Sidney Crosby vs Claude Giroux: Head to Toe Breakdown of the Budding Rivalry
Sidney Crosby has been widely considered to be the best player in hockey throughout the majority of his career.
He has the bona fides that confirm his status. He led the Pittsburgh Penguins to a Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 2008 and while they were beaten by the Detroit Red Wings, they made it back to the finals the following year and the Penguins got revenge over the Red Wings.
He confirmed his status when he scored gold medal-winning goal for Canada in the 2010 Winter Olympics.
However, nobody stays at the top forever and Claude Giroux was nominated by his head coach Peter Laviolette as "the best player in the world" when the Flyers defeated the Penguins in a playoff series last spring (source: Yahoo.com).
Let's look at the specifics of the matchup in this head-to-toe breakdown of these two Keystone State superstars.
When it comes to putting the puck in the net, Sidney Crosby has a big advantage over Claude Giroux.
Crosby is one of the top goal scorers in the league. Crosby has scored 30 or more goals five times in his career. He scored a league-high 51 goals in 2009-10. He played 41 games in 2010-11 before he suffered a concussion and missed the rest of the season yet he scored 32 goals in the half-season.
Giroux scored a career-high 28 goals last year for the Flyers. He picked up the pace by scoring eight goals in 10 playoff games, but he does not compare well with Crosby when it comes to goal scoring.
BIG EDGE: Crosby
The overall numbers are once again in Crosby's favor when it comes to passing in general and racking up assists in particular.
Crosby has racked up as many as 84 assists in a season and he has also had assist totals of 70 and 63 in his career. Giroux had 65 assists last season for his career high.
But the numbers don't tell the complete story. Giroux is one of the most creative players in the league and when he has the puck on his stick, he's likely to make a self-pass (video above) before finding a teammate.
Crosby is certainly creative in this area, but Giroux may be just a tad more creative.
However, the numbers are in Crosby's favor.
SLIGHT EDGE: Crosby
Crosby and Giroux are two of the best skaters in the game. Both have plenty of speed, agility and confidence in their skating ability.
In the video above, Crosby takes the puck behind the net and spends 12 seconds going back and forth and eluding the efforts of Jason Spezza of the Ottawa Senators. Spezza is a dynamic skater and player in his own right.
Giroux has the balance and low center of gravity to make moves that many other NHL players wouldn't even try. Giroux's instincts and ability may put him at the top in this category. He is so comfortable on the ice that it appears he can do anything he wants when he has the puck in the offensive zone.
Crosby excels in this area, but he's not better than Giroux.
SLIGHT EDGE: Giroux
This area is one of the closest between the two star players.
Early in the 2013 season, Crosby has a slight edge according to NHL.com's faceoff stats.
Crosby was sidelined much of last year and Giroux became one of the better faceoff men.
Before Crosby suffered his concussion in the 2011 Winter Classic, he was having a solid year in the faceoff circle.
Claude Giroux can play physical hockey and set the tone when it matters most.
He did this in the sixth and decisive game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoff series last year.
The Flyers raced out to a 3-0 lead in games and the Penguins responded with two straight wins to give the impression that they would perform an epic comeback in the series.
However, Giroux would have none of it. On the opening shift of the sixth game, Giroux body-checked Crosby to the ice (video above) and then whipped a shot past Marc-Andre Fleury for the opening goal of the game.
On the other side, Crosby has gained a reputation for taking cheap shots from time to time and is less likely to take on an opponent on in legitimate a one-on-one battle.
Crosby has plenty of stars to share the load on the Penguins roster, including Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang. However, in the biggest moments of the most important games, the presence of Crosby gives the Penguins a great chance to win.
Crosby may score the goal himself, pass the puck to his teammate or simply direct a teammate to a spot on the ice with a look or a raised eyebrow.
Crosby's presence seemingly gives the Penguins an edge in most clutch situations.
Giroux is clearly climbing higher in this area and it was his play against the Penguins that stood out in last year's playoffs.
But the Flyers don't have a Stanley Cup and Giroux didn't score the game-winning goal in the Olympics for Canada.