Sidney Crosby: So Far Soooooo Good

A less-than-amazing shot by yours truly.

It is common knowledge that when healthy, Sidney Crosby is one of (if not the best) hockey players in the world. And just to remind you why this is common knowledge, let’s take a quick look at what Sid has done so far after his second return this season.

Tonight marks the fifth game back for Sidney Crosby after he suffered a neck/head injury in only his eighth game this season. Since his comeback against the New York Rangers on March 15 in Madison Square Garden Sid has been nothing short of extraordinary, as usual. In the four games back, he has notched nine assists, is a plus-7 and has won 50.7 percent of his face offs. Sure, the goal scoring hasn’t been where he would like it to be, but there is no doubt that will come. If you look at the chances he has had to score goals so far, he has been absolutely robbed.

But let’s focus on the assists right now.

Sid has become a specialist in distributing the puck. He is a pass-first player right now, and with the guns he has around him, no one is complaining. On the power play, he has mostly played the point, but Dan Bylsma allows his PP to rotate around the offensive zone so there is constant movement, so it’s not uncommon for Sid to end up next to the net, on the half wall or in the slot. Regardless of where Crosby ends up, he is always finding a passing lane to the player that has the best position for a shot on goal. Much of the time, Crosby will take a quick look and then play the puck blindly to one of his teammates, to the dismay and astonishment of the penalty killers around him. Two such plays were in New Jersey and in the last game against Winnipeg.

You can see that even after losing his footing and getting pounded from behind by a defender, Sid is cool as a cucumber and sends the puck the width of the ice to Geno, who no one but Sid knew was there.

http://video.penguins.nhl.com/videocenter/console?hlg=20112012,2,1090

In the above link, there are a few things to note. Check out how quickly Sid acquires the puck with his head up and finds a teammate instantly for a quick shot on net. This happened twice with Tyler Kennedy when Sid was below the goal line, a la Wayne Gretzky. In a different situation, Sid finds Evgeni Malkin to his right on a 6-on-5 delayed penalty situation. Crosby has a clear shot to the net, but he knows there is a howitzer a few feet away from him at a different angle to the goaltender. The goalie was square to Crosby when he gets the puck, so Sid changes the angle to a different teammate. It is brilliant, unselfish hockey.

Speaking of Tyler Kennedy, let’s address the line that Crosby is on during 5-on-5 play. It is a nontraditional third line of Matt Cooke, Sidney Crosby and Tyler Kennedy. In the four games that Sid has been back, his line-mates have been filling the net. Cooke has four goals since Crosby’s return and Kennedy has two. Before Crosby’s return, Cooke had gone eight games without a goal, then notched four in his next four. Kennedy had gone 18 games without a goal before burying two in one night. These two players were in the right position and regardless of where Crosby was, he put the puck on their tape with precision.

Even though Crosby has played only 12 games this season, he is averaging 1.75 points per game. That puts him on pace to score 38 points this season (and believe me, those won’t all be assists). And one most fun to examine is where Sid ranks in assists this season. He has 19 and ranks 217th in the NHL. But that is still better than 655 other NHL players right now. This counts players that may have played even fewer games than Sid, but still, interesting to note.

Once again, it’s the status quo in Pittsburgh for Sidney Crosby and in a word it simply means: Greatness.

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About Pete Dombrosky
Pete is a graduate of Penn State University and a life-long Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates fan. He covered men's hockey, golf, tennis, swimming and the enterprise beat as a reporter at the Daily Collegian, Penn State's award-winning, independent student-operated paper. He currently serves as the Assistant Managing Editor for Thrillist Media Group (www.thrillist.com).

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