After Sidney Crosby missed much of the last two seasons battling concussion-related problems, it was fair to ask if he would ever be as good as he was before the injuries.
Crosby's 45 points put him on pace to finish the 48-game season with 80 -- or more than 140 for a full season. (Photo: Joe Sargent/NHLI)
The answer: He's not -- he's even better.
Crosby led the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 4-0-0 record last week by piling up 11 points (two goals, nine assists) -- including a five-assist night on Sunday as the Penguins routed the New York Islanders, 6-1. The big week extended his scoring streak to eight games, during which he's piled up 20 points.
Crosby is threatening a runaway in the League scoring race. His 45 points are eight more than runner-up Steven Stamkos and put him on pace to finish this season's 48-game schedule with 80 points. Projected over an 82-game schedule, he'd have more than 140 -- a level no one has reached since Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr in the mid-1990s.
Five up -- Five other players who had a good week:
Sergei Bobrovsky -- The Columbus Blue Jackets are riding a five-game winning streak, and Bobrovsky is a big reason why. The third-year goaltender went 4-0-0 last week, allowing just two goals on 109 shots.
Ryan Getzlaf -- Anaheim's captain had a good week on and off the ice. He put up nine points and was plus-7 in four games as the surprising Ducks improved to 18-3-3 -- and he signed an eight-year, $66 million contract that should keep him in Orange County for the rest of his career.
Chris Kunitz -- Crosby isn't the only Penguin on a roll. Kunitz had his own five-point night in the victory against the Islanders, scoring three times and adding two assists. He had six goals and nine points as the Penguins won four times.
Matt Duchene --
Center - COL
GOALS: 11 | ASST: 15 | PTS: 26
SOG: 60 | +/-: 3
The speedy center led Colorado to back-to-back weekend victories against Chicago and San Jose, scoring a goal and adding three assists against the Blackhawks, then scoring twice -- including the winner in the final second of overtime -- to beat the Sharks.
Slava Voynov -- The young Los Angeles defenseman has turned into an offensive weapon. He scored a goal in Thursday's come-from-behind win against St. Louis and turned in a pair of three-assist performances in victories against Nashville and Calgary.
Five down -- Five players who didn't:
Olli Jokinen -- The 34-year-old center isn't providing the kind of offense the Winnipeg Jets expected when they signed him last summer. Jokinen has gone six games without a point despite averaging nearly 19 minutes of ice time during that stretch.
Danny Briere -- Is the 35-year-old starting to show his age? He's gone without a point in Philadelphia's last four games, hasn't scored a goal in three weeks and has only five goals and 13 points in 22 games.
Jaroslav Halak -- Despite playing in front of a group of skaters that gives up fewer shots than any other team in the NHL, Halak surrendered eight goals in losses to Los Angeles and Anaheim. His goals-against average is 2.38 -- but his save percentage is down to .881.
Jacob Markstrom --
Goalie - FLA
GAA: 3.34 | SVP: 0.900
The 6-foot-6 rookie is expected to be Florida's goaltender of the future, but the present has been tougher than expected. Markstrom allowed two goals without making a save before being lifted in Washington and allowed 10 goals on 66 shots while going 0-2-1 in his past three games.
Daniel Cleary -- Cleary has been a solid mid-level point producer for Detroit, until this season. He's gone seven games without a point and has hit the scoresheet in just four of his 26 appearances this season.
Thee week ahead -- It's Boston's turn to play five games in a week, including weekend meetings with Washington and Pittsburgh. Nashville plays four times on the road; Anaheim, Detroit and the New York Rangers play all three of theirs away from home. The Edmonton Oilers return to Rexall Place on Friday to host Detroit -- it's their first home game in 17 days after a nine-game trip.
Games to watch:
Boston at Pittsburgh (March 12; NBCSN/TSN/RDS) -- The Penguins will face a stiff challenge as they try to extend their winning streak to six games.
Philadelphia at New Jersey (March 13; NBCSN/TSN2) -- Rivalry Night matches the teams at the opposite ends of the New Jersey Turnpike -- both of whom have struggled in recent weeks -- in the opener of a home-and-home series.
Washington at Carolina (March 14; NHLN-US) -- The Capitals have been one of the season's biggest disappointments, while their Southeast Division rivals are among the biggest surprises.
New Jersey at Philadelphia (March 15; NHLN-US/RDS) -- Don't be surprised if there are a few hard feelings left over from their meeting in Newark a couple of days earlier.
New York Rangers at Pittsburgh (March 16; NHLN-US) -- The Rangers need a win if they're going to catch the Penguins in the Atlantic Division. This is the first game of a tripleheader for U.S. viewers on the NHL Network; they can also see Montreal at New Jersey and Detroit at Vancouver (both of which are available in Canada on CBC and RDS).
Boston at Pittsburgh (March 17; NBC/RDS/NHLN-Canada) -- NBC will be on hand in Pittsburgh as the Bruins come back to town for the second time in less than a week.