Breaking Down Sidney Crosby's Road to the Art Ross Trophy

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Breaking Down Sidney Crosby's Road to the Art Ross Trophy
Gene J. Puskar

Unless you're among the stingiest of Sidney Crosby "haters," you can look at the NHL scoring leaders and understand that no one is going to catch No. 87 as the 2013-14 NHL season comes to a close. He sits at 102 points and leads Ryan Getzlaf by 16.

The captain of the Anaheim Ducks is an outstanding player, but he's not going to rack up 16 points in his last three games. If you believe that he's going to do so, we have some hoverboards floating around that we'd love to sell you.

Oh, and Lil Wayne is totally dead. For real this time.

This marks the second consecutive season where Crosby hasn't been forced to miss time due to concussion issues. During the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign he took a brutal puck to the face and that injury caused him to sit out the final 12 games of the season.

Reed Saxon

"The Kid" still finished fifth in scoring despite missing a quarter of the campaign—a prelude to his outstanding 2013-14 totals.

Crosby grabbed the NHL's scoring lead with an incendiary start back in October. It didn't take long for injury problems to pile up for the Pittsburgh Penguins, but that didn't slow down the captain one bit. He opened the season with an eight-game point streak, posting seven goals and 10 assists over that time span.

From then on the Art Ross Trophy was Crosby's to lose, and he never took his foot off of the pedal—his multi-point game total is staggering. He's skated in 78 of Pittsburgh's 79 games and has scored more than a single point a whopping 30 times. A high number of those outings weren't two-point contests, though.

Crosby had three or more points on 13 different occasions this season, making him one of the most deadly and consistent forwards in the offensive zone. To wit, the 26-year-old hasn't gone more than three games without at least a point during 2013-14. He's been held pointless through three different two-game streaks, but that's it.

Keith Srakocic

In a league where video scouting and team preparation is at an all-time high, that Crosby has remained so lethal is a testament to his drive and ridiculous hockey IQ. Plus-minus is an imperfect statistic when it comes to measuring how well a player performs in the defensive zone, but it's still a decent indicator of how often a particular individual has a negative impact on his team.

Alex Ovechkin and Phil Kessel are two of the league's premier point producers, but their defensive lapses also cost their squads a handful of tallies against over a season. Crosby's plus-16 rating isn't among the NHL's leaders, but it's still good enough for 56th overall with a strong chance to crack the top 50 by the end of the season.

Keith Srakocic

Pittsburgh's top center also helps his team start with the puck more often than not. Crosby continues to evolve into a top-end faceoff man, and he wins 52.3 percent of his draws. It can be difficult to correlate faceoff wins directly to point production, but goals aren't scored unless your team has the puck.

Crosby is also among the league's best in terms of corsi real. He's 16th in the NHL at 16.4, according to BehindTheNet.ca, and is right there with potential Selke candidate Anze Kopitar, ahead of the likes of Jonathan Toews and Pavel Datsyuk.

Simply put, he is the driving force behind Pittsburgh's offensive production when he's out on the ice, and the team produces noticeably more shots towards the goal when Crosby isn't on the bench.

Some hockey fans grow irritated with him because of how the NHL uses him as a marketing tool. That should fade when he's playing, though. Yet there are strong arguments for other players when it comes to the title of best two-way forward in the league.

Brian Babineau/Getty Images

Names like Datsyuk, Toews and David Krejci frequently pop up in the "Who's the best forward in the NHL?" debate—and for good reason. Those players are responsible in all three zones and drive possession for their teams in remarkable ways. So does Crosby, though. He's not a noted pick-pocket artist like Datsyuk, but he's no slouch in terms of holding on to and keeping the puck.

If we're talking about offensive players inside the offensive zone, no one can hang with Crosby at this stage of his career. He's solid enough in the defensive and neutral zones to not be a detriment to the Penguins, and once he has the puck near the opposition's net, he's going to make something happen.

Making his level of play even more impressive is that he does so while facing some of the toughest competition in the league. While some head coaches hunt for promising matchups for their stars, Dan Bylsma just rolls his lines. This allows the other squad to ice their top shutdown players against Crosby.

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

He's 11th in the NHL in terms of how tough the competition he faces is, according to ExtraSkater.com. It's worth noting that nearly everyone ahead of him here—including Toews, Marian Hossa and Dion Phaneuf—are expected to play responsible, two-way hockey in their given roles.

That Crosby is able to push Pittsburgh's possession and shots forward while squaring off against the opposition's top defenders is remarkable.

It doesn't matter how you cut it or which numbers you want to use. Crosby ran away with this season's Art Ross Trophy before October ended, and he's once again established himself as the NHL's prominent point-producing forward.

 

All statistics appear courtesy of NHL.com unless otherwise noted and are accurate through games played on April 7.

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