During 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?
They 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.
The Philadelphia Flyers have had their share of good news lately. They’ve won five in a row and goalie Steve Mason has been solid in that span, being named on Monday the NHL’s first star for the week.
But it hasn’t all been positive.
Forward Matt Read is out of the lineup for at least four weeks with an upper-body injury, the Flyers announced Monday. The injury occurred during Sunday’s game against the Nashville Predators.
It’s been reported the injury is an oblique muscle pull.
With Read out, the Flyers have recalled Taylor Leier from the American Hockey League.
Leier has been very productive in the minors. In 22 games this season with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, he has six goals and 20 points.
The topic of a possible Wild Card play-in game being added to the NHL’s playoff format isn’t new.
General managers around the league have talked about it before. The idea recently seemed to gain traction with at least the small majority, too.
Hockey insider Bob McKenzie once polled all 30 GMs to get a sense of how many would be in favor of such a thing — and 16 of those GMs were. You can count Ken Holland with the Detroit Red Wings as someone who would like to see a Wild Card play-in game.
Holland is also a baseball fan and likes the way MLB has created must-watch play-in games. In baseball, there are three division winners in each league. Those three teams qualify for the division round of the postseason. Two wild-card teams in each league square off in a one-game play-in to decide the fourth divisional qualifier on each side.
“I’m all for an extra team in each conference qualifying for the playoffs and having a wild- card play-in game,” said Holland. “It would add excitement down the stretch for many more teams fighting for the additional wild-card spot and two extra teams would be involved in the playoffs. Those play-in games would be dramatic.”
Of course, the interesting thing about that is the Red Wings have a streak of 25 consecutive playoff appearances on the line.
But their best days — when Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg led them to a Stanley Cup in 2008 and the final the following year — are long behind them. The organization has undergone substantial change with Zetterberg getting older, the loss of Datsyuk to the KHL and Mike Babcock joining the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Red Wings could be in real danger of missing the post-season under its current format in 2017.
Detroit is two points out of the second Wild Card spot in the East, with New Jersey and Boston still ahead of them, although not currently in a playoff spot.
Three forwards — Brock Boeser, Alex DeBrincat, and Colin White — and two defensemen — Chad Krys and Charlie McAvoy — make up the five returnees that were named today to the preliminary roster for the 2017 U.S. National Junior Team.
Other recognizable names include first-round draft picks Luke Kunin, Clayton Keller, Logan Brown, Kieffer Bellows, Jack Roslovic, and Tage Thompson.
“This is a talented, versatile group of players that has found success across all levels of hockey,” said general manager Jim Johannson from USA Hockey. “There is depth at every position, and while we still have some difficult decisions to make, we feel each of these players can fit the style of hockey Coach Motzko (U.S. head coach Bob Motzko) first implemented at our National Junior Evaluation Camp last August.”
Click here for the full preliminary roster. D-man Jack Ahcan (St. Cloud State) and goalie Jake Oettinger (BU) are the only ones who have yet to be drafted. Oettinger doesn’t turn 18 until later this month.
The players will attend training camp Dec. 16-20 in Buffalo, then an additional camp in Oshawa, Ontario, from Dec. 20-24.
Of the 27 camp invitees (three goalies, eight d-men, and 16 forwards), only 23 will make the cut.
USA won bronze at the 2016 World Juniors in Finland.
Related: Barzal, Strome, Patrick among invitees to Canada’s World Juniors camp
The update on the injury Alex Galchenyuk suffered during Montreal’s win in L.A. on Sunday wasn’t definitive, but it was ominous.
From the Habs:
Galchenyuk suffered a lower body injury on December 4 in Los Angeles. He went for medical testing in St. Louis earlier Monday, and will be out indefinitely.
He will be further evaluated by team doctors in Montreal on Wednesday. An update will be released later this week.
The injury occurred in the third period of Sunday’s game, when he collided with Kings center Anze Kopitar.
Galchenyuk, 22, leads the Canadiens with nine goals and 23 points in 25 games this year and is one of the club’s top faceoff men, at least in terms of draws taken. He also averages over 16 minutes per night and features prominently on the power play.
So, needless to say, this is a potentially massive loss for Montreal.
The Habs will wrap their three-game road swing in St. Louis tomorrow, and are then back in action Thursday, when they host the Devils.
If Galchenyuk is out for a significant length of time, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Martin Hanzal-to-Montreal trade rumblings start up again.