(Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.)
In case you didn't hear about it (just kidding, you did), Sidney Crosby had five points against the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night.
This in and of itself is pretty unremarkable even if five assists is something that doesn't come along too often. The last player to do it was Jamie Benn to the pitiful Calgary Flames last season, and before that Crosby did it to the Islanders in March 2013. This was, in fact, the third five-assist game of Crosby's career. But what is remarkable is how infrequently Crosby is doing this kind of thing to lousy teams this year. He's mostly been doing it to good ones.
He has seven multiple-point games this season, five of which added three or more to his total each. Five three-point games out of 12 appearances. And a lot of them have been against legitimately good teams; the Ducks and Predators and Islanders and Devils have all seen him get in on at least two points. Yes, eight of his 24 points through 13 games this year have come in two games against Buffalo (all of them assists) but, a) you have to play who they put in front of you, and b) everyone else gets to play the Sabres too, and no one is doing something like this to them.
So Crosby is sitting on 24 points in 13 games, giving 1.85 points per game, by far the best pace of even his formidable career. His best scoring run in a full season was 1.52 per night in 2006-07, when he put up a league-leading 120. His injury-plagued 2010-11, 11-12, and 12-13 seasons all saw him eclipse that mark, but he played just 99 games between the three, and still racked up 159 points in them (1.61 per night).
It's difficult to imagine that anyone believes he's going to approach two points a game for all 82, but the thing is this: Only 12 players since 1917-18 have ever broken 1.75 points per game (Mike Bossy, Wayne Gretzky, Mari Lemieux, Jari Kurri, and Phil Esposito did it more than once). If Crosby were to keep anywhere near that pace he'd be the first guy to break the mark since 1995-96, when both Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr did so. These are video game numbers, plain and simple. Crosby's already almost a quarter of the way to another 100-point season (it'd be the sixth of his career, and he's reached that mark in any season in which he played 60 or more games), and he's played just 16 percent of the season.
What we are seeing is remarkable, but then the question becomes whether it's also sustainable.
After all, fully half of his points have come on the power play, and the Penguins simply aren't going to keep scoring on 37.5 percent of the man advantages they get. Crosby, in fact, leads the league in 5-on-4 on-ice shooting percentage (23.81), and it should come as no surprise that five of the top eight players in this category are also Penguins. Further, Crosby's career power play shooting percentage is “just” 14.38 percent, so yeah, that number is going to come down precipitously at some point, probably. But it won't be tomorrow, that's for sure, and it's not like the Penguins are never going to score on the power play with that much talent; their man advantage was first in the league last year as well, and it shot 14.3 percent with Crosby on the ice.
But let's say the Penguins' power play does drop off the face of the earth for the next 69 games. Crosby is still going to rack up a silly amount of points; his even-strength points per 60 since 2007-08 is 3.23, and the next-closest player in the league is Evgeni Malkin at 2.66. Which is to say he is head and shoulders above the rest of the crowd. This year, though, it's 3.46, not so far above his career average that you would think he's doing anything all that differently. Meanwhile, the 13 guys ahead of his in 5-on-5 points per 60 are, as you might imagine, all dramatically outplaying their career numbers.
In fact, you might go so far as to say that Crosby has actually been a little unlucky, because his 5-on-5 on-ice shooting percentage is actually right in line with his career average, indicating that perhaps his personal shooting (8.7 percent, which has netted him just four goals of his own at evens, is below his career average) needs to improve a little bit.
He is, however, going to keep getting the chances. His possession numbers this year are the best of his career (57.9 FF%), and as long as he keeps the puck in his offensive zone, which he can like few other players alive, the expected uptick in goals — and additional assists — are going to come. Which doesn't seem very fair.
Given the era in which Crosby plays, the fact that he's scoring this much is almost unheard of. He's dominating the league in ways that only Gretzky did. He's already scoring more points per game than everyone but Gretzky, Lemieux, and Bossy ever. The only borderline contemporary who came anywhere near his 1.41 points per game was Peter Forsberg at 1.25. The only active player in the neighborhood is Malkin, his teammate, at 1.22. When you adjust for the era, Crosby's scoring becomes even more impressive, because he's playing against the best collection of goaltenders ever assembled; his points per game would improve to 1.82.
People seem to get fatigued by all the praise he gets, but I can't understand it. Any dislike of him is facile and childish, with no legitimate basis other than, “He guts my favorite team.”
I will never get sick of seeing Sidney Crosby do amazing things. How could you? Jake Voracek is off to an amazing start this year, but he's going to tail off because he's playing well above his head. I hope all that Crosby backlash last playoffs about, “Jonathan Toews/Drew Doughty/(fill in the blank) is the best player in the world,” is what's behind all this, because him going on a season-long eff-you campaign would bring me so much joy.
He's one of the great players of all-time, and seeing him be great — for any reason, really — is a true pleasure.
Obviously barring some sort of injury, when the dust settles in April, there's going to be one guy leading the league in scoring and it's almost certainly going to be Crosby, a mile ahead of the rest.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: Ryan Kesler said he left Vancouver because “it was time.” Let's just say the trade offer moved him... to a better team.
Arizona Coyotes: Can Mike Smith keep playing unbelievable hockey all season? His contract says yes, but his career numbers say no.
Boston Bruins: Can Milan Lucic really carry the water on the first line without David Krejci? Do you know who he is?
Buffalo Sabres: Only 66 more of these, guys. There's a light at the end of the tunnel. Except it's a goal light and Pittsburgh just scored again. Shots in this game were 39-21. Come on.
Calgary Flames: It's not often you see a defenseman get a shorthanded goal, as Mark Giordano did here as part of a 1-2-3 night, but when you give a team three chances on a rush like this, someone's going to put it in the net.
Carolina Hurricanes: The Hurricanes sure are going to overtime a lot lately. That's not how you tank properly, guys.
Chicago Blackhawks: Well yeah, he's a hawk.
Colorado Avalanche: Danny Briere isn't getting a lot of playing time in Colorado? Well, at least PA Parenteau doesn't have great possession numbers in Mon... oh, right.
Columbus Blue Jackets: A players-only meeting? On Nov. 8? What a season in Columbus. They really shouldn't be this bad.
Dallas Stars: “Do the Dallas Stars have an emotional hangover.” Tyler Seguin: “Yeah... emotional. That's the ticket.”
Detroit Red Wings: When Niklas Kronwall retires, he's going to have a very nice billiards career.
Edmonton Oilers: Leon Draisaitl might still get sent back down to junior. Why keep him up then? Why?
Florida Panthers: The Panthers have dropped three in a row, and somehow people seem surprised by this? Three third-period goals from Calgary will do that.
Los Angeles Kings: The Kings only dressed five defensemen on Saturday night because Robyn Regehr was hurt, and the team was $50 short on the cap space needed for any call-up at all. Hell, I have $50.
Minnesota Wild: Even after the Wild's surprisingly hot start, Mike Yeo came out swinging after the team's second loss in a row the other day. Then they dropped their third straight, and they've been outscored 11-2 in those.
Montreal Canadiens: In honor of Guy Lapointe's famous No. 5, that is the number of hours Saturday's pregame ceremony took. Can't wait til they send PK Subban's sweater to the rafters.
Nashville Predators, America's Favorite Hockey Team: Pekka Rinne really is having a quietly fantastic season for the Preds.
New Jersey Devils: Oh wouldn't this be a nice little boost for the Devils' offense?
New York Islanders: Haha look how hard Kyle Clifford targeted Johnny Boychuk's knee. Good lord.
New York Rangers: The Rangers are apparently plagued by bad officiating. Which always seems to happen to mediocre teams that think they're better than they are. Weird how that works out.
Ottawa Senators: 1) Why is Chris Neil on the power play? 2) How did he score on it? 3) Why is the goal this nice?
Philadelphia Flyers: Pretty easy to have your offense “come alive” against the Reto Berra-backed Avs.
Pittsburgh Penguins: No surprise that Crosby scoring like Mario in his prime also leads to the Pens winning seven straight.
San Jose Sharks: Alex Stalock continues to play out of his mind for San Jose. They really might cut bait on Antti Niemi after all. So weird.
St. Louis Blues: The Blues didn't play particularly fast, apparently, on Saturday. Of all the words you'd use to describe them, isn't “slow” kind of among them?
Tampa Bay Lightning: Don't the Bolts always do well in attendance? What's the big deal all of a sudden, Gary?
Toronto Maple Leafs: Now the Leo Komarov contract is totally worth it!
Vancouver Canucks: Whatever makes you feel better, Vancouver fans.
Washington Capitals: No, sorry. Eric Fehr is actually still pretty bad. Doing well against Carolina doesn't mean you're good.
Winnipeg Jets: Wherein “compete level” is equivalent to “unsustainable on-ice save percentage.”
Play of the Weekend
In my opinion this Seguin kid is good.
Gold Star Award
I love the idea of the cap not going up next year. It's great. Makes me laugh pretty hard. That Fleury contract looks even better!
Minus of the Weekend
The Devils told Mike Cammalleri not to disclose to the media whether his recent injury was a concussion. Which obviously says it's a concussion but jeez, what year is this? The league takes this stuff so seriously you can 100 percent tell.
Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week
User “habitants9_4” might be a Canadiens fan???
Beaulieu and Tinordi
Meet me at the picnic table in 10 seconds and I'll explain it all.