Commentary

Sidney Crosby controls Pens' Cup fate

With their captain back, Pittsburgh projects as Cup favorites. Without him ...

Updated: March 8, 2011, 1:52 PM ET
By Timo Seppa | Hockey Prospectus
Sidney CrosbyGetty ImagesThe Penguins' future could vary drastically depending on Crosby's health.

Sidney Crosby had a half-season for the ages.

Incredibly, Crosby's 32 goals, 34 assists and 66 points still rank him third amongst skaters in our Player Power Rankings, despite the fact that his competition has now played more than 150 percent of his game total. Consider that it's entirely possible that the Pittsburgh Penguins captain may remain among the top 10 skaters on the list even if he doesn't return for another regular-season game. By the measure of Goals Versus Threshold -- our player value metric which accounts for a skater's offensive, defensive and shootout contributions -- if he'd kept up the same pace, Crosby's 36.0 GVT over 82 games would have been the best season for an NHL skater since the lockout, blowing away Alex Ovechkin's 2007-08 (33.1 GVT) and 2009-10 (32.7 GVT) campaigns and Crosby's own 2009-10 (32.0 GVT).

Of course, individual achievement and team success go hand in hand. The Crosby-led Penguins were on fire for the first three months of the season, racking up 55 points and a .671 point percentage through 41 games before hits in consecutive games by Washington's David Steckel and Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman sidelined the Pittsburgh captain with the concussion that he's been struggling to shake since. Not surprisingly, what had looked like a top contender for the Stanley Cup has consequently transformed into a team that's not of playoff caliber without its all-world center. Pittsburgh has a .558 point percentage without Crosby and .526 without both Crosby and Evgeni Malkin -- the Pens lost Malkin for the season after he suffered torn knee ligaments Feb. 4.

The injuries have reduced the Penguins from playing like a first seed in the East to a team that would place 10th -- just ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs (.508) -- if it had to go without Crosby and Malkin the entire season ... thus leaving their Stanley Cup fortunes in doubt.


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