Sidney Crosby is a long-time veteran of this game, so it should come as no surprise that he knows just when to peak. With five matches left for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Crosby is looking to tie his longest goal streak this season with tallies in each of the past four games.
If he scores in the Penguins’ crucial Thursday matchup against the New Jersey Devils, a Metropolitan Division opponent, then his five-game streak will tie for the longest string of goals he’s put together this season (he scored goals in five games in a row in late November, two of which were in a back-to-back set against the struggling Buffalo Sabres).
Where is this spike in scoring from Crosby coming from? It’s not just luck— he’s been putting shots on goal more consistently during this stretch than he has for most of the year.
Related: Is Sidney Crosby Heating Up?
Crosby Shots on Goal Through the Season
Crosby has averaged just under three shots per game this season. That ties him for 26th in the league in number of total shots. In each of his past six games, however, he’s put four-plus pucks on net.
This season, Crosby has put over four shots on goal per game for a consistent stretch of time once before. In late October, Crosby bombarded opposing goaltenders for seven games in a row. Despite the high shot totals, Crosby only got one puck to the back of the net in those seven games. And since then, he hasn’t been able repeat those consistently maintained shot totals— that is, until now.
As you can see in the graphic below, Crosby is currently in one of his longest stretches of performing at a consistently high shooting rate. As of Mar. 27, he has remained above the four shots per game threshold in six consecutive games. And unlike the stretch earlier in the season, the increased shot totals are finally paying off with four goals in the past four games.
Crosby’s streak of consistency is anything but insignificant down this stretch. Although the Penguins are in a playoff spot, their lead on the rest of the division is anything but comfortable. And with only five games left in the season, three of those matchups against division opponents, the Penguins could use scoring from their stars now more than ever.
Importance of Crosby Scoring
Seth Rorabaugh of The Athletic noted yesterday that 77 games into the season, the Penguins have yet to secure a playoff spot. Last season at this point, they had already claimed a ticket to the postseason five games ago.
I doubt there's many much caloric value to this to this but … here's some food for thought.
It's March 28. The Penguins just played their 77th game and have yet to clinch a playoff berth.
Last season, they clinched a playoff berth on March 21 with a win in their 72nd game.
— Seth Rorabaugh (@SethRorabaugh) March 28, 2018
It’s not an exaggeration to say these last five games— especially the three against the New Jersey Devils, the Washington Capitals and the Columbus Blue Jackets— might be the most important of the Penguins’ entire season. They will determine whether or not the Penguins begin what will undoubtedly be a steep climb back through the playoffs with home advantage or if they will begin the postseason on the road, where they have been struggling mightily as of late. It might even, in the case of a fantastic collapse, determine whether or not the team makes the playoffs at all.
No one could understand this urgency more than Crosby. If he can maintain the consistency of his shot rate over these next few games, he can help his team up their offensive totals as they attempt to use scoring to conceal a defensive corps that has proved itself to be worryingly vulnerable this season.
Julia Stumbaugh is a student at the College of William & Mary.