Sidney Crosby Shakes Up NHL MVP Race in Penguins’ Playoff Push

SIdney Crosby

Getty Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

Don’t look now, but the Pittsburgh Penguins are back in a playoff spot.

As improbable as it may have seemed just days ago, Pittsburgh has a hold – albeit a tenuous one – on the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference, and it’s due in large part to their captain, Sidney Crosby.

Crosby has put forth an exceptional season for the Penguins, but his impact has been especially evident as of late. Over the past two weeks alone, he ranks first in the NHL in points (15) and second in goals (six) to help his team surge back into a playoff position for the first time since Nov. 14.

With 40 goals and 45 assists in 77 games this season, Crosby is on pace to finish the season with 91 points. It’s the 19th consecutive point-per-game season of his career, tying Wayne Gretzky for the most in NHL history. Currently tied for 13th among all NHL skaters in total points, he is nowhere near the top of the league’s scoring leaderboard; still, he is building a strong case to be considered for the NHL’s Hart Trophy, presented annually “to the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team.”

Crosby Hits 40-Goal Mark for Third Time in His Career

Crosby scored his 40th goal of the season on April 6 in the Penguins’ 5-4 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, who have already clinched the first Wild Card spot in the East. In doing so, Crosby has notched the third 40-goal season of his career – and he’s done it at 36 years old.

Crosby joins Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin as the only other active NHL player to notch a 40-goal season at age 36 or older, and he’s not showing any signs of slowing down.

While his offensive stats aren’t the flashiest in the league and he isn’t the sole reason for Pittsburgh’s late playoff push over the past week, Crosby’s consistency and reliability – not to mention his refusal to let the Penguins’ 2023-24 season end as abysmally as it once appeared destined to – have earned him some well-deserved attention in his 19th NHL season.

Penguins Have Surged Back into Stanley Cup Playoff Race

As recently as last week, the Penguins were nine points and three seeds outside of the postseason bracket. However, with a win over the Lightning and the Philadelphia Flyerssubsequent loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, Pittsburgh is now very much in the picture. If they do, in fact, make the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it will mark the largest deficit an NHL team has ever overcome within its final 11 games to qualify for the postseason.

The Penguins have now won four straight and are 6-2-2 in their last 10 games. Pittsburgh’s resulting rise in the playoff standings has been impressive, but it has also been aided by the Flyers’ seven-game losing streak dating back to March 24. The Penguins have a slightly tougher schedule ahead, with three of their five remaining games coming against current playoff teams, but they also have a game in hand over the Flyers. Philadelphia has just four games remaining, two of which are against current playoff teams.

Has Crosby Built a Strong Enough Case for Hart Trophy Consideration?

If the Penguins are able to sneak into the playoffs, it would be a remarkable turnaround in a memorable season for Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, who made history this year as the longest-tenured trio of teammates in the history of North American professional sports (18 seasons). The three have been together since 2006-07, when Malkin and Letang debuted in Crosby’s second season, and they have led the Penguins to three Stanley Cup championships in 2009, 2016 and 2017.

With members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association (PHWA) voting on the winner of the Hart Trophy, it’s possible that this narrative, combined with that of an all-time great putting together one of his best seasons at age 36, could be enough to make Crosby a legitimate contender for the award.

It’s no coincidence that the four players who have been mentioned most often in Hart conversations this season — Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon, Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid, Tampa Bay winger Nikita Kucherov and New York Rangers winger Artemi Panarin– are the NHL’s four top point getters. Crosby is one of very few, if any, candidates who could theoretically win the award without coming close to leading the league in scoring.

Realistically, Crosby is a long shot at best to collect his third career Hart Trophy this spring. His chance at clinching a playoff berth with the Penguins, however, is still well within reach.

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