role when the tournament starts next week.

The Pittsburgh Penguins, on the other side, have the two best players from the two best teams entering the Black Sea resort city. Evgeni Malkin has surpassed Alexander Ovechkin and the aging, oft-injured Pavel Datsyuk as Russia's most complete player. His combination of size, speed and skill puts him on the level of historical greats Mario Lemieux, his boss in Pittsburgh, and Jean Beliveau. Malkin weaves through opponents with remarkable ease like a hummer through gridlock. As he goes, Russia will go. Mark my words.

And then there is Sidney Crosby, who is leaps and bounds the best player in the NHL. He is the Penguins' best player. He is Canada's best player. He is the world's best player. Reminder: This is a Flyers fan speaking here. Crosby's greatness can't be ignored. People wonder how guys like Pascal Dupuis, Chris Kunitz, Matt Niskanen, James Neal, etc., have suddenly developed into world beaters during their time with Pittsburgh. It's not just playing with Crosby. It's practicing with him. If you're on the ice every day with the world's best, you're sure to improve. Crosby passes the puck harder and with more purpose. He beats defensemen with moves they haven't seen before, and because of that the simple move is the one they least expect. If you make a defenseman think during a one-on-one you ruin him.

Case in point: Wednesday night. Malkin did what Malkin does, Crosby did what Crosby does and Miller tried in vain to stop them both. This feels like a Canada vs. Russia tournament. I can't wait.

Your Thursday links:

Steven Stamkos ruled out for Sochi Olympics - The Globe and Mail

The Top Ten Left-Handed Pitchers In Baseball Today - Cheap.Seats.Please.

Baseball's Secret Pioneer - Slate

In Which Ice-T Attempts To Explain ‘Dungeons And Dragons’ -- Gamma Squad

Reminding Me of Yusuf: Kanye's "Family Business" 10 Years Later - Ebony

The passing of Kieth Allen: A fond farewell to "Kieth the Thief" - Hockey Buzz

A Skate Shop Just Owned Non-Skaters Who Want the Nike SB "Tiffany" Hi Dunks - Complex

Minnesota's Olympic Hockey Cradle - New York Times

The 10 Best NHL Olympians - Grantland

James Harden settles in as a star - TrueHoop

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