Sidney Crosby had one of the worst games of his NHL career on Thursday night against the San Jose Sharks. Zero points. A career-worst minus-5, on a night in which the Sharks won 5-3. One shot on goal amidst four shot attempts.
And this happened, on Patrick Marleau’s shorthanded goal at 5:18 of the third period:
Crosby skated hard and then trailed the play, allowing Evgeni Malkin to attempt to defend Marleau one-on-one and, well, you can see how well that went.
The view from the corner camera was rather incriminating re: Crosby’s effort on the play. Which led to one of the Internet’s burgeoning memes being applied to Sid – the Xbox controller disconnected meme. This one’s by the great Ann Frazier:
It’s hilarious, of course. Just as it was when Alex Ovechkin coasted into the Capitals zone on “defense” against the New York Rangers on this classic GIF:
My first reaction was that this was unfairly maligning Crosby, who by all accounts is a better than average defensive player and is like the love child of Pavel Datsyuk and Patrice Bergeron when compared to Ovechkin.
But beyond that, what was his responsibility on this play? Backcheck Marleau at the risk of a penalty? Be ready to transition to offensive on what could be a 4-on-3 the other way? Stand there and do nothing?
Of course, Ovechkin’s Xbox moment was similar snapshot. But guys like Mike Milbury have made it a hobby to collect these moments and use them as evidence in a larger trend, which is that Ovechkin is atrocious defensively. (Spoiler: He sorta is.)
But what do either of them realy tell us?
They’re both a symptom of a highlight culture in sports media, in which plays are reduced to a few seconds of cathartic offense or blundering defense without context. The rise of GIFs (and for Yahoo iPhone users, “Loops”) has raised this to an art form: a single moment is played, replayed and serves as substantiation for all of us who are too lazy to wait for YouTube.
But if you look at the total play in the NHL.com clip and then the GIF for Crosby … well, the added context is either exonerating (he was coasting in, letting Malkin and the goalie handle it) or damning (he was coasting in, letting Malkin and the goalie handle it?!).
We recently moved to a publishing platform here on Y! Sports that’s going to allow for more GIFs, which is great, because they’re a fascinating way to capture an emotion or convey a point or highlight a play if there’s no long-form video asset available. (Like the Kassian play last night.)
But for the purposes of breaking down a play, they’re as myopic a device as building a story about a single tweet, from a journalistic standpoint.
That said … they’re also funny as [expletive] when the two biggest stars in the NHL both appear to have accidentally shut off their controllers on a defensive play. LONG LIVE THE XBOX MEME!