Break out the accusations that I’m a homer, but Tuesday night provided a prime example of the MVP credentials for C SIDNEY CROSBY, who played 27:01 — way too much given his busy season this Olympic year, by the way — because C EVGENI MALKIN (illness) and LW CHRIS KUNITZ (shoulder) were out and the Penguins were down to 11 healthy forwards.
Crosby is tied with RW ALEX OVECHKIN of the Capitals for the NHL lead with 48 goals. Ovechkin has played eight fewer games, but made up for that by scoring four more empty-net goals. Hey, no knock against Ovechkin; empty-netters count, too.
Still, my main point for Crosby as league MVP comes from comparing his carrying of the Penguins this season. I’ve seen 90 percent of their games in person, and I’m telling you they are a low-seed in the East without Crosby, not a home-ice advantage club. Consider they are only 35-23-7 — only 59.2 percent of possible points earned — since Nov. 1.
Malkin has missed 15 games. Keep in mind that he is a significant piece for the Penguins (duh!). Last season, he and Crosby each topped 100 points, and the difference between Crosby as the team’s second scorer with 103 points and C JORDAN STAAL as the team’s third scorer with 49 points was one of the largest margins between a team’s second and third scorers in NHL history, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
Crosby is plus-28 in points on Malkin, who this season is second on the Penguins with 72 points in 64 games. He is plus-52 on Staal, who is third on the club with 48 points.
(Note: For the purposes of this comparison I don’t count players added at the trade deadline, so when discussing leading scorers I’m only talking players to spend the entire season with the Penguins. Last year, that excluded RW BILL GUERIN and this year it applies to LW ALEXEI PONIKAROVSKY.)
Crosby began Tuesday tied with Canucks C HENRIK SEDIN for the highest margin of difference by a team’s leading scorer and a team’s second-leading scorer. Sedin is a deserving MVP candidate, but G ROBERTO LUONGO (2.56 GAA/.913 SV%) had slightly surpassed MARC-ANDRE FLEURY of the Penguins (2.64 GAA/.905 SV%) in overall performance, and Vancouver has benefited from 74 points from C RYAN KESLER — thus giving Crosby, in my opinion, the slight nod over Sedin in the MVP race.
Then again, perhaps the race is really between a couple of goalies in Phoenix and Buffalo? Still, if it goes to a forward, as it usually does, Crosby should be that forward. He has quite literally carried the Penguins this season.
VIDEO KILLED THE NEWSPAPER STAR
Hardly a star, but only real men wear purple:
Dear readers looking to share their best Igloo stories can drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org … The plan is to put together some of the best to run Thursday for the regular-season finale. Please include your FULL NAME and HOMETOWN, or else I won’t be reading what you write.
— BY ROB ROSSI (4/7/10)