NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 18:  Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on November 18, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Penguins defeated the Islanders 3-2 in overtime.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Sidney Crosby is on one of the best goal scoring runs of his career

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PITTSBURGH — Sidney Crosby added to his league leading goal total on Saturday night when he scored in the final minute of regulation to send the Penguins and Devils to overtime, setting the stage for Pittsburgh’s 4-3 shootout win.

For Crosby, it was already his 15th goal of the season and puts him three ahead of every other player in the NHL. He has opened up that lead even though he missed the first six games of the season due to a concussion.

Three of the four players tied for second place with 12 goals (Patrik Laine, Alex Ovechkin and Michael Grabner) have all played in at least five more games than him, while David Pastrnak (also with 12 goals) has played in the same number of games — 16.

But it is not just the fact that Crosby is outscoring the rest of the league right now that stands out. It is also the fact he is currently on one of the best goal scoring tears of his entire career. That is no small accomplishment.

With his goal on Saturday, a play where he had to dig the puck out of a mass of humanity in front of the net before roofing it just under the cross bar, he is now up to 15 goals in 16 games.

If you break his career down into 16-game sections he has only ever had a handful of runs that match this current one.

  • During the 2010-11 season, the year where he probably played the absolute best of hockey of his career, he had a handful of 16-game stretches where he scored more than 16 goals. The best of those came during a stretch between Nov. 6 and Dec. 8 where he scored 20 goals. He ended up scoring 32 goals in 41 games that year (while also adding 34 assists) before his season was ended due to a concussion.
  • During the 2009-10 season, when he scored 51 goals and finished in a tie with Steven Stamkos for the NHL goal scoring crown, he had a 16-game stretch with 16 goals in late January and early February.
  • He had one 16-game stretch between Dec. 30 and Feb. 8 of the 2015-16 season where he scored 17 goals.

Other than those three examples, he has never really had a stretch in his career where he has scored goals the way he is at this very moment.

There are a couple of factors at play here.

The biggest one is that he is shooting the puck at a rate that he has not reached since that two-year window between 2009-10 and 2010-11 when he was the best goal scorer in hockey (he had 83 goals between the start of the 2009-10 season and New Years Day, 2011, more than any other player in hockey during that stretch. Stamkos was second with 82. Alex Ovechkin was third with 64).

For a few years after that he drifted back toward being more of a playmaker and puck distributor (sometimes to a fault) than a shooter. That showed up in the numbers in recent years when his shot-per-game averages reached some of the lowest points of his career, especially over the past two seasons.

That has changed this season. After Saturday he is now averaging 3.68 shots per game, a number that matches exactly what he did in 2009-10 when he led the league in goals. Shot volume is a big part of being an elite goal scorer.

The other factor — and this is always a controversial thing to say about great players when they are scoring like this — is that he has had some luck on his side.

A lot of it, actually.

Every single bounce is going his way at the moment, and he has at times scored goals from seemingly impossible angles and on plays where he wasn’t even trying to score. Take the Penguins’ recent 6-1 win in New York against the Rangers when he scored a goal on a two-on-one rush when he was literally attempting to pass the puck only to have it bounce in the net off of Ryan McDonagh. He has had a couple of goals this season that he has scored from below the goal line on weird bounces.

Eventually some of that luck will run out.

There is going to come a point this year where he is still playing extremely well but doesn’t get those bounces and the goal numbers will probably run dry. That is when you will see that 25 percent shooting percentage he is currently carrying around (nearly 11 points higher than his career average) start to regress a little. That is simply how hockey works. But as long as he keeps taking more than three-and-a-half shots per game, those dry spells won’t be as frequent or last quite as long.

You are still not likely to ever see him produce points over a full 82-game season the way he did earlier in his career.

But for the time being he is the perfect storm of shot volume and puck luck, and it is helping him set the stage for what could be a run at the goal scoring crown.

Video: Islanders lose again thanks to this beautiful play by Sidney Crosby

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 18:  Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on November 18, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Penguins defeated the Islanders 3-2 in overtime.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The New York Islanders are in a pretty tough spot right now.

They entered play on Friday near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, had won just two of their previous 10 games, and to top it all off they had to play the defending Stanley Cup champions who had to be coming in with an extra chip on their shoulders after losing by six goals on Wednesday night.

The Penguins ended up extending the Islanders’ current losing ways with a 3-2 overtime win that was highlighted by another huge night from Sidney Crosby.

Crosby opened the scoring in the first period when he scored his 11th goal of the season, tying him for the second most in the league with Michael Grabner (yeah, you read that correctly) even though he has missed five games.

But thanks in part to a sloppy second period that started with a power play goal after a careless penalty by Evgeni Malkin ignited a brief Islanders rally, the game ended up in overtime. It was in overtime where Crosby would make his best play of the night, faking a slap shot, dangling around Brock Nelson, and then finding a wide open Kris Letang all in one motion for the game-winning goal.

Have a look.

After that performance Crosby is now up to 15 points (11 goals, four assists) in 11 games this season.

The Islanders, meanwhile, are now tied with the Buffalo Sabres for the worst record in the Eastern Conference.

Even though coach Jack Capuano recently received a vote of confidence you have to wonder if his seat is going to get a little warmer after yet another loss, especially since the team does not play again until Tuesday when it starts a west coast road trip.

Video: A decade of Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin

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Both players have experienced ups and downs – whether from injuries or disappointments – but overall, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin deliver over and over again.

With Connor McDavid and other young guns infiltrating the rankings, it’s remarkable that the faces of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals are still going strong.

Wednesday presents another chapter in their rivalry, which is – prepare to feel old – now at the decade mark.

The video above celebrates what this rivalry’s meant, what it continues to mean and what we might see next.

Does anyone else get a “Friday Night Lights” feel at times while watching it, by the way?

Sidney Crosby is still on fire; Penguins blank Sharks

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 29: Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates a goal against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on October 29, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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Plenty of Pittsburgh Penguins deserve credit as the team is really heating up, but the hottest streak belongs to the most obvious catalyst: Sidney Crosby.

As of this writing, the Penguins lead the San Jose Sharks 5-0 in what was a lopsided rematch of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.

Crosby – the guy who you may remember as the 2016 Conn Smythe winner – now has eight goals in six games after firing in two on Saturday. He now has three multi-goal games in his last four contests (six goals, one assist).

Ridiculous, right?

Here’s his first of the night:

And his second, a one-handed sensation:

So, yeah, he might still be the best player in the world, and the Penguins are impressive with him back in the mix.

Concussions have made Sidney Crosby’s career a story of ‘what ifs’

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 18:  Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates against the New York Rangers in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on April 18, 2015 in New York City. The Penguins defeated the Rangers 4-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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It was announced on Monday that Pittsburgh Penguins captain is sidelined for the time being with a concussion. At this point we do not know much beyond that.

We don’t know when exactly it happened (coach Mike Sullivan said at some point in practice on Friday), how it happened, or how long it could potentially keep him out of the Penguins’ lineup.

Even without knowing the exact specifics, given how much time Crosby has already missed in his career due to a concussion it has to be a huge concern for both his health and his career.

Because of the previous issues, which all started during the week of the 2011 Winter Classic in Pittsburgh when he took hits to the head from Dave Steckel and Victor Hedman in consecutive games, we already missed the chance to fully see what Crosby was going to be capable of in the NHL during what should have been his peak years in the league. If you buy into the belief that scorers produce at their peak levels between the ages of 23 and 25 (and there is plenty of evidence to suggest they do) Crosby was only able to play 99 out of a possible 212 games during that stretch due to complications from injury and a half season lockout.

It has already helped make his career one of the all-time great “what-if” careers in hockey.

When he was on the ice during those seasons he was scoring at a pace that was at a completely different level from every player in hockey. For those three years he averaged 1.61 points per game. Among the players that played in at least 50 games during those three years, nobody else averaged more than 1.20 points per game. The gap between him and the No. 2 scorer (his teammate, Evgeni Malkin) was the same as the gap between the No. 2 scorer and the No. 49 scorer. It probably cost him a couple of more scoring titles, maybe an MVP award, and perhaps even another Stanley Cup.

When he finally returned, there was always the concern that it would be an issue going forward. When his scoring numbers started to drop (probably due to the fact he was simply getting older than anything else) there always seemed to be a discussion that the concussion “changed” him or the way he played.

But as he remained on the ice and was able to play full seasons, those concerns started to get pushed to the back burner, especially as he started to dominate the NHL again.

Over those three years he added another scoring title and MVP award to his resume, and then won a Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy this past season. He added to the list of achievements this September when he led Canada to a World Cup of Hockey championship.

Now that he has climbed back to the top of the hockey world and was in the middle of what might have been one of the most successful years of his career, he has another concussion.

And with that returns the concern for his long-term health and the impact it could have on him as a person and player.