Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are the top one-two punch in the NHL.
The one-two punch may be most associated with boxing, but a dominant one-two punch in hockey is often the stuff legends are made of.
The Chicago Blackhawks once had the hold-your-breath duo of Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita.
The Boston Bruins turned things around when Bobby Orr teamed up with Phil Esposito.
The Edmonton Oilers put together one of the greatest teams of all time with the one-two punch of Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier.
The Pittsburgh Penguins won a pair of championships thanks in large part to the combination of Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr.
Sidney Crosby has all the skills that you need to be ranked with the greatest players of all time.
When it comes to physical talent, Crosby doesn't rank with Gretzky, Lemieux or Orr, but he has worked and developed his talent so much that he deserves to be in the room with those sensational athletes.
Everyone in the league and, more specifically, everyone in the Pittsburgh dressing room, knows how hard Crosby has worked to reach these heights.
He is a natural leader. When Crosby is on the ice, he will let his skill do the talking, but he will also do something extra that shows his teammates that he can carry them through the biggest moments.
Evgeni Malkin had to step up last year because Sidney Crosby missed most of the regular season as a result of concussion-related issues.
There was little doubt that Malkin had the talent to be one of the greatest players in the league, but did he have the motivation to play exceptional hockey on an every-night basis?
Malkin answered that question with an emphatic yes. He scored 50 goals and added 59 assists to lead the league in scoring. In addition to picking up the Art Ross Trophy, he also won the Hart Trophy as the MVP and the Ted Lindsay Award.
Malkin may be the most skilled player in the NHL.
At the start of the 2013 regular season, Crosby has played 22 games in the past 24 months.
Crosby has recovered from his concussion problems and is motivated to reassert himself as the game's best player.
If he can stay in the lineup for 48 games this year and gets pushed by Malkin, Crosby should pick up steam as the season progresses. A healthy Crosby is a force to be reckoned with.
It's conceivable that a healthy Crosby could score 60 points or more in a 48-game season.
The Pittsburgh Penguins should be one of the most motivated teams in the league this year.
The talent level is extremely high, and they have seen the Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Bruins and Los Angeles Kings win the Stanley Cup since they last lifted the chalice in 2009.
When Malkin and Crosby look across from each other in the locker room or on the ice, they have to know that no other pair of teammates in the league can match their ability or skill.
That means that in their minds, they are the most worthy team in the league when it comes to having championship aspirations.
That should motivate Crosby and Malkin to play consistently every night.
It ended in humiliating fashion for the Penguins last year.
They met their arch rival, the cross-state Philadelphia Flyers, in the first round of the playoffs. The Penguins were favored to win the series, but the Flyers raced out to a 3-0 lead before putting the Penguins away in the sixth game.
In the final game of the series, the Flyers rolled to a 5-1 victory, and Claude Giroux outplayed Crosby.
That was humiliating to the Penguins in general, and Crosby in particular.
Crosby has had to live with that feeling for a full offseason and a four-month lockout.
They are the best one-two combination in the NHL.
The key to any championship aspirations the Penguins have will be the overall consistency of their performance.
That means a goal or two every night along with several scoring chances.
However, the spectacular performances will live on in the memories of the coaching staff and the fans.
There may be some nights that the pair combines for four goals or more. Those games show just what these two are capable of doing when they are at their best.