Earlier tonight, PHT asked if Sidney Crosby could match the kind of magic that Mario Lemieux exhibited during his comeback from retirement in 2000. Sure there are some differences – particularly the quality of the teams they faced – but the 2011-12 Pittsburgh Penguins produced a remarkably similar night as Lemieux’s team did on Dec. 27, 2000. Let’s take a look at the shared qualities:
- Crosby and Lemieux made big plays in their first shifts, although Mario was the one who scored a goal while Crosby’s setup for Chris Kunitz didn’t hit the net. Crosby didn’t take much time to correct that – and in dramatic fashion – though.
- Both had big nights overall, as Crosby scored two goals and two assists while Lemieux produced a tally and two helpers. (The especially impressive part is that Crosby produced those points in far less ice time than Lemieux; Crosby played a little under 16 minutes while Lemieux logged 20:46 in his retirement return.)
- The scores were an identical 5-0; Garth Snow stopped 40 shots while Marc-Andre Fleury turned aside 29. Both the 2000-01 Toronto Maple Leafs and tonight’s New York Islanders could do little to slow the Penguins down, even if their shot totals showed that they weren’t just rolling over. (OK, maybe the Isles rolled over a bit … )
- Lemieux and Crosby’s famous partners in crime showed up in a big way in those games, too. Jaromir Jagr had the same results as Crosby (two goals and two assists) while Evgeni Malkin generated a goal and an assist.
So here’s the interesting wrinkle: Lemieux managed to be a Hart Trophy finalist after he scored a dazzling 76 points in just 43 games (in the mucky Dead Puck Era, no less). If Crosby can play in every remaining contest of the 2011-12 season, he’ll hit the 62-game mark, so he can look at Lemieux’s impressive run as motivation for an improbable attempt to win another MVP.
That’s a pretty tough mark to reach, but at this point, are you really comfortable doubting what Crosby can do?