Sidney Crosby scored his 500th career goal on Tuesday night, and of course he did because the Penguins were playing the Flyers and exactly 10 percent of Crosby’s career goals have come in the Battle of Pennsylvania.
It also feels like “of course” that Crosby got to 500 goals, seeing as he scored 75 of them as a teenager, and had 183 goals through his first five seasons, when he was 22. But then came the two seasons lost to injury, when it wasn’t clear if Crosby would ever be himself again. And then he was, winning the scoring title with 104 points in 2013-14, and leading the NHL with 44 goals in 2016-17, capping it off with a second straight Stanley Cup.
That was the tail end of Crosby’s prime, but it’s a testament to how incredible his prime was that “slowing down” means finishing fourth in last year’s Hart Trophy voting and still being better than a point-a-game player now.
It’s also funny that, because the Penguins haven’t won a playoff round in three years, there’s not a lot of buzz around Pittsburgh as a Cup contender. The Penguins are first in the Metropolitan Division, they’re getting a career season from goalie Tristan Jarry, and now Evgeni Malkin is back. The bookies have them as the seventh choice to win the Cup, behind the Avalanche, Panthers, Lightning, Maple Leafs, Golden Knights, and Hurricanes.
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Maybe it’s because Crosby has been doing this so long that it feels like he’s old. He’s 34, six months older than Matthew Stafford, who just won the Super Bowl. And at this point, Crosby’s role might be similar to Stafford’s if the Penguins are going to win the championship: be the leader, certainly, but when it comes down to the time to win, it’s someone else’s job to shine, with Jarry as the Cooper Kupp in this analogy. It always does come down to goaltending in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and as great as Crosby has been for all these years, it’s when Pittsburgh has had it that he’s ended up lifting the Cup — which is why in what’s now a milestone year for Crosby, he can seriously think about getting his hands on it a fourth time.