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Hart choice Crosby produced regardless of linemates

Friday, 04.11.2014 / 3:00 AM / Trophy Tracker

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

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Hart choice Crosby produced regardless of linemates
Sidney Crosby's large lead in scoring race would make him a strong choice for the Hart Trophy, but his ability to perform despite all of Pittsburgh's injuries makes him an easy one.

That Sidney Crosby has broken the 100-point barrier for the fifth time in his career is impressive, and his double-figure lead on the rest of the field in the scoring race makes his pending second Art Ross Trophy pretty remarkable as well.

What is the most impressive thing about Crosby's season? He's accomplished all that by playing more time at even strength with Lee Stempniak and Brian Gibbons as linemates than Evgeni Malkin and James Neal.

Sidney Crosby
Sidney Crosby
Center - PIT
GOALS: 36 | ASST: 67 | PTS: 103
SOG: 254 | +/-: 16
Injuries have decimated the Penguins' roster this season, and about the only constant has been Crosby, who is on pace to play more than 80 games for the first time since he appeared in 81 as a rookie; he's already played more than 41 for the first time since the 2009-10 season.

Those injuries have taken their toll on his regular linemates, Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis. That trio has been together for 28.44 percent of Crosby's even-strength shifts, according to DobberHockey.com's line combination tool, but none since Dupuis sustained a season-ending knee injury Dec. 23.

While Crosby and Kunitz have been together about 80 percent of the time at even strength, Crosby has also seen time with a revolving cast of linemates. That includes Gibbons, a 26-year-old undrafted forward who made his NHL debut Nov. 18 but has spent more than 30 percent of his ice time playing with the best player in the world, and Stempniak, a depth pickup at the NHL Trade Deadline who has slid into a top-line role during 12.57 percent of Crosby's even-strength shifts.

Meanwhile, Malkin has played with Crosby on 9.44 percent of Crosby's even-strength shifts and Neal has been with him on 10.7 percent of them.

Regardless of who has been with him, Crosby has produced all season. He's in the top 10 in the League with 36 goals and he has had a hand in 43.5 percent of the Penguins' non-shootout goals. He's been just as productive at home (19 goals, 55 points in 39 games) as on the road (17 goals, 48 points in 40 games), and the later the games have gotten the better Crosby has been -- his 17 third-period goals are the most in the League.

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The Penguins are 47-8-4 when he has at least one point and 3-16-1 when he's held off the score sheet.

So the fact Crosby has produced at a League-leading level with an ever-changing cast on his wings while leading the Penguins to first place in the Metropolitan Division and a top-two spot in the Eastern Conference makes him the clear choice to win his second Hart Memorial Trophy as the most valuable player in the League.

Crosby might be the easy choice for the Hart Trophy, but there are a number of other worthy candidates.

FINALISTS

Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers -- When the Flyers were 1-7-0 in October, Giroux said the team would make the playoffs, and with him leading the way they got there.

It took Giroux until Nov. 9 to score his first goal, but he's added a bunch since then. In 64 games since, he has added 26 more goals and his 74 points are second among all players since that date. He's had a hand in 36.5 percent of the Flyers' non-shootout goals this season (81 of 222).

Giroux also is lauded for his all-zone game and work ethic.

"The hard work is contagious," linemate Scott Hartnell said. "When your leader does it, it filters right through everybody."

Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks -- The Ducks captain has been the best player on one of the Western Conference's best teams from the first game of the season.

No player in the West has more points, and his 31 goals are a career-high. Getzlaf has been at his best at even strength, with 26 goals and 64 points; he's had a hand in 33.0 percent of the Ducks' 194 even-strength goals. Despite starting 48.4 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone, he finishes there 51.4 percent of the time, according to advanced statistics at BehindtheNet.ca.

The big center plays in all situations, and is third among NHL forwards at more than 21 minutes per game. That includes more than three minutes per game on the power play and more than two minutes per game on the penalty kill; he's one of five forwards in the League to reach those numbers on special teams.

And he's accomplished all that while playing against the second-toughest competition among Ducks forwards, according to BehindtheNet.ca.

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Quote of the Day

They said, 'You're going to love the city. It's smaller than Philadelphia, but you're going to love it. You're going to love the fans. Just watching the playoffs last year, the fans seemed louder there than they did anywhere. I'm really excited about that.

— Forward Scott Hartnell on his upcoming season with the Columbus Blue Jackets