Sidney Crosby scored his 500th career goal on Tuesday night, and of course he did it because the Penguins were playing against the Flyers and exactly 10 percent of Crosby’s goals in the Battle of Pennsylvania were scored.
It also feels “natural” that Crosby scored 500 goals as he scored 75 as a teenager and 183 goals in his first five seasons, when he was 22. But then came the two lost seasons through injury, when it was not 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 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 vote and now you’re still better than a point- a-game player.
It’s also funny that because the Penguins haven’t won a playoff round in three years, there isn’t much buzz around Pittsburgh as a contender for the cup. The Penguins are first in the Metropolitan Division, get a career season from goalkeeper Tristan Jarry and now Evgeni Malkin is back. The bookmakers have them as the seventh pick to win the Cup, behind the Avalanche, Panthers, Lightning, Maple Leafs, Golden Knights and Hurricanes.
Maybe it’s because Crosby’s been doing this for so long that it feels like he’s old. He is 34, six months older than Matthew Stafford, who just won the Super Bowl. And right now, Crosby’s role could be similar to Stafford’s as the Penguins go on to win the championship: be the leader, sure, but when it comes to winning, it’s someone else’s job to shine, with Jarry as the Cooper Kupp in this analogy. It always comes down to goaltending in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and as good as Crosby has been all these years, it’s when Pittsburgh has had it that he finally won the Cup – therefore in what is now a landmark year for Crosby , he might seriously consider getting his hands on it a fourth time.