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No player will determine the outcome of their team's Stanley Cup dreams more than Sidney Crosby will for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Having watched every Penguins game, it is dramatic to see the shift of the Penguins' style of play since Crosby's concussion. The Penguins have transformed into an extremely defensive hockey team that relies on manufacturing goals.
Much has been written about the injury woes of the Penguins throughout the season—losing Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, Brooks Orpik, and others for an extended period of time.
But the team continues to win and is only one point behind the Philadelphia Flyers for the Atlantic Division lead, which is remarkable.
The Penguins now make a living winning 2-1 or 3-2 games, which is key when it comes playoff time, but the fact of the matter is that they will only go deep into the playoffs if Crosby returns.
Most people wrote of the Penguins following Crosby and Malkin's injuries, but the Penguins battled through adversity to make it this far, winning numerous shootouts along the way (only 38 non-shootout wins, less than Montreal).
Yet, shootouts don't exist in the NHL playoffs, and they need to score goals.
And no one does that better than Crosby in the NHL today.
One final telling stat, Crosby has only played in 41 games this year (half of the season). He continues to lead the team in goals (32) and points (66). He was on pace for 64 goals and 132 points, which would clearly make him a Hart Trophy lock.
Even though Crosby has only played half the season, he still is 11th in the league in goals, and has one more goal than Alexander Ovechkin.
If the Penguins hope to hoist another Stanley Cup, they will only go as far as the formerly-concussed Crosby can take them.
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