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Rossi: Crosby takes another star turn in Big Three Battle

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Sunday, Dec. 6, 2009

What a spectacular season of "Survivor: Art Ross." The breakout star is Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who has spent the past month scoring goals at a previously unseen rate while charging toward the top of the NHL scoring list. During the late-November sweeps period, he literally carried the program with his finest performance in three years.

It's almost as if the star from last season, Penguins center Evgeni Malkin, is now a bit player on this program, and the top talent from two years ago, Washington winger Alex Ovechkin, has been reduced to a "special guest appearance."

I can't wait to see how the story line progresses over these next several months.

Spoiler alert: That story line will progress with Crosby scoring at least 45 goals and winning his second scoring title. Malkin and Ovechkin will jostle with one another to finish second.

Sorry viewers in San Jose, New York and Los Angeles; Joe Thornton, Marian Gaborik and Anze Kopitar are in the process of getting voted off the Art Ross Island.

Dragged out reality TV analogy aside; nobody should be surprised that Crosby has upped the ante in his competition with Malkin and Ovechkin to determine who is the NHL's best offensive player, if not its best overall player. Upping the ante is how these three superstars operate.

Three years ago Crosby's response to Ovechkin's previous 106 point/top rookie season was 120 points to lead the NHL and the Hart Trophy as MVP. Ovechkin answered the next season with 112 points, which won him the scoring title and the first of two straight MVP honors.

By then, Malkin had turned a two-player rivalry into a three-scorer shuffle. His 106 points two years ago ranked only behind Ovechkin, and he finished second in the MVP voting. Last year, Malkin again finished second in that vote, but his 113 points topped the NHL and he was selected as MVP of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

So, by my count, 2006 went to Ovechkin; 2007 to Crosby; 2008 to Ovechkin; 2009 to Malkin, and ...

"Sid will win the scoring title," Malkin said Thursday night after Crosby scored his 12th goal in 11 games, pushing his pace to 54.

"But I'm trying, of course. It's exciting for me."

Crosby, Ovechkin and Malkin have made "Survivor: Art Ross" the most exciting program in professional sports — and it's only getting better.

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