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Why Sidney Crosby Deserves the Hart Trophy Nomination

Laura FalconAnalyst IApril 5, 2010

PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 28:  Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins prepares for a face-off against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Mellon Arena on March 28, 2010 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The Penguins defeated the Leafs 5-4 in a shootout.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Before Saturday's game against Atlanta, the Pittsburgh Penguins organization honored the players with team awards.

Among the Baz Bastien Memorial "Good Guy" Award, A. T. Caggiano Memorial Booster Club Cup Award, and Edward J. DeBartolo "Community Service" Award, Sidney Crosby also picked up the Most Valuable Player Award to the surprise of none.

Crosby's heroics throughout the season made him the clear contender for the Pens, but I feel he has also made a strong statement why he could be the most valuable player to his team throughout the NHL.

Starting with the obvious, Crosby's new-found goal scoring touch has added another dimension to his already multi-faceted game. 47 goals, with four games to go, is an impressive feat for any player.

What gives this impressive feat MVP quality is the fact that Crosby's 47 goals make up for 20 percent of Pittsburgh's goal scoring on the season.

Crosby's ability to score on a regular basis was one of the few consistent stories of the season for the Pens. On a team that saw an awful wave of injuries hit at the same time, Crosby's consistency on offense kept the Pens alive in a time where the team was dead.

However, offense wasn't all Crosby offered this season. Everyone knows of his surgical moves in the offensive zone, but what about the defensive smarts?

This season, Bylsma began using Crosby on the penalty kill.

Putting a predominantly offensive player on the penalty will always make the opposing power play think twice before executing that cross-ice pass, but then there's the thought of that player becoming a defensive liability.

Not Crosby.

He has shown that he is more than willing to put his body on the line to save a game (see the November 3 game against Anaheim) and can make smart plays in his own zone. This gives Bylsma the chance to rest his regular penalty killers without worry.

It also helps that Crosby has scored two shorthanded goals this season, a three-way tie for most on the team. One of these goals was a game-tying goal against the Panthers in the final minutes of the game that would be won in a shootout off Crosby's lone shootout goal.

Which opens the door to another of Crosby's latest strengths: the shootout.

All that needs to be said about Crosby's shootout stats is that he's eight for 10. Four of them were game-deciding goals.

Unreal.

With how close the race for the Atlantic Division lead is with the New Jersey Devils, those extra points may come up big for the Pens.

Crosby also took what was once a weak aspect in his game, the faceoff, and turned into the NHL's faceoff king.

At 56.1 percent, Crosby may be 10th in the league in faceoff percentage but blows his competition out of the water with 942 total faceoffs won. That's almost 100 more than second-place Paul Stasny.

The Pens' dependency on Crosby to win the key faceoff in either the offensive or defensive zone has proven to be game-changing whether it is winning a faceoff at the start of a lengthy 5-on-3 or maintaining possession that leads to a goal (see Letang's overtime goal in Game Three in the Eastern Conference Semifinals last season or even Crosby's 47th goal this season against Toronto).

And that's just what's so special about Crosby, he works so hard to be the best and doesn't stop until he, and his team, are the best.

According to teammates, this desire to win is infectious which is why the Pens all see Crosby as their leader and ultimately why he has worn the "C" since he was 19-years old.

While Crosby's work ethic has always stayed the same since before he entered the NHL, there definitely was a change in his game when Bylsma took over the team last season.

A la Bylsma's system, Crosby became even stronger along the boards and disrupted plays to maintain that constant pressure necessary to create turnovers. Tiring out opposing defensemen really opened up Crosby's game to the point where scoring garbage goals has become a regular occurrence with not only Crosby, but the rest of this team.

While I feel all of these attributes have proved Crosby's game/season-changing abilities, the most important that cannot be measured is the way he controls the momentum of the Pens.

On February 1, halfway through the second period against Buffalo, the Pens were down 3-1 and had no business skating on the same ice as the Sabres. Crosby, whose errant pass caused the Sabres' third goal, decided to singlehandedly turn the game around.

In a span of eight minutes, the Pens scored four goals, all but the second belonging to Crosby. Following the game, he claimed that he went to Pens netminder Marc-Andre Fleury and said he would get that turnover back for him.

Did he ever.

And take last Sunday against Toronto, the Pens were playing a very uninspired game and were down 2-1 when Bylsma was forced to use his timeout to bring the team out of their funk.

Following the timeout, Crosby scored two goals in just over three minutes. That was what it took to wake up the team and find their game before winning in a shootout, the game-winning shootout goal courtesy of Crosby.

Pens fans know that these are not unusual occurrences.ย  When the team is faltering, it's become a given that depending on Crosby will usually not disappoint.

The Pens have depended on him to score, win faceoffs, clinch shootouts, always work hard, and swing momentum. The results so far are nothing to complain about after this season of injuries that threatened to bring the team down.

I feel bold enough to say that without Crosby, this team is not in the playoffsโ€”even with Evgeni Malkin, who has had a very inconsistent season, in the lineup.

As for whether Crosby deserves to win the Hart Trophy, I'm not sure. I think players like Ryan Miller, Henrik Sedin, or Ilya Bryzgalov have proved their value to their teams and may be more worthy of the award.

But to leave Crosby out of the mix of contenders would be a mistake.

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