Despite setbacks, Crosby up for MVP
If playing through pain and adversity is the stuff of MVPs, give Sidney Crosby the Hart Trophy now.
Crosby, a Hart Trophy front-runner until he missed the final month of the season with a broken jaw, was named one of three finalists Friday.
Washington right wing Alex Ovechkin, his longtime rival, and New York Islanders center John Tavares, his new rival in the ongoing Eastern Conference quarterfinal series, are the other nominees.
“It's definitely an honor any time you get nominated for an award,” Crosby said. “It's been a long couple of years. It feels good.”
The scene in the Penguins' locker room said it all following Game 5.
Crosby, sitting at his stall following the 4-0 victory, removed his skates to reveal a bruise from a shot he had absorbed off his right foot late in the second period. But that wasn't the worst of it.
“(Defenseman Kris Letang) almost hit me with a puck in the face in the first period,” Crosby said, shaking his head.
Crosby is only six weeks removed from sustaining a broken jaw against the Islanders, which cost him the Art Ross Trophy. He led the NHL scoring race by more than 10 points for most of March but relinquished the scoring title to Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis in the season's final week.
Luck hasn't been on Crosby's side for some time.
He missed 101 games between Jan. 6, 2011, and March 15, 2012, because of multiple bouts with concussion symptoms. Those trying times may have cost Crosby a couple of Art Ross and Hart trophies.
“I think it's really frustrating for me as a hockey fan,” said New Jersey left wing Steve Sullivan, who played last season with the Penguins. “Someday, after his career, people are going to say that he didn't win as many scoring titles or MVPs as (Wayne) Gretzky or (Mario) Lemieux. But look at how many things these injuries have robbed him of. I hope people understand how great he is.”
Crosby won the scoring title and the Hart Trophy in 2007 when, at age 19, he produced a career-high 120 points.
This marks the third time he has been an MVP finalist.
Crosby downplayed his battles with injuries in this series. Along with the foot stinger and the near-miss from the Letang clearing attempt, Crosby was struck by a shot in the throat in Game 4.
“Everyone has their bumps and bruises at this point,” Crosby said. “Everyone is dealing with that.”
Getting rest would help. Should the Penguins win Game 6 on Saturday, they will get a few days off before a series against Ottawa.
Crosby, though, is hardly thinking that far ahead.
Rather, finishing off the pesky Islanders — in three attempts spanning 38 years, the Penguins have never beaten them in a playoff series — is foremost on his mind.
“We just want to make sure we win the series,” Crosby said. “Obviously (Game 6 is) a great opportunity for us. We want to get it done.”
The MVP winner will be announced during the Stanley Cup Final.
The Penguins would be shocked if Crosby doesn't win the Hart.
“He's the best player in the world,” Letang said. “And everybody knows it.”