The Best In The World
People don’t generally point towards the 1989-1990 Penguins as a hallmark of the glory years the franchise would enjoy throughout the next 11 years.
Mario Lemieux only played 59 games in the regular season and the year suddenly deteriorated with a 2-10-3 stretch that started in the beginning of March. The streak landed the Penguins 5th in the Patrick Division just one year removed from a brutal loss to the Flyers in Lemieux’s post-season debut in the National Hockey League.
But 1989 did bring something special. A run that, at the time, seemed like it’d be just another one of those Mario Lemieux moments that would sit in the annals of franchise history, untouched by future generations of players.
Mario Lemieux put up a 46 game scoring streak in which he amassed 39 goals, 64 assists and 103 points. For those playing along at home, that streak is only 13 games short of the total amount of games Lemieux appeared in that season.
As the NHL grew and changed, those big time streaks became less and less of a commonality. Mats Sundin pulled off a 30 game run in 1992-1993, but the days of the big time goals and point scorers came to a close.
There was no reason to believe that Lemieux’s run of 46 would ever be broken.
Enter: Sidney Crosby.
Coming off of a 51 goal and 109 point campaign 2009-2010, Sidney Crosby began a systematic assault on the National Hockey League the following season, making everyone rethink those streaks hidden away in the rubble of the old Civic Arena.
Crosby may not have surpassed Lemieux’s record, or even Sundin’s for that matter, but he had the entire world watching as he went on a tear that brought fans across the league on a 26 game point streak that would launch Crosby light years above his competition in the NHL scoring race.
It was a record for the modern era.
The final tally was 26 goals, 24 assists, 50 points and a +21 rating.
The 2011 NHL Winter Classic came and went, and with it came a deafening silence that took talks of scoring streaks and dominant performances and replaced them with discussions about soft neck tissues and “what-ifs?”
Crosby would return for the stretch run of the following season, but we all saw that something was just missing. Crosby was there, his amazing vision and creativity remained, but it just wasn’t the same. There was some kind of rust around his game.
Now, on this Monday evening in March coming off of a routine-looking 5 point performance against the New York Islanders, we find ourselves talking about that same Sidney Crosby that tore the NHL to shreds leading up to that rainy January day in Pittsburgh.
Take the following into consideration:
- Sidney Crosby has as many points as Alex Ovechkin and Claude Giroux combined.
- Since the end of January, Sidney Crosby has 38 points in 19 games. A 2.0 points per game average, to be exact.
- There are only three players in the NHL that have as many points as Crosby has assists. One of them is his linemate, Chris Kunitz, the other two are Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis.
- Crosby is averaging 4.57 points per 60 minutes of play.
- Crosby is averaging 2.44 first assists per 60 minutes of play. The beneficiary of which have been Chris Kunitz, on pace to completely obliterate his career high in goals in a 48 game truncated season.
- Crosby has an 8 point cushion in the NHL scoring race over Steven Stamkos and has 9 less goals than Stamkos does.
- The Kunitz – Crosby – Dupuis line has registered 24 goals as an even strength unit, that leads the NHL and is 5 better than the Vanek unit in Buffalo.
Crosby has completed the exact amount of games this season as he did in his scoring streak in 2010-11 and he’s only five points off the total he set that year, slow start being taken into consideration.
The bottom line is that Sidney Crosby is back. That old Crosby, the one who did things that seemed unimaginable. And now, with Evgeni Malkin expected to miss 1-2 weeks with an upper body injury, Crosby gets to pay it forward to Geno, who shouldered the load while Crosby was out battling his concussion and neck issues.
Bob Errey may have said it best last night. There are 7 billion people in the world, and there isn’t a single one that can play hockey as well as Sidney Crosby can.
We’re back to seeing the Sidney Crosby that can step on the ice and have five points on any given night.
In a sport that changes it’s best player prognostications on a weekly basis, it’s time to put the subject to bed, sit back, and enjoy the show.
Because if there’s one thing we’ve learned from Sidney Crosby, you never take your eyes off of him when he’s on the ice.
And while Mario Lemieux’s 46 game point streak might be buried safely under the pavement where center ice used to be at the Civic Arena, Crosby is making sure to etch his own mark right across the street.
Perhaps my favorite Mike Lange call came from the 1989 playoffs. Mario Lemieux entered game 5 against Philadelphia in an immense amount of pain and discomfort.
Ironically enough, Lemieux’s neck was the issue. He couldn’t turn his head, he couldn’t tie his own skates.
But he waltzed out onto the ice and scored three goals in the first seven minutes of the game.
Mike Lange remarked, in that appreciative and chilling tone that makes Lange so great: “I’m gonna tell you something. Be careful. The way he’s going right now tonight, you might see something absolutely spectacular before it’s all done.”
Well, take Mike Lange’s advice; be careful. We might all see something absolutely spectacular from Sidney Crosby before this 48 game season is said and done.