Sidney Crosby's Top Threats to Winning the NHL's 2013-14 Scoring Title
With three points in Saturday's game against the Calgary Flames, Sidney Crosby opened up a six-point lead on the next-best scorer in the NHL and a 13-point lead on the two players tied for third. With a history of running up points that no other player in the game today can match, he's the favourite to win the 2013-14 Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's leading scorer.
What stands between him and that goal? The slideshow that follows ranks the greatest obstacles to Crosby winning his second scoring title.
Unless otherwise noted, statistics are courtesy of NHL.com and current though the afternoon of December 21.
7. Ryan Getzlaf
Stat line: 39 points in 34 games
Why he is a threat: Ryan Getzlaf hit bottom offensively in 2011-12, putting up only 57 points in 82 contests after years of being well over a point-per-game scorer. He's found his form in the years since, though, and has 88 points in 78 games from the start of the 2012-13 season.
Playing on one of the top lines in the league alongside a former Hart Trophy winner in Corey Perry and a rejuvenated Dustin Penner, he is playing as well as he ever has.
6. Martin St. Louis
Stat line: 33 points in 35 games
Why he is a threat: Martin St. Louis is a little ways down the NHL's scoring leader board, but one season ago he led the league with 60 points in 48 games, the second time in his career he'd taken home the NHL's scoring crown.
There's also a decent chance St. Louis will have a very strong second half to this NHL season, given that Steven Stamkos will likely return to Tampa Bay's lineup. With St. Louis on the bubble for Team Canada, there's also a decent chance he will be rested during the Olympic break rather than playing in Sochi like other top stars.
5. Nicklas Backstrom
Stat line: 41 points in 35 games
Why he is a threat: Nicklas Backstrom is enjoying a tremendous season, tied for third in the NHL with 41 points, and the scary thing is, he may not have peaked yet. Backstrom is a career 11.6 percent shooter who has occasionally flirted with the 15 percent mark, and right now he's converting less than 10 percent of his shots into goals.
If pucks start finding the back of the net with greater frequency, his point production could soar.
4. Evgeni Malkin
Stat line: 41 points in 32 games
Why he is a threat: Evgeni Malkin is a ridiculous talent who has overcome injury and a poor start to sit third in the NHL in total points today. According to Hockey-Reference.com, no player other than Crosby has a better point-per-game rate since the 2004-05 NHL lockout.
Malkin is also capable of going on stretches where he simply tears up the league. In 19 games since November 1, he has 31 points.
3. Alexander Ovechkin
Stat line: 40 points in 33 games
Why he is a threat: Alexander Ovechkin has long been Sidney Crosby's chief rival as the consensus choice for best in the NHL and has been named the league's most valuable player in three of the last six seasons. He is also, along with Crosby and Malkin, one of only three players to score at a 1.20 points-per-game pace or better since 2004-05.
2. Patrick Kane
Stat line: 48 points in 38 games
Why he is a threat: Patrick Kane is the best offensive player in the Western Conference, and it's fun to imagine what might happen to his numbers if he played in the Metropolitan Division rather than the Central. As it is, he cranks out points better than almost anybody, finishing five points back of St. Louis for the scoring title last season.
This year, Kane is the only player running at a pace anywhere close to Crosby. He is six points back of the Pittsburgh Penguins captain but seven points ahead of the two players tied for third. Right now, he's the man best positioned to take advantage of any kind of stumble on Crosby's part.
Stat line: 148 games missed between 2007-2013
Why this is a threat: Since breaking into the NHL as a rookie, Crosby has averaged 1.41 points per game, a 116-point pace over an 82-game season. Nobody else is even close; the next-best total belongs to teammate Evgeni Malkin who has averaged a 101-point pace.
He has won the scoring title exactly one time.
The single-biggest factor has been health; in the last three NHL seasons, Crosby has missed a minimum of one-quarter of the regular-season schedule. That, more than any of the other challengers on this list, is what he needs to stop to win this year's Art Ross Trophy.