The notion is pretty tried and true. If Sidney Crosby is healthy, he’s going to win some sort of NHL scoring race.
In his five full seasons, he has either won the Art Ross Trophy (2006-07 and 2013-14) or the Maurice ‘Rocket’ Richard trophy (09-10 tied with Steven Stamkos).
Before the season, Bovada listed Crosby as a 1/1 shot to win the NHL’s scoring race. Seriously… wow. Those are really good odds!
Only one of us, in our season preview, picked someone other than Crosby to win the scoring title. That would be Jen Neale who picked … Tyler Seguin.
But Crosby is currently in the worst goal-scoring slump of his career, and players are passing him in the scoring race. Injuries have certainly played a role -- the Penguins are currently without Crosby linemates Patric Hornqvist (out since Dec. 4) and Chris Kunitz (out since Nov. 29). Also, team glue guy and forward favorite Pascal Dupuis is out, maybe for his career, with a blood clot.
From a Crosby standpoint, is this really a cause for concern? After all, Pittsburgh still leads the Metropolitan Division with 39 points. He's the type of guy who seems to care more about winning than numbers. But these injury issues it has certainly thrown a wrench into the chase for the Art Ross Trophy.
On a sidenote -- normally it's Crosby's injuries that hurt his chances, not his teammate's health problems; again, the "when he's healthy" part of picking him to win the scoring title.
Tyler Seguin’s one point Tuesday gave him 36 on the season, one more than Crosby’s 35. Jakub Voracek notched one assist to give him 34 points on the season.
Seguin has played one more game. Crosby hasn’t scored a goal in seven straight games and won't play again until Friday against Calgary.
Along with the injuries, has his play dropped off?
There are even a few questioning whether Crosby is the best player on his own team at this very moment. Then again, it’s not like Evgeni Malkin – another former MVP and Art Ross Trophy winner is chopped liver.
Said Sunday's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, one day before Crosby's one-assist effort against the New York Rangers:
Sidney Crosby, frustrated with his goal drought, recently stayed on the ice for 45 minutes after practice.
Evgeni Malkin was the first player off the ice after that practice.
There's nothing wrong with his game.
With Crosby in a career-worst goal funk and the Penguins ravaged by injuries to key contributors, Malkin is carrying his team.
Is this is something to really worry about? Crosby taking extra Emo practice time doesn’t sound great.
The answer is probably no, there’s nothing that’s a major problem.
As the article notes, Crosby isn’t playing “poorly” and Malkin has been “dominant” since November.
If anything, Malkin’s presence enables Crosby to work out of his funk with less pressure. Also, when the Penguins bevvy of injured players return, per Daily Faceoff, Crosby’s wingers in his last game was Nick Spaling and Steve Downie, his production should increase.
Injuries happen to all teams, and not even the best player in the league can overcome his lack of offensive skill on his line.
Note, he's still a solid puck possession player -- his Corsi For % relative in 5-on-5 has been postitive in three of four games since Kunitz's injury according to naturalstattrick.com. He's still overall at 7.34 on the season in 5-on-5 according to the site.
But special teams have been a weapon for the Burgh and Crosby this year, and it also hasn't helped that the Penguins' once-mighty power play has gone ice cold. Pittsburgh is 2-for-17 with the man-advantage over the last seven games. Pittsburgh started the year with PP goals in 10 of their first 13 games.
Four of Crosby's nine goals on the season have come with the man-advantage -- that's about 44 percent. Even in his 51-goal year, just 25 percent of Crosby's goals came on the power play.
Per NHL.com, Crosby didn’t blame injuries, nor did he throw his linemates under the bus. He did the most polite, Crosby-like thing in taking the blame himself.
"You still want to score," he said. "You look at the chances. It's more frustrating when the chances aren't there, and there have been times where the chances haven't been there. That's frustrating. When you're getting them, you believe and you trust that they're going to go in."
Plus, with so many forwards hurt, should the Penguins improvise a little more by activating their defense queries Pensburgh:
Pittsburgh is going to have to scrape up new ways to score with all those top forwards hurt and with the team's sudden and chin-scratching lack of power plays of late. (No really, their average number of power plays per game has been cut in half since the middle of November.)
If that means leaning on the defense to drum up goals, whether through an increased presence on the makeshift top power play or simply taking more shots at five-on-five, so be it.
On top of the lack of power plays hurting Crosby's production this season, Kris Letang has been out since Nov. 28. Regardless of whether he's a forward, his offense from the blueline is also important to Pittsburgh's success.
Does this mean that it’s possible someone other than Crosby could win the scoring title? Who knows … when Crosby at the top of his game, only Malkin can really match his overall point production. Plus we still have a lot of time left in the year.
But something that seemed so impossible at the start of the year, is still not probable, but could happen. Then again Crosby could have five points in his Friday game against Calgary … which also could very much indeed happen.
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