He might not win the NHL's rookie of the year award -- Alexander Ovechkin most likely will, even though this wasn't supposed to be
his rookie season for Washington. But Crosby could achieve what
might be a more lasting accomplishment by becoming only the second
18-year-old with a 100-point season.
Crosby had a goal and an assist in the Penguins' 4-3 loss in
Philadelphia on Tuesday night, giving him 37 goals and 56 assists
for 93 points. He must average 1.8 points in his remaining games
against the Rangers, Islanders (twice) and Maple Leafs to do so
but, while this Penguins season was written off months ago, Crosby
is showing signs he might do it.
Don't think Crosby doesn't want to do it, either, despite his
public pronouncement that "if it happens, it happens."
"Yeah, definitely, it's a pretty big thing," Colby Armstrong,
Crosby's road roommate, said Wednesday. "I know in interviews he
says he's not thinking about it, but I think everyone kind of knows
better. ... For everyone having such a tough year here, I think to
have a guy achieve that this year would be great for our team."
Crosby, according to Armstrong, is aware after every game how
many points he needs to join Hall of Fame forward Dale Hawerchuk as
the only 18-year-old with a 100-point season. Hawerchuk was 100
days older than Crosby, and approaching his 19th birthday, when he
finished off a 103-point season for the 1982-83 Winnipeg Jets.
Penguins owner Mario Lemieux, Crosby's housemate this season,
was 18 when he was drafted in 1984 but was 19 throughout his
100-point rookie season. Only Hawerchuk and Lemieux have scored
more points than Crosby in the same season in which they were
Crosby, bothered lately by what the team describes only as a
lower body injury, missed practice Wednesday with what were called
flulike symptoms. But Crosby said last week any scoreless game at
this stage of the season would be a disappointment -- and he hasn't
had many, with 13 points in six games and two or more points in
seven of nine games. He is ninth overall in scoring.
"I want to finish strong, that's my mentality," said Crosby,
who expects to play Thursday night against the Rangers.
He added: "I don't want to let up. These are my playoffs,
Ovechkin, nearly two years older than Crosby, got his 100th
point Monday for the Capitals but the goal he scored that night was
his first in seven games. And Ovechkin wouldn't have been in the
same rookie class as Crosby if the 2004-05 NHL season hadn't been
canceled because of a labor dispute; Ovechkin was drafted nearly
two years ago.
Wayne Gretzky also had a 100-point season before his 19th
birthday, but did so in the WHA, not the NHL. Gretzky turned 19
during his first NHL season, 1979-80, when he had 137 points for
the Edmonton Oilers.
If Crosby can pull it off playing for a team that has won only
20 of 78 games and looks to be headed for a second successive
overall last-place finish in the NHL, Armstrong thinks it would be
a lasting accomplishment. Crosby has scored or assisted on 41
percent of the Penguins' goals.
"The way he controls the puck and the way he controls the play,
you see a lot of guys around the league paying attention to him -- and that's crazy for me, to look at him being an 18-year-old kid,"
Armstrong said. "When he gets that puck, he makes things happen.
It's pretty special to watch him play the way he does. When he's at
the top of his game, he's up there with the top players in the