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Behind The Numbers

Crosby's playoff numbers rival Lemieux's with Penguins

Pittsburgh captain one point from matching Hall of Famer's totals in postseason

by Rob Vollman / Correspondent

Sidney Crosby has seven points (four goals, three assists) in three games for the Pittsburgh Penguins against the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference First Round, giving the Penguins center 171 points (61 goals, 110 assists) in 151 Stanley Cup Playoff games. 

Crosby is one point shy of Mario Lemieux's Penguins playoff record of 172 points (76 goals, 96 assists), but there are strong arguments Lemieux should be recognized as the Penguins' all-time best in the postseason even after Crosby eclipses his numbers. 

Crosby will attempt to tie and pass Lemieux when the Penguins visit the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference First Round at Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS, NBCSP, ATTSN-PT). Pittsburgh leads the best-of-7 series 2-1.


[RELATED: Complete Penguins vs. Flyers series coverage]


Lemieux scored his 172 points in 107 games, 44 fewer than Crosby's 151. That works out to 1.61 points per game, which ranks second to Wayne Gretzky's 1.84 among players since 1967-68 (minimum 20 games). Crosby (1.13 points per game) is tied with Peter Forsberg for 10th. 

Lemieux led the Penguins in scoring in seven of his eight trips to the playoffs; Crosby led Pittsburgh four times in 10 postseasons.

Crosby, the Penguins captain, has a 3-2 edge in Stanley Cup victories and last season matched Lemieux's achievement of winning the Conn Smythe Trophy consecutive times. However, Crosby was not as dominant offensively as Lemieux, scoring 46 points (14 goals, 32 assists) in 2015-16 and 2016-17, 32 fewer than the 78 points (32 goals, 46 assists) Lemieux scored in his Smythe-winning seasons (1990-91 and 1991-92). Lemieux's numbers rank second behind the 82 points (30 goals, 52 assists) Gretzky scored for the Edmonton Oilers in 1983-84 and 1984-85.

Video: PIT@PHI, Gm3: Crosby opens scoring with wraparound

It's important to consider the difference in scoring rates in Lemieux's day compared to today. The average NHL player scored 0.48 points per game in 1990-91 and 1991-92, 21.9 percent greater than the average of 0.39 points per game over the previous two seasons. That's why it's doubtful Lemieux would have scored 172 points if his NHL career began at the same time as Crosby's in 2005-06.

To level the playing field across eras, we can divide each player's scoring by the average player's points per game that season, and then multiply it by the typical modern-day average of 0.39.

Crosby leads the Penguins with an era-adjusted total of 164.6 points. That ranks No. 12 when applying that era adjustment to all players for every season since the Penguins joined the NHL in 1967-68. 

Lemieux has 146.4 era-adjusted points, which ranks No. 18 and third on the Penguins. Center Evgeni Malkin ranks second on the Penguins and No. 15 with 154.7 era-adjusted points, which suggests the matter of Pittsburgh's greatest playoff scorer may not be a two-player debate. 

In one of the most dominant single-season performances in Stanley Cup Playoff history, Malkin won the Conn Smythe in 2008-09 when he led the postseason with 36 points (14 goals, 22 assists) in 24 games. That works out to an era-adjusted total of 33.9 points, which ranks second in history to Lemieux's 35.3 in 1990-91. Malkin also led the NHL in playoff scoring last season, with 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists) in 25 games, which ranks No. 16. Crosby's best season, when he scored an era-adjusted total of 29.2 points in 2008-09, ranks No. 13.

Video: PHI@PIT, Gm1: Crosby completes natural hat trick

Forward Jaromir Jagr is another player who belongs in the discussion. Of all those who played for the Penguins, Jagr is the playoff scoring leader, with 201 points (78 goals, 123 assists) in 208 games. His era-adjusted total of 190.7 points ranks third, behind Gretzky (298.1) and Mark Messier (238.3). 

When limiting the analysis to Jagr's time with the Penguins, he ranks fourth with 147 points (65 goals, 82 assists) in 140 games, and an era-adjusted total of 135.5. The next highest-ranking player is Kevin Stevens, who had an era-adjusted total of 87.3 points with the Penguins.

Even when using these era-adjusted totals, Lemieux remains in the lead with 1.37 points per game, which ranks second to Gretzky (1.43). Among those to play at least 20 games, Crosby ranks sixth with 1.09 era-adjusted points per game, Malkin is No. 10 with 1.02, and Jagr ranks No. 24 with 0.92.

Despite matching Lemieux's total of 172 playoff points, Crosby's lower scoring rate means he may require a bigger lead before being considered the Penguins' best all-time playoff performer.



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