Kovacevic: Take a second to celebrate Sid
Sidney Crosby has 16 more points than anyone else in the NHL. That's 103 to the 87 of the Ducks' Ryan Getzlaf.
He broke the 100-point barrier last week in a season where only five others are sure to break 80.
He's about to win his second Art Ross Trophy as scoring champion, and he'll probably end up with the greatest gap between himself and second place since 1998-99, when Jaromir Jagr beat out Teemu Selanne by 20 points.
He'll win his second Hart Trophy as league MVP by what absolutely must be a unanimous vote by the Pro Hockey Writers Association. They probably shouldn't even bother inviting the other two finalists to the ceremony in Las Vegas. When Canada's TSN network polled 16 NHL coaches this week to ask their choice, just for fun, 16 picked Crosby.
He's scored or set up 36.3 percent of the Penguins' even-strength goals, 59.4 percent of their power-play goals. The power play is No. 1 in the league.
He is so far ahead of the pack that the typically fuss-raising Hart debate has been reduced to headlines like this one from Yahoo! Sports: “Will Foolish Voters Deny Sidney Crosby's MVP season?” Or this from Canada's National Post: “Can Claude Giroux Steal Some MVP Votes from Crosby?” That's steal votes, not steal the prize.
He'll have done all of the above despite what his most tenured teammate, Brooks Orpik, calls “just relentless checking, a pounding night after night. But that's Sid. He keeps battling through it.”
He'll have done all of the above despite losing his longtime right winger, Pascal Dupuis, a player and friend who understands him like few others, to a knee injury in December.
His replacement right wingers at even-strength, as the result of Dupuis' injury, have included 170 minutes of Lee Stempniak, 142 of Brian Gibbons, 59 of Craig Adams, 50 of Chuck Kobasew, 11 of Matt D'Agostini and six of Chris Conner.
He's also been denied the broader offensive support of Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Paul Martin and James Neal for long stretches.
He captained the Penguins to the Metropolitan Division title. They've won 51 games. If they win one more this weekend, that will be the second-highest total in franchise history. Chris Kunitz, flanking his left side through all that and a golden run in Sochi, called Crosby “the generator for our team, the one who makes us go, a guy who gets us at least one scoring chance just about every time he's on the ice. It doesn't matter who he's playing with, what the circumstances are for himself or for the team. He doesn't complain. He's the best player in the world.”
He's the best player in the world. Again. Or, as Kunitz put it, “I don't think there ever was a debate. Who else has gotten it done like Sid year after year?”
He has led, in his own way, whether it's pulling aside Malkin for a private pick-me-up after a devastating Olympics or simply setting the right example. Listen to Jussi Jokinen: “I think a lot of people are looking at what Sid is doing and saying, ‘Well, of course, it's Sid.' But for me, I see the best player in the world every day, and I watch and learn from the best. It's been a great experience for me to see what he does, to see how hard he works, how consistent he is.”
He's produced at least a point in 59 of his 79 games.
He'll essentially log a full season for the first time since 2009-10, having buried the concussion issue so deep it's barely an afterthought anymore.
He'll want absolutely nothing to do with any part of this discussion. “My best regular season?” he replied to the question Wednesday. “I don't know. I'm definitely happy to get a good chunk of the year in. It's been a while. But I don't know. It's really hard to gauge. I feel like there are certain points where I could have been better. But I don't remember what I felt like in seasons four or five years ago. Consistency's always what you want, and I feel like I've got a pretty good feel for what that takes now. I'm not guessing as much as maybe I was in the past. But I honestly don't know if this has been my best season.”
He'll want even less to do with the topic of being the best player in the world: “I don't know. That's different for everybody.”
He's about to cap, no matter what he says, one of the greatest individual regular seasons in our city's history. It's right up there with some of the finest work of Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Terry Bradshaw, Troy Polamalu, Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell.
And we aren't talking about any of this why, exactly?