The last time Sidney Crosby started a season uncharacteristically slow, the Pittsburgh Penguins ended up firing their head coach before winning the Stanley Cup in the same year. That was the first of their back-to-back Stanley Cup wins in the 2015-16 season, where Crosby had 15 points in 23 games played by the end of November.
Famously, Crosby ended that season with 85 points in 80 games en route to the Penguins first championship since 2009.
While the Penguins have no real reason to fire head coach Mike Sullivan with the team 10-7-3 on the season, Crosby has found himself in a bit of a similar drought from a few years back. Before Tuesday night, Crosby was goalless in 11 straight games with just three assists in that time span. The drought was Crosby’s second longest of his career, with his longest coming in the 2011-12 season where he battled concussion symptoms.
The slump got so bad that even FiveThirtyEight was asking was was wrong with Crosby this year.
On Tuesday, however, Crosby got on the scoreboard for the first time since Oct. 20 with a much-needed gritty, down-low power play goal.
Crosby was also the main facilitator of Conor Sheary’s overtime winner that got the Penguins a much-needed win with a 5-4 victory. In a sense, Crosby got back on track with that two-point night, putting to rest fears that something was wrong with the NHL’s best player and three-time Stanley Cup winner.
Of course, there’s still a long way to go and one game does not pull Crosby out of it completely. Crosby is still on pace to have the worst shooting numbers in 13 years, as his 9.2 shooting percentage would be the first time he clocked below 10 in his entire NHL career.
Crosby is also not as dominant of a possession player this season than in his previous years. In 20 games, Crosby’s even-strength CF% of 50.9 is his worst since his sophomore season in 2008-09. Over the last eight years, Crosby hasn’t averaged lower than a 53 CF% by season’s end.
All modern NHL scoring stars are streaky, as a full season of incredible performances culminating in a 100-plus point season is quite hard to do. Between one and four players have hit that barrier in a season for the last 10 years, and Crosby’s done it five times since his rookie year in 2005-06. Crosby is, mind you, a generational player, but scoring droughts are still common even for the big-name stars.
Seeing Crosby score a front-door power play tally then follow it up in overtime with some stellar behind-the-net work to set up the game winner has to feel good for Penguins fans. The breaks haven’t been coming Crosby’s way like they usually do this year, but the Penguins’ captain is still as dangerous as ever. Tuesday night’s two-point affair only proved that it was only a matter of time before Crosby found a way to light the lamp once more for Pittsburgh.