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Behind The Numbers

Sidney Crosby's scoring pace reverting to normal

Penguins captain off to fast start after strong finish to 2015-16 season

by Rob Vollman / Correspondent

With 13 points in his first 10 games this season and 29 points in his final 21 regular-season games in 2015-16, it makes sense to wonder if Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins is reaching new heights with his offensive production, and how long it might last.

A closer look at Crosby's NHL numbers shows that his scoring has merely risen to his previously established normal levels and is nowhere near its maximum. Crosby's recent scoring success is more a reminder of how dominant a player he has always been, and his offensive numbers can rise higher.

Crosby is off to one of the hottest starts of his 12-season NHL career. After missing Pittsburgh's first six games because of a concussion, he has 10 goals in 10 games. That's two behind NHL leader Patrik Laine of the Winnipeg Jets (12 in 18 games). Crosby's 13 points in 10 games works out to 1.30 points per game, which is second in the NHL to Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who has 21 points in 16 games (1.31 per game).

Crosby has been the first star of a game once, the second star four times and the third star twice, for a total of seven game stars in 10 games, according to the data compiled at Sporting Charts. That ranks first among skaters and is tied with goaltenders Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins and Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens for the NHL lead.

Before being held without a point in Pittsburgh's 7-1 loss at the Washington Capitals on Wednesday, Crosby had at least one point in eight of his nine games this season and in 28 of his past 30 regular-season games, dating to Feb. 29. He also had a point in 28 of 30 games from Oct. 13-Dec. 15, 2010.

Crosby's offensive resurgence goes back even further; it dates to the hiring of Mike Sullivan as coach on Dec. 12, 2015. Since then, nobody has exceeded Crosby's 40 goals and 79 points.

Surprisingly, scoring 79 points in 62 games is not a new high for Crosby. As dominant as he has been offensively under Sullivan, this is actually Crosby's typical scoring level throughout most of his career.

The chart shows the running 62-game average scoring production for Crosby, starting with his rookie season in 2005-06 (left) all the way to his current scoring rate (right).

This graphic shows that Crosby's current scoring rate of 79 points in 62 games under Sullivan actually takes Pittsburgh's captain back to his career average, not to new heights. With the exception of his rookie season and the period immediately prior to Sullivan's arrival, Crosby has always scored at this rate, or better.

Crosby began his NHL career as a point-a-game player early in 2005-06, and his scoring rate quickly ascended to its first peak of 110 points in 62 games, from March 24, 2006 to Feb. 4, 2007. He ended the 2006-07 season by leading the NHL in scoring, winning the Hart Trophy and Pearson Trophy (now the Ted Lindsay Trophy), and being named to the First All-Star Team.

Crosby's scoring then settled back to its standard pace of about 80 points per 62 games for five seasons before his second peak of 108 points in a 62-game span from March 24, 2010 to March 20, 2012. This peak lasted two more seasons, 2012-13 and 2013-14; during that time, he was named to the First All-Star Team and won the Pearson Trophy each season and the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's top scorer in 2013-14.

Mike Johnston was hired as Pittsburgh coach before the 2014-15 season; his systems, combined with some injuries and bad luck, led to Crosby's first scoring drought. His offensive production dropped below his previous standard, falling to a career-low of 51 points in 62 games from Jan. 20, 2015 through Dec. 5, 2015, seven days before Sullivan was hired.

At the time, Crosby was 28 years old, and it appeared that his time as the League's most dominant offensive player was coming to an end. In general, offensive production doesn't decline until a player enters his 30s, but every individual is different, especially those with a history of concussions and other injuries. In this case, such speculation was premature.

Sullivan's arrival immediately rekindled Crosby's scoring success, which has returned to his established levels. Not only can he continue to score at his current pace, but Crosby could continue to climb to his third and greatest career scoring peak and his second NHL 120-point season.

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