Well it took a few months but the Pittsburgh Penguins are finally playing like the team they were built to be. The Penguins have been on a tear as of late, going 7-2-1 in their last ten games which puts them alongside the elite teams of the Eastern Conference, such as the Washington Capitals and the New York Rangers. They also slid into the last wild card spot in the east. A lot of this has to do with the play of their points leader, captain and heart of the team, Sidney Crosby.
Sidney Crosby, the hottest player in the league right now, is finally playing like the Crosby we all remember. A few games ago he had a hat trick followed by two goals and two assists for a four point night. He also just had a career-high seven game goal scoring streak and has climbed to sixth in the league in points with 24 goals and 29 assists for 53 points. He also recently became the 10th fastest player to reach 900 points in the NHL. This is a list that includes names like Guy Lafleur, Mario Lemieux and obviously Wayne Gretzky. This list is comprised of great players, but players that played in an era where scoring goals came a lot easier than in Crosby’s era. This makes Crosby’s achievements even more remarkable.
The Pittsburgh Penguins were built 10 years ago with one of the strongest groups of core players since the Edmonton Oilers of the 1980’s. The standard that great teams have used to win the Stanley Cup is a goaltender, a great secondary scoring forward and a center-man. They got their goaltender in Marc-André Fleury and they got their big, high-scoring forward in Evgeni Malkin. The final piece of the puzzle was Sidney Crosby. He is the Penguins’ leader, center-man, playmaker and difference maker. The management of the Penguins have done a great job surrounding Crosby, Malkin and Fleury with players that compliment their superstars. Players like Kris Letang and Phil Kessel that are realizing that playing with Crosby is very easy when you just let him control the game like only he can.
The coaching change has been very good to Crosby’s game as well. New coach Mike Sullivan has given Crosby and the rest of the team more freedom to play a faster, higher scoring style of play, and it is paying off. By giving the team free reign of the offence and trusting the goaltending and defence, Pittsburgh is playing its best hockey of the season and looking like the team that won the Stanley Cup in 2008-2009.
A lot of us forgot about Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first half of the season. It was easy to get sidetracked from this storyline because of other narratives such as the Washington Capitals, Connor McDavid and Patrick Kane. Now, it is going to be fun to watch Crosby and the Penguins for the rest of the season. The best player in his generation and the team he captains is back where they belong: on the front page.