Provided Sidney Crosby
continues to go to the net to score his goals, former NHL goal-scoring great Brendan Shanahan
believes over time the Pittsburgh captain could eventually surpass Alex Ovechkin
as this generation's greatest goal scorer.
After Tuesday's showdown at Pittsburgh, Ovechkin has scored 267 goals in 394 games, while Crosby has 180 in 368 games.
"To me, Sid shows the most potential to keep scoring like this throughout his career because he gets more of his around the net," Shanahan told NHL.com. "Just like any coach will tell you, if you want to score goals (the area around the net) is the area to go to. It's great to have the ability to score from the perimeter, but if you want to do it for 20 years you have to get down there. It's like the little black dress; it never goes out of style."
Crosby, who is in a tight race with Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos
for this season's Rocket Richard Trophy, has scored 38 of his 48 goals this season from below the faceoff dots, including 22 from the slot area below the inner hash marks.
By contrast, Ovechkin has scored only 17 of his 48 goals from the slot and 16 from above the circles. Stamkos has scored the same amount of goals (12) from the middle to upper portion of the left circle as he has in the lower slot area.
"When I look at all three of them, assuming that their styles don't change, even though Ovechkin has jumped out to a huge lead, over time Sid will be the tortoise in this race versus the hare," said Shanahan, who scored 656 goals in his 21-year career mostly because he was constantly trying to change his style to stay ahead of the curve in the ever-evolving NHL.
"Just like any coach will tell you, if you want to score goals (the area around the net) is the area to go to. It's great to have the ability to score from the perimeter, but if you want to do it for 20 years you have to get down there. It's like the little black dress; it never goes out of style." -- Brendan Shanahan
"But that's just assuming they don't change their styles," he added. "The smart thing for any goal scorer to do, and I'm sure they'll do it, is to adapt and find new spots, find new styles. The game evolves so you have to evolve. You can't just score goals one way."
Crosby has always parked himself around the crease, but it took him four full seasons to make what Shanahan believes is a conscious effort to shoot the puck more. He's on the verge of 50 this season after failing to hit 40 in his previous four seasons.
"He used to go up and down (the right side) a lot, but now he's just moving a few feet. And, when he's getting the puck, he's not waiting for the backdoor play," Shanahan said. "It's like he decided that he's not just going to distribute the puck from there. He's taking it to the net more, and that's smart. That's being a moving target."
Shanahan sees no reason for Crosby to change his style.
"This one is the universal area," Shanahan said. "The one thing that won't change whether you're 21 or 41, if there is obstruction or no obstruction is that if you park yourself around the net you're going to score goals."
Ovechkin is a moving target in a different way, one that nobody seems to be able to catch. His athleticism, Shanahan said, makes him the game's most prolific goal scorer.
"It's pure adrenaline, a great shot and it's on the move," Shanahan said. "He scores more than anyone else at full stride. He shoots in stride so his angle and release is constantly changing even in the middle of his shot. A goalie can never get set on Ovechkin because he doesn't stop. He might start his release from one part of the ice and a goalie will realize that he's shooting, but that puck might not come off his stick until 10 feet later with one hard stride."
But if Ovechkin wants to keep this pace up to reach 600, 700 or perhaps even 800 goals, Shanahan said he will have to adjust because his athleticism will wane with age.
"He scores from everywhere and it's amazing to score so many from (the top of the zone), but it's tough to score like this when you're 33 on up," Shanahan said. "If he plays the game into his mid to late 30s I think he will (have to change how he scores goals)."
Shanahan cautioned that Stamkos will likely have to tweak his style next season if he wants to be in the "Rocket" race again. He's a well-known player, but Shanahan wonders how many coaches truly knew how to gameplan against Stamkos this season.
"Of the three, Stamkos is the only one who is scoring goals like it's 1992," Shanahan said. "He gets most of his goals purely with his shot and not skating. He should always keep that shot in his arsenal, but he, more than the other two, will have to introduce a new element next year. Sometimes it takes a year before a team will really zero in on a guy."
Shanahan remains impressed by how Stamkos has scored the bulk of his goals this season. He figured that once NHL goalies moved back in their creases, making it easier to go post-to-post, the one-timer from 30-40 feet out was dead.
Stamkos does a lot of his damage on the one-timer from those distances, but he does it from between the lower faceoff dots, which is a much higher percentage scoring area than outside the dots.
He leads the NHL with 21 power play goals, seven of which have come off a one-timer from the left side. Only three of his power play goals have come from the slot.
"What I like about Stamkos' shot on the power play is for the most part he stays between the dots," Shanahan said. "There are a lot of players that think the one-timer is still a great play and they are shooting it from outside the dots and it's just a low percentage play right now. If you want to continue to do the one-timer you've got to be between the dots."
You also need skilled guys getting you the puck, and Martin St. Louis
leads the NHL with 28 power-play assists. He also has 27 goals, including seven on the power play.
"When you score like Stamkos does where you're sort of a stationary guy waiting for the puck, and I did that for a lot of my career, you have to have other scoring threats on the ice with you," Shanahan said. "If this guy over here (on the right side) is just a pure passer, it's going to hurt Stamkos. Marty St. Louis is a threat to score."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl