Sidney Crosby will play in his 1,000th NHL game Saturday night when the Penguins host the Islanders. To mark that occasion we are going to take a look back at some stunning numbers he has compiled throughout his career through the first 1,000 games.
Here is what stands out.
The basics, awards, and milestones
• Three time Stanley Cup champion, two-time NHL MVP, two-time scoring champion, two-time Rocket Richard winner, two-time Conn Smythe Trophy winner, two-time Pearson/Lindsay award winner, two-time Olympic gold medalist (with a golden goal).
Only three players in league history have won at least two Hart Trophies, two scoring titles, two Pearson/Lindsay awards, two Conn Smythes, and led the league in goals at least two times: Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, and Sidney Crosby.
• Sidney Crosby will be the 349th player in NHL history to play in 1,000 games, and the first member of the Penguins to reach the milestone.
• Since entering the NHL in 2005 Crosby has been one of the league’s most productive players, and for a significant chunk of that time the best player in hockey. Among the numbers he has compiled…
He is second in goals (468), assists (808), total points (1,276) and points per game (1.28).
Among those numbers, he is only 25 assists behind Joe Thornnton and only 16 points behind Ovechkin despite the fact he has played in more than 130 fewer games than both players. He was by far the points per game leader until Connor McDavid came along.
• Among his all-time ranks he is currently 55th in goals, 32nd in assists, 37th in total points, and seventh in points per game. The only six players ahead of him are Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mike Bossy, Bobby Orr, Connor McDavid, and Marcel Dionne.
The biggest reason he does not rank higher in some of those all-time categories (or even claim the top spot among his era) is that the prime years of his career are a giant “what if” due to injuries and a lockout that robbed him of a significant portion of his prime years.
Crosby was at his absolute best in the NHL for the three-year run between 2010-11 and 2012-13 when he was playing at a level that nobody — and I mean nobody — in the league was even close to matching at that time. It was like he was dropped into the mid 2000s from a different era.
Consider the numbers…
• Between the 2010-11 and 2012-13 seasons, his age 23-25 seasons, he was limited to just 99 out of a possible 212 regular season games (two 82-game seasons and a 48-game lockout shortened season). That is less than 47 percent of the games he could have played. That was the stretch where he had the concussion and neck injuries, and then a broken jaw when he was hit in the face by a puck.
• His production during that time was like something out of a video game.
Between the 2010-11 and 2012-13 seasons he averaged 1.61 point per game, by far the highest total in the league.
Only eight other players in the league averaged more than one point per game during that stretch, and only four of them (Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Steven Stamkos, and Martin St. Louis) averaged more than 1.10 points per game.
The closest player to Crosby during that stretch was Malkin, who was averaging 1.20 points per game. That is a 0.41 per game gap. How significant is that gap? The gap between Sidney Crosby and Malkin in the first and second spots was the same as the gap between Malkin (second place) and Patrick Marleau … who was in 50th place.
Let’s break a down even further.
During that three-year stretch he averaged 4.62 points (all situations) per 60 minutes of actual ice-time. Dating back to the start of the 2007-08 season that is by far and away the best, most productive, and most efficient three-year stretch in the league. Here are the rest of the top-10 (minimum 99 games played) since then. The only players with a three-year stretch that are above even four points per 60 minutes are Nikita Kucherov and … Sidney Crosby.
It is entirely possible, if not likely, that playing in more games during that stretch would have lowered some of his averages (per game and per minute) because it would have increased the likelihood of a scoring slump. Nobody is immune to those, not even Crosby. But he was also at an age where scorers tend to hit their peak levels of production, and if you look at the three-year stretches before and after that 2010-13 run he was still well above the rest of the league at that time.
[Per minute data in this post via Natural Stat Trick]