Pittsburgh Penguins F Phil Kessel Steps up in Sidney Crosby's Absence

Pittsburgh Penguins F Phil Kessel has stepped up in a big way to fill the shoes of captain Sidney Crosby, currently sidelined with a concussion.  He has two goals in four games to start the new season.

Pittsburgh Penguins F Phil Kessel leads a group of several players who have stepped up to replace captain Sidney Crosby, who is currently recovering from a concussion.

Kessel‘s strong performance for the Penguins from last season has not faded. Without Crosby, it has been even more important that Kessel keeps up his performance.

Captain Still Sidelined
Jun 12, 2016; San Jose, CA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) holds the Stanley Cup after defeating the San Jose Sharks in game six of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Sidney Crosby (87) holds the Stanley Cup after defeating the San Jose Sharks in game six of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Crosby, the most recent captain to hold the Stanley Cup, is still sidelined indefinitely with a concussion.

This is Crosby’s first in three years and given his history with concussions, the captain wants to be smart about his recovery and eventual return.

Earlier this week Crosby skated alone at practice and has joined his team only wearing a yellow no-contact jersey.

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan has stated that Crosby will have to complete at least one full practice before returning. He is supportive of Crosby’s desire to take his time and stay cautious.

Phil Kessel Stands Up

The Penguins are just four games into the season and so far Kessel has made sure he made a positive impression on each one.

Kessel has two goals in four games this season. His first goal of the season was the game-winning goal in the Pens victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Oct. 15 and his second was the first of the game against the Colorado Avalanche on Oct.17.

Despite the Penguins’ loss to the Avalanche in overtime, Kessel’s strong play was still prominent. He and his team, including F Matt Cullen and alternate captain F Evgeni Malkin, have been able to make up for their captain’s absence.

When Kessel didn’t score in regulation during the season opener against the Washington Capitals, he was able to grab the shootout goal that gave the Penguins the win. Though the move might seem small in nature it gave the Pens a season-opening win against the former President Trophy winner.

Kessel’s on-ice play has been a beneficial asset for the Penguins since he joined the team last season. The forward, who helped his team bring home the Stanley Cup, has become a vital part of the Penguins’ offense.

His good play, even early in the season, is indicative of the continuing impact he will have on the team this season. Kessel and his team are proving they can keep their play high even without their captain.

Going Forward

Kessel has always been a player who can score with a gift for playmaking. Kessel racked up 26 goals and 33 assists in his first regular season with the Penguins; he collected 10 goals and 12 assists in the team’s path to the Stanley Cup.

Last season, Kessel ranked third on the team in terms of scoring  behind the team-leader Crosby (32 G) and Malkin (27 G).

Kessel’s good play so far is reflecting the play he’ll give the Penguins this season. The Penguins’ strong offensive abilities have made the team so solid and Kessel has been a big part of this.

While Kessel’s high level of play won’t fill the gap Crosby’s absence has left on the team, he can help the team stay ahead until their captain is healthy again.

Until Crosby returns Penguins fans can feel comfortable knowing that players like Kessel will be keeping the Pens scoring, and winning.

The Penguins’ next matchup is Thursday, Oct.20 against the San Jose Sharks at PPG Paints Arena. This will be the Penguins first matchup of the season against their former Stanley Cup Finals opponent.

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