Can Sidney Crosby hit the 50-goal mark again next season?

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crosbygoalscoring.jpgDuring his first four seasons, Sidney Crosby was transparently pass-first. That’s not a bad thing in many ways since setting up teammates is a naturally selfless act and Crosby is one of the NHL’s most gifted playmakers. Still, when you consider how much the Pittsburgh Penguins depend on his production, opposing teams might have benefited from simply cutting off Crosby’s passing lanes.

Something changed during the 2009 playoffs, though. During the headline-grabbing Capitals-Penguins series, it seemed like something clicked. Crosby started scoring goals at a near Ovechkin-pace in that series, even if most of his goals were wildly different. While Ovechkin overpowered opponents and scored from ridiculous spots on the ice, Crosby succeeded by scoring ugly goals in tough spots.

My guess is that series – and a switch to a composite stick – helped Crosby develop confidence in his shot. He increased his career highs in goals (from 36 to 51) and shots on goal (278 to 298) and tied Steven Stamkos for the Maurice Richard Trophy. Stat crunching blog Behind the Net posed the reasonable question: can Crosby match his goal output from last season?

Thumbnail image for stamkoscrosbyrichard.jpgThey make some great points in that post, but I thought I’d break down why he will (or won’t) hit the 50-goal mark in 2010-11.

Why he won’t score 50 again

  • Crosby’s still a pass-first player at heart and the addition of Mike Comrie might give him a new running mate.
  • His 17.1 shooting percentage for the 2009-10 season is about 3 percent higher than his typical 14 percent success rate. If Crosby again recorded 298 shots but only connected on his usual 14 percent rate, he would have only scored 41-42 goals.
  • He played 81 games last season and generally has a lot of mileage from the last few seasons. Will he catch the injury bug again?

Why he could score 50 again

  • Crosby might have changed his game enough to become a consistent goal scorer, especially if he keeps shooting.
  • He’s just entering his prime at 23.
  • There still will be a lot of pressure on Crosby to carry the team’s offense.

Overall, I agree with Behind the Net’s estimates that he’ll “regress” to the 40 goal range. How many goals do you think Crosby will score next season? Somewhere between 30 and 35, the predicted 40 goal range or perhaps 50 or more? Tell us what you think in the comments.

PHT Morning Skate: Sharks name stray cat after captain Joe Pavelski

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

–The stray cat that ran onto the ice prior to Game 1 between the Sharks and Preds has been named after Joe Pavelski. (Associated Press)

–Speaking of that black cat, here’s a mountain of pucks shaped like the cat. (The Score)

–When Lukas Head was younger, he played with Steven Stamkos and P.K. Subban. Here’s his story. (Toronto Star)

–Watch the highlights from yesterday’s game between the Stars and Blues. (Top)

–A look behind the scenes of the NHL draft lottery. (Canadian Press)

–Two-time Olympic gold medalist Sharon Szabados loves curing and the Oilers and she was forced to make a tough choice on Saturday. (Sportsnet)

Pascal Dupuis, who was named one of the Masterton Trophy finalists, is adjusting to retirement. (NHL.com)

Pavelski’s late goal helps Sharks grab 2-0 series lead over Preds

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The San Jose Sharks became the only team in the second round to jump out to a 2-0 lead in their series. The Sharks did it by beating the Predators 3-2 in Game 2 on Sunday night.

San Jose opened the scoring in the second period when Logan Couture buried a rebound by Preds goalie Pekka Rinne. Brent Burns took the initial shot from the point and extended his playoff point streak to four games.

The Predators finally got on the board at the 12:56 mark of the third period when Mattias Ekholm tied the game at one.

Here’s the goal:

Nashville’s good fortune didn’t last very long. Sharks captain Joe Pavelski gave San Jose a 2-1 lead less than five minutes later.

Pavelski also picked up two assists in the game. The 31-year-old has at least one point in six of his seven postseason games in 2016.

Joe Thornton then added an empty-netter in the final minute of play before Ryan Johansen scored with four seconds remaining.

Despite the loss, Preds head coach Peter Laviolette wasn’t too disappointed by the way his team played.

The Predators outshot the Sharks (39-25), they outhit San Jose (46-26), but they just couldn’t outscore them.

Like the old saying goes: “you’re not in trouble until you lose a game on home ice.” The Preds still haven’t done that, which means they’re not done yet.

The series now shifts to Nashville for Game 3, which will be played on Tuesday night.

Video: Marc-Edouard Vlasic saved by his visor after taking Shea Weber shot to the face

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It’s a scary night for players getting hit in the head with pucks.

After Brian Elliott was hit in the head by a Jason Spezza slapshot, it was Marc-Edouard Vlasic‘s turn to narrowly avoid disaster.

In the third period of Sunday’s game against the Predators, Vlasic took a puck to the face. The end result could have been catastrophic had Vlasic not had a visor.

You can see the incident by clicking the video at the top of the page.

It’s nice to see that Vlasic was in a joking mood after the game:

Hockey Twitter breathed a collective sigh of relief after Vlasic got back up:

It sounds like Olli Maatta won’t be ready for Game 3

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You’ve all seen it by now (if you haven’t, click the video at the top of page). Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta was forced to leave Game 2 against the Capitals after taking a late hit from Brooks Orpik. Not only was the hit late, but Orpik also caught Maatta in the head.

After the Penguins’ optional skate on Sunday, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan wasn’t optimistic about Maatta’s chances of playing in Game 3 on Monday night.

“Olli’s being evaluated as we speak, so I don’t have any real update as far as his status is concerned,” Sullivan said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He’s being evaluated today, we’ll probably have more information in the morning.

“I don’t have a lot of sense of his availability. I’m probably not optimistic, though.”

After the game, Capitals coach Barry Trotz stood up for his defenseman.

“We’ll let the league handle it,” Trotz said, per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “If you know anything about Brooks, he plays hard, he plays clean. He’s not a dirty player.”

And the league certainly did handle it, as they suspended Orpik for three games.

Related:

Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta