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Healthy Crosby cleans up at NHL Awards

by Dan Rosen

LAS VEGAS -- First remember what Sidney Crosby was doing two and a half years ago. Now look at where he was and what he was doing Tuesday night.

It's an accomplishment so impressive it's worth three trophies.

Crosby went from waiting, wondering and hoping his concussion issues would subside so he could resume his career to standing on stage at Encore Theater in Wynn Las Vegas accepting the three trophies that represent overall individual excellence in a NHL season.

2013-14 Hart Trophy Voting -- Top 10

Player Pts. (1st-2nd-3rd-4th-5th)
Crosby, PIT 1,341 (128-8-1-0-0)
Getzlaf, ANA 877 (5-96-28-5-0)
Giroux, PHI 435 (2-15-42-27-19)
Varlamov, COL 256 (1-8-23-22-9)
Bergeron, BOS 137 (0-4-9-17-13)
Seguin, DAL 84 (0-1-6-12-11)
Pavelski, SJS 71 (0-0-3-11-23)
Kopitar, LAK 58 (0-0-4-9-11)
Toews, CHI 53 (0-2-4-4-7)
Bishop, TBL 52 (0-0-5-6-9)

The Pittsburgh Penguins captain won the Hart Memorial Trophy for the second time in his career, finishing with 128 of 137 first-place votes. He previously won the Hart in 2006-07, when he was 19 years old. Injuries derailed potential MVP seasons in 2010-11 and 2012-13.

He also took home the Ted Lindsay Award (formerly the Lester B. Pearson Award) for the second straight season and third time in his career. In addition, he was feted with the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's leading scorer for the second time in his career.

Crosby finished with 104 points, 17 clear of Anaheim Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf, who was second in the scoring race and in the Hart Trophy vote and a finalist for the Ted Lindsay Award.

"You look back at 19, I probably took it for granted a little bit," Crosby said. "When you win [the Hart Trophy] that young, you probably expect to win it maybe sooner and you might think it's a little easier than it actually is. You need a lot of things to go right. You need to play with a lot of good players. You need to stay healthy. I'm happy to be able to do that this year."

Crosby hadn't been able to stay healthy since the 2009-10 season, when he had 110 points in 81 games and finished as the runner-up to Vancouver Canucks captain Henrik Sedin in the Hart Trophy vote.

He looked like a runaway winner for the NHL's MVP award through the first half of the 2010-11 season, but Crosby couldn't play the second half because of a concussion. He finished with 66 points in 41 games, his last on Jan. 5, 2012.

Crosby didn't play another game until Nov. 21. His return was brief, eight games to be exact, before he had to go back on the shelf because of further issues related to his concussion. He didn't play again until March 15, 2013.

Through it all, Crosby wondered if he would ever be able to resume his career. He couldn't even imagine winning another individual award.

"Having gone through that and being on the other side of it, hopefully, I have a much greater appreciation for all this stuff," Crosby said. "Even though you're not playing for [individual awards] you definitely don't take it for granted and you try to enjoy it a little more."

Crosby's goals entering this season had nothing to do with individual awards. He simply wanted to play a full season. He hadn't done that since 2010-11.

He played in the first 36 games of 2012-13 and again looked like he would be a runaway League MVP with 56 points until his jaw was shattered by an errant shot, forcing him to miss the final 12 games and the first game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Crosby missed two games in 2013-14, including the last game of the regular season, which was meaningless for the Penguins.

"This stuff [the awards] is kind of an added bonus," Crosby said. "I was happy to be able to [play a full season]."

That he overcame his injury woes to return to being the game's premier player is a testament to his competitiveness, said Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, who has won the past two Olympic gold medals with Crosby.

"He's a great competitor," Babcock said. "He's a committed, committed guy to getting better. He's a leader in that way and that's why he's been so successful."

Considering that competitiveness, it's no surprise that Crosby's next individual goal is to improve on what he did in 2013-14. He constantly sets the bar higher for himself, and in a way Crosby views this season as a new start for him after all the injury problems.

"There's still a level I can get to," Crosby said. "Before I got hurt was probably the best I felt and I'd like to get back to that point. I don't feel like I got to that point this year. I feel like I was consistent and that was a product of our team and the guys around me, but I still feel like I can improve and learn a lot more. That's exciting."


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