Sidney Crosby having playoff success with the Pittsburgh Penguins isn’t anything new. After all, with the Penguins’ 2017 Stanley Cup win, Crosby has now won the Conn Smythe two years in a row. But in the start to the Penguins’ 2018 playoff run, Crosby has hit a new milestone. With his eleventh career postseason appearance, Crosby is having the best playoffs start yet.
Crosby’s Postseason History
Crosby started off this postseason with a bang. His hat trick in Game 1 set the tone for the Penguins and sparked a 7-0 blowout win to open up the playoffs. Then despite going without a point in the next 5-1 loss, he was once again a dominant force on the opposite side of a second 5-1 game with four points, including one goal, in the Penguins win.
Three games in, Crosby has now tallied seven points. He’s done that once before in his career, when he recorded seven points against the Ottawa Senators in the first three games of the 2010 playoffs. That was before the first debilitating concussion that would derail Crosby’s career for years, and was arguably part of the captain’s prime.
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But in 2010, Crosby only tallied two goals in those first three games. The first three games of the 2018 run is the first time in his career that the Penguins’ star has opened a playoff series with four goals.
There are several notable takeaways from examining the first three games of each of Crosby’s 11 postseason runs. He’s never scored at less than a point-per-game level in the first few games of a series; he’s only been held without a goal in the first three games one time, in 2014, where he still managed to tally four assists against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Initial consistency in the postseason is no rarity for Crosby, but this level of immediate scoring dominance in the playoffs is a first.
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The Importance of Crosby’s Production
Crosby’s four goals in the Penguins’ first two wins of the playoffs have been crucial for sparking the team’s offense. This was especially so in Game 3, when Phil Kessel was moved up to play alongside Evgeni Malkin on the second line. Kessel and Malkin have enjoyed impressive chemistry in the past, but putting two of the team’s stars on the same line limits the Penguins’ depth considerably, making it much more likely that their bottom six can get rolled over by the other team. Crosby’s production was a big part of making that top-heavy lineup work in Game 3.
It will come as no surprise that Crosby’s possession statistics are also absurdly dominant right now. He’s recording almost a 60% Corsi For percentage; that’s almost ten percent higher than he finished in the 2017 playoffs and five percent high than 2016, where he averaged 50% and 55%, respectively, by the end of the playoffs.
Crosby loves to play against the Philadelphia Flyers. He’s scored almost as many regular season points against them as he has his favorite opponent the New York Islanders— his 93 career points against the Flyers only trails his 108 against the Islanders in his career splits. The fact that he’s on his game right now is one of the Penguins’ biggest advantages going into Game 4.
Julia Stumbaugh is a student at the College of William & Mary.