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Basking in the glow of sick backhand passes

Sidney Crosby gave a great example last night, so now an excuse to talk about a Jaromir Jagr/Mario Lemieux goal from 2001

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Sidney Crosby added another moment for the ages on Saturday night when he made a slick third period spinning backhand pass to Jake Guentzel to setup a goal. It was a typical Crosby play, one he has made so many times before with the vision, touch and perfect setup to create a slick highlight.

Some of the elements reminded me of the pass Jaromir Jagr made to Mario Lemieux back in the 2001 playoffs. Just as a warning now, this could also just be an excuse to bring this highlight back and fun memory (it happened Game 1 against Buffalo on my birthday and is my favorite Penguin game birthday related moment).

Some aspects of the two plays were different, as two different hockey plays always are. Jagr didn’t have to be as precise as Crosby, he just made an area pass off the wall for Lemieux to skate into the puck, the real genius of the Jagr move was drawing in the defenders and beating them. Whereas down by the net Crosby had to be a lot more refined in his pass and the actual pass itself was the impressive part.

On the other side of the coin, Guentzel only had to keep his stick on the ice to steer the puck in for an easy on. The old goal was anything but, Lemieux still had to a lot to do on his own to finish the play with the always hilarious slap-shot breakaway goal (on no less than Dominik Hasek!) Always some gives and takes but certainly two of the more memorable highlight reels goals in Penguin history as far as the level of player involved and the appealing nature of the high-level skill being showcased.

As an unrelated sidebar, it’s hard to believe we’re only a few weeks away from the Jagr jersey retirement game. That’s been such a long time in the making for the player and organization to come back together once and for all but a moment that never felt like it would actually happen. A part of me still thinks Jagr is going to flake at the last moment or something will come up to prevent it, out of going on 25 years of starts and stops and close calls. It’s really going to happen though, with an all weekend event coming up here soon that will begin with a dinner and talk at the casino on the Friday before the game. (The jokes write themselves). I’ll write one too — no word if Phil Kessel will go unnoticed at the event playing hands of poker in the corner just waiting for the call back to the NHL.

Anyways, nostalgia and the past is a hot ticket for the Penguins right now. They are in a tough spot otherwise now that the Crosby/Evgeni Malkin era is approaching the Lemieux/Jagr days of soon enough being over. (The current old guys probably still do have a few years left, so enjoy ‘em while you can). The Pens are no longer true championship contenders, but they’re not in a hurry to tear down their team. They’ve given out plenty of contracts with no movement clauses, brought in free agents and made big trades lately in the effort to compete — but haven’t been able to win as many games this season as they surely would have hoped and expected.

With all that frustration building up, sometimes the outlet can be to scream and yell and rush into the next phase of things. If this team isn’t a threat to win, the natural next step is to move on and rush to a rebuild in a hurry (never mind the facts and contractual nature that makes such a move about impossible in the current day). That line of thinking would miss out on the above Crosby highlight if there was no Guentzel to pass the puck to, and closes the door for more special moments in the future. This line of thinking is surely more than a little zen, but it’s ok to relax and take the late-stage Crosby/Malkin days as they come. There could still be some good moments yet ahead.

Players like Crosby and Jagr only come around every once in a while, and there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the moments they provide before it all just turns into memories.