While the injuries continue to pile up for the Pittsburgh Penguins, captain Sidney Crosby has an outstanding opportunity to boost his Hart trophy nomination.
Already leading the league in scoring (47 points), Crosby’s presence in the lineup is more valuable than ever right now. Playing without their top-4 defensemen, Evgeni Malkin, and James Neal, Crosby is the man.
Essentially working with an all American Hockey League (AHL) lineup, albeit he still has Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz on his line, the ability to produce is slightly hindered. Now, this is still Sidney Crosby were talking about here – best player in the universe, all-world talent, can’t be stopped, Sidney Crosby. However, the pressure to score is higher now given all the injuries.
The amount of ice-time he’s going to receive will be greater, and it’ll be interesting to see if he can handle the immense workload. This is still hockey, players get tired and no one is immune to that. He already got a taste of how much work he’s going to endure last night, when he compiled a total of 22:07 minutes of ice-time.
Of course, getting power play chances will undoubtedly increase his time on the ice, but head coach Dan Bylsma also does a fine job in evening out the shift changes. No matter who’s in his lineup, he recognizes the importance of keeping his players fresh. Which is why Crosby shouldn’t have to worry about getting too overworked.
With hardly any prolific scoring talents active for Pittsburgh, Crosby has to get more creative than he usually is. And because he’s shouldering the load for the Pens, who have won nine of their last 10 contests, his bid for another Hart trophy is at its strongest right now. Not only his success, but how well he makes his teammates’ better, there isn’t anybody who contributes more for their club.
Besides performing at a high-level when Crosby went down with his infamous concussion/vertebrae break, Malkin was able to capture the Hart because of how he carried the team. Given more responsibility and seizing it, Malkin was in a similar position that Crosby is in right now. And perhaps Crosby is in an even tougher situation.
Playing in every game so far this season (35), Crosby ranks third in the league for assists (28), fourth in goals (19), and sixth in game-winning goals (4). He’s scored a point in 28 of 35 games, been honored three times in the NHL’s ‘Three Stars’ award series, and is currently riding a seven-game point streak (6G, 5A). So to say he hasn’t already given a strong pitch for the Hart would be an understatement.
But if the committee wants to judge Crosby on where he was at his finest and most valuable, given the amount of inexperience in the lineup, it’d be without question this part of the season.