As they enter what could be the later stages of their NHL career, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin will continue to reach major milestones. This season, the two Pittsburgh Penguins centers have a chance to cross off at least one impressive statistical mark each. Crosby could join Mario Lemieux as the second player in Penguins history to reach at least 500 goals. Malkin has a chance, even if it might be an outside one, to reach 1,000 NHL games.
If and when those milestones are achieved, they’ll be celebrated. But before then, let’s see how plausible it is for Crosby and Malkin to make more history this season.
Crosby Approaching 500 Goals
This is a question of when it will happen not if. Any number of obstacles could prevent Crosby from reaching 500 this season, but I won’t mention them out of respect for the captain’s infamous superstitions.
What I will say is, entering a full 82-game season, Crosby has scored 486 NHL goals. The math is pretty simple. Crosby had 24 goals in 55 games last season and 16 in 41 games the season before. He has scored fewer than 15 goals once in 16 NHL seasons – eight in 22 games during the 2011-12 campaign – so 14 goals this season is well within reach.
Looking at the big picture, could Crosby become the Penguins’ all-time leading goal scorer? Well, Lemieux is No. 1 with 690. Crosby, who just turned 34 on Aug. 7, would need to average just over 29 goals over the next seven seasons to surpass that number. It’s possible but unlikely.
On top of the potential 500-goal milestone, Crosby could also reach 1,400 NHL points. If he plays most of the season, he could tally the 75 points required. If he does reach 1,400, he’d be the second active player to reach that mark. Joe Thornton has 1,529 points in 1,680 games, while Crosby has averaged 1.28 points per game through 1,039 contests. The past two seasons, he’s averaged 1.15 and 1.13. His lowest career average is 1.06 from 2015-16. Even if Crosby averages his career-low of 1.06 this season, he could get to 1,400 career points as long as he plays in at least 71 games.
Again, looking at the big picture, could Crosby become the Penguins’ all-time points leader? Again, Lemieux is No. 1 with 1,723. Crosby would have to average almost 100 points for the next four seasons to pass that. But over five seasons? He would need to average just 79.8. Six seasons? Average 66.5. Seven seasons? Average 57. That’s a real possibility by the time Crosby, who is already undoubtedly the second greatest player in franchise history, hangs them up.
Malkin Nearing 1,000 Games
This milestone will be harder to reach than Crosby’s because Malkin is coming off of knee surgery which should keep him out of training camp. More information is expected to be provided when the Penguins begin camp, but, for now, Malkin’s status is up in the air. General manager Ron Hextall has said he is recovering well but hasn’t provided a firm update.
What we do know is Malkin sits at 940 career games and needs at least 60 regular-season games to join Crosby as the only players to suit up 1,000 times with the Penguins. That means Malkin would need to return no later than the Dec. 1 game against the Edmonton Oilers, the date of the Penguins’ 23rd game, to reach the 1000-game milestone. Even if he returns by then, he can’t afford to miss one of the remaining 59 games to hit the mark this season.
Is that a big ask? I’m not sure, and we won’t be sure until a timeframe is provided, probably in a few weeks. That said, Malkin is entering the final year of his contract. Hextall has said he’d like to extend Malkin, defenseman Kris Letang and forward Bryan Rust, but nothing has happened yet. That means, worst case, Malkin could miss more than 22 games this season, leave for another team next season and never reach 1,000 games with the Penguins. That scenario is highly unlikely, but the possibility exists.
Will Crosby and Malkin Reach These Milestones?
To be clear, the question relates to this season. Crosby will get to 500 goals (and 1,400 points) at some point in his career, and the same goes for Malkin and 1,000 games. It’s all about this season, and Crosby is simple enough. The safest bet is he will reach 500 goals. Probably rather easily. Scoring roughly 30 or so goals this season seems an appropriate estimate, so he’d likely get to 500 sometime in December or January.
Reaching 1,400 points could be slightly more difficult, but with a relatively healthy season, he should get to 75 points without much problem.
Malkin’s situation almost makes it impossible to predict if he’ll make it to 1,000 games this season. It would be disingenuous to make that sort of prediction based on the unknown variables of his health. Once camp opens, more should be known about how long the Penguins will be without Malkin, or if they’ll be without him at all once the regular season rolls around. At that point, it might be easier to say whether or not he should suit up for 60 games.
To summarize: Crosby, 500 goals? Yes, easily. Crosby, 1,400 points? Yes. Not as easily, but still kind of easily. Malkin, 1,000 games? Nobody can predict that yet.
Wes Crosby is a freelance reporter, covering the Penguins for THW and serving as NHL.com’s Pittsburgh correspondent since 2013. He has also covered the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pirates for the Associated Press since graduating from Duquesne University in May 2013. During his tenure with NHL.com, Wes covered the Penguins’ two most recent Stanley Cup runs in 2016 and 2017.