-- He has 11 points in five games after spending 10.5 months on the shelf recovering from a concussion, and yet nobody around the Pittsburgh Penguins
is surprised with how quickly Sidney Crosby
has raced back onto the scene and into the NHL scoring race.
"Not really. Not really at all," linemate Pascal Dupuis
told NHL.com. "He was with us in practice and we could see his speed and everything was still there. He was the best guy in practice for the last couple of weeks before he got back. We kind of had that feeling that he was going to come back on top of his game. But to come back like this and look the same as he did before is probably what surprises other people."
"He's played some awesome hockey," added Penguins coach Dan Bylsma
. "The way he's prepared for months coming into playing these games has been at a high level, so you expected to see him at that high level speed-wise and skill-wise."
Center - PIT
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 9 | PTS: 11
SOG: 16 | +/-: 7
If Crosby stays at his current pace of 2.2 points per game and doesn't miss another game, he would finish with 136 points this season. That would give him the most points for any NHL player since 1995-96, when Mario Lemieux
put up 161 points and Jaromir Jagr
Even if you think it's unrealistic for him to continue at such a torrid pace, Crosby has at least landed himself in the discussion for this season's Art Ross
Trophy. He has 57 games to make up the 21 points that current leader Phil Kessel
has on him right now.
"I'm not surprised," Bylsma said. "And I think he still would tell you, and he has told you, that there is more there."
Crosby, in fact, did tell reporters exactly that roughly 15 minutes before Bylsma said it.
"I still think I can get better at timing and stuff like that, but I think with each game it has gotten better," Crosby said. "Am I right there? No, I don't expect to be there in five games. But I expect it to get better with each game in certain areas. Some things have been like that and some things take more time, but I'm happy with the way I've felt for the most part."
Crosby did admit that picking up 4 points in his season debut against the Islanders 10 days ago was huge for his confidence. He proved to himself and everyone else that he wouldn't need much time to be productive at a high level.
However, he knew that night against the Islanders that there were things that perhaps only he could see that needed to get better. He hasn't changed that way of thinking even though he's off to such a rapid start.
"It was nice (against the Islanders), but I forgot about it pretty quickly because I knew there were still some things I needed to improve on," Crosby said. "It's a little different when you get in the grind. Once you start playing more I think you start to have higher expectations of yourself and critique yourself a little bit more than you would in your first couple of games.
"It was awesome and yeah, it's good for confidence, but that being said, I still have those same expectations and want to adjust as soon as I can."
Yes, Crosby has 11 points in five games and still he wants to adjust.
"That shows you how dedicated he is," Dupuis said.
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl