(WECK 1230) The Pittsburgh Penguins currently sit atop the NHL, and are in the midst of an 11-game winning streak. There is one reason the Pens are the hottest team in the league right now and it wears No. 87 on its back.
Sidney Crosby is the best hockey player on the planet.
The 23 year-old Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia native is firing on all cylinders, and just extended his point streak to 17 games. During this span, he has tallied 20 times, and added 15 more helpers. His production this year speaks for itself, as Crosby has amassed 50 points in 30 games, being held pointless on only four occasions.
Sid the Kid’s offensive production throughout his career is no secret, but he does not get enough credit for other areas of his game. Crosby has turned himself into one of the best face-off men in the game. He takes every meaningful draw for the Penguins, and has easily taken the most face-offs in the league. When he first entered the league as an 18 year-old, the highly touted rookie was placed on the wing. One reason for this position change was his struggles in the face-off circles. Crosby understood that while his skills are world-class, there is always room for improvement, and the only way to get better is to outwork everyone else.
Heading into last season, the defending Stanley Cup Champ could have rested on his laurels, and enjoyed the fruits of his labors, but Sid did not. Crosby decided to work on his shot, and develop yet another part of his game. The result was a 51 goal campaign, and a share of the Rocket Richard Trophy with Steven Stamkos. It is also not a coincidence that Crosby’s shootout percentage went up drastically. In the first four years of his career, he tallied at about a 32% rate, scoring 12 goals in 38 chances. In the last season and two months, Crosby has had 12 more shootout attempts. He lit the lamp on 9 of those opportunities, for a 75 percent success rate. He is now one of the most dangerous scorers one on one.
The “C” is stitched on his sweater for a reason. Crosby has carried his squad to the top. With Evgeni Malkin disappearing on some nights and Jordan Staal yet to play a shift this year, the weight of the Pittsburgh hockey has fallen directly on the shoulders of 87.
Pressure does not faze “The Next One” at all. Crosby was given this nickname before he even played a shift in the NHL. He was drawing comparisons to Wayne Gretzky before he was old enough to drive. Greatness is expected every single time his skates touch the ice. Last year during the Olympics was a prime example of the mental make-up ofCrosby. While Team Canada had a plethora of all-stars, it seemed as if all the pressure was on Crosby. The team was winning, but his name was not showing up on the score sheet as much as expected. He was heavily criticized. Everyone knows how this story ends, but it is just amazing the amount of pressure that has been placed on Sidney Crosby. He is the face of a Canada, the NHL, and the game of hockey. Remarkably, he does not disappoint.
The opposition game-plans every night to stop him, and there is no surprise that the Crosby line is constantly matched up with the top defensive pair teams can throw out there. It makes no difference. With 70 percent of his points coming at even strength, Crosby is not just a PP
specialist. He has raised the level of Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis by leaps and bounds. Kunitz and Dupuis are solid NHLers, but to qualify them as first line talent, would be a pretty big stretch.
Crosby makes everyone around him better, much better.
The 5’11” 200 pound center does not jump off the page as physically overpowering, but the puck protection skills Crosby possesses are second to none. He stops, starts, turns, and controls play in the corners better than anyone in the league. His relentlessness wears defenders out. So while Crosby may not lay bone-chilling body checks on defenders, by the third period, the opposition is gassed because they have been chasing him around the entire game.
It is astounding to think that Sidney has yet to reach the prime of his career. There is no doubt that with his drive and determination, Crosby will continue to get better year after year. While he will never say it, the 2010 NHL Awards burned him up inside. He is a fierce competitor, and always wants to win. Ovechkin took home the Ted Lindsay Award, which is given to the most outstanding player as voted on by the NHLPA, and Henrik Sedin took won the Hart Trophy as league MVP. Sid could not have appreciated being shut out like that. He is on a mission this year, and at the pace he is on, Crosby will take home all the hardware the league has to offer. Love him or hate him, Sidney Crosby is a special talent that should at least be appreciated.