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Cullen: Crosby raising an already high bar with production

Scott Cullen
12/6/2010 7:38:56 PM
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It's not news that Sidney Crosby is a great player.

(If my inbox is to be believed, it might be news that I'm touting him, given my obvious hatred of the Pittsburgh Penguins or whichever team it is this week that I've apparently held a lifelong grudge against.)

What he's doing this year, however, is at a whole new level.

In his first five seasons, Crosby averaged 36.6 goals, 64.6 assists and 101.2 points per season. Considering that fewer than a handful of players top the century mark every year, those totals are impressive enough.

This year, Crosby is on pace for 67.4 goals, 67.4 assists and 134.8 points, ahead of last year's career-high of 51 goals and ahead of his career-high 120 points in 2006-2007.

Crosby is scoring on 20.7% of his shots, which is the highest rate of his career, but not so outrageously better than last year's 17.1%, so his goal-scoring prowess should continue at an elite level and part of the reason is that he's getting more chances.

Crosby is averaging 3.96 shots on goal per game this season, up from last year's 3.68, which was a career-best.

Even if he doesn't continue to score at quite the same pace at which he's scoring now, Crosby seems a safe bet to surpass last year's 51 goals.

In addition to his goal-scoring prowess, Crosby has a plus-10 rating, on pace to be plus-29 over an 82-game schedule; again, significantly better than his career mark of plus-18, set in 2007-2008.

What makes his season all the more amazing is that he's doing it while Evgeni Malkin, a star talent who can draw defensive attention from the opposition, is going through the worst season of his five-year NHL career.

As a result, Crosby has scored 20 points more than any other Penguin, by far the largest gap between a team's No. 1 and No. 2 scorers at this point in the season.

He's vaulted ahead of fast-starting Steven Stamkos to lead the league in goals and points and has, using the same stats I've used to rank others (most notably, Alex Ovechkin) ahead of him in years past, Crosby is the top-ranked skater in the league.
 
I'm not suggesting that anyone is going to get Crosby on the waiver wire to help their team; just recognize that his raised the bar on his already established level of greatness and value always needs to be recognized.

Some notes from the weekend:

SHATTENKIRK
Avalanche rookie D Kevin Shattenkirk has a nine-game point streak, during which he's put up 13 points.  Impressive, especially for a player that opened the season with no points in 10 AHL games.  Right now, Shattenkirk is a viable No. 2 defenceman.

MALONE
Remember when I drafted Ryan Malone on three of my fantasy teams this year?  It's finally starting to pay off, as he's put up 11 points (5 G, 6 A) in the last ten games.

KESSEL
Maple Leafs RW (now C) Phil Kessel hasn't recorded a point in the last four games, but has 22 shots on goal.  They're going to start going in the net.

DUCHENE
Avalanche C Matt Duchene has 15 points (6 G, 9 A) in the last 14 games.  He has David Jones and newcomer Tomas Fleischmann skating on his wings right now (hint, hint).

COUTURE
Since November 4, Sharks C Logan Couture has 12 points in 14 games and he's third on the team in shots on goal behind Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau.

LETANG
Penguins D Kris Letang hasn't gone more than two games without a point this season, tallying 26 in 28 games.  He had 27 points in 73 games last season.

STEPAN
Rangers rookie C Derek Stepan slumped after his opening night hat trick, but has 11 points in the last 13 games. The fourth-leading rookie scorer is a nice option, particularly for those in keeper leagues.

ANISIMOV
Rangers C Artem Anisimov has fallen out of favour, playing fewer than 13 minutes per game during an eight-game scoreless drought.

BLUE JACKETS
C Derick Brassard and RW Jakub Voracek have combined for two points in the last five games; Columbus -- and Rick Nash, specifically -- needs them to be better.

WEISS
Florida' No. 1 C, Stephen Weiss, has one point in his last seven games, despite playing nearly 21 minutes per game; not so good for LW David Booth and RW Steve Bernier.

SAVARD
Bruins C Marc Savard didn't score in his first two games since returning from post-concussion issues; he's been playing with Tyler Seguin and Michael Ryder.

PORTER
Avalanche forward Kevin Porter's brief moment in the sun seems to have faded away. He has no points in the last seven games and has been held without a shot in three of them.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@ctv.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.



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