The Crosby show is No 1 in the NHL
Alex Ovechkin remains on the radar. Steven Stamkos rose up earlier this season to stake his claim. The likes of Ryan Miller, Henrik Sedin and Nicklas Lidstrom - and others - all have their supporters, and deservedly so.
But really, can there be any doubt? Sidney Crosby is the greatest hockey player on the planet today. A bit of a slow start injected some uncertainty into the debate early in the season. But given Crosby's otherworldly play of late, there can be no doubt.
The Pittsburgh Penguins centre is the most dominant individual in the NHL. The latest evidence? Look at last week, when Crosby scored two hat-tricks in a three-game stretch, and collected eight goals in four games overall.
Take a step back, and you will see that Crosby is riding a 15-game point streak, the longest in the NHL this season. And he is not eking it out with a pedestrian point-per-game pace.
Crosby has recorded 11 multi-point outings and 31 points altogether in his 15-game run. He has 17 goals in that stretch to take over the league lead from Stamkos (with 23 in 28 games) and he sits atop the NHL with 46 points.
At this pace, Crosby would finish the season with 135 points, which would be the most since Mario Lemieux, the current Penguins team owner, collected 161 points in 1995/96.
And Crosby is doing all of this without a go-to wing man as the hunt for a reliable linemate continues. Evgeni Malkin, a player of considerable (perhaps even comparable) skill, sometimes skates with Crosby, but the Penguins prefer to spread their superstars around in the hopes of generating two scoring lines.
Of course, if Crosby is going to create offence at his current pace, it might not matter what the rest of Pittsburgh's players are doing.
Since recording just one assist in his first three games, Crosby has points in 23 of his past 25 contests.
Not surprisingly, the Penguins have marched along with him, going 17-5-3 after a 1-3-0 start. They are battling for Eastern Conference supremacy with Montreal, Philadelphia and Washington, and the Pens will only improve when Jordan Staal finally returns.
There have been other factors for Pittsburgh's success this season, like Marc-Andre Fleury finding his comfort zone after a rough opening month in goal.
But it is no fluke that Pittsburgh's turnaround has coincided with a dominant run by the captain.
As Crosby goes, so go the Pens -and everything's going great right now, thanks.
Published: December 8, 2010 04:00 AM