PITTSBURGH — No matter how many times many different Rangers have insisted that this series against the Penguins isn’t all about Sidney Crosby, the focus of the first five games was, in fact, primarily on Sidney Crosby.
But if the Blueshirts doth protest too much, it was understandable. For Crosby and linemates Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust spent the first four-plus matches of this first-round playoff matchup chewing up and spitting out the Rangers’ power matchup unit, centered by Mika Zibanejad.
Until, that is, Crosby absorbed that hit from Jacob Trouba midway through the second period of Game 5 that both forced him out of the remainder of that contest and keeps him sidelined Friday night for the potential elimination Game 6 for the Blueshirts.
Crosby, of course, has a history of concussions, so it is unclear whether the Pittsburgh captain — who had been playing some of the most compelling, dominating playoff hockey of his career — would be in the position to pull a Willis Reed if the Rangers were able to send the series back to the Garden for a Game 7 on Sunday.
But first things first. The Blueshirts need to take advantage of Crosby’s absence Friday just as they did Wednesday, when they immediately struck for three goals within 3:36 after No. 87 left the ice to overcome a 2-0 deficit before extending the series with a 5-3 victory.
In theory, Crosby’s absence should have…