Crosby could make history in remaining games
He might not win the NHL's rookie of the year award -- Washington's Alexander Ovechkin most likely will, even though this wasn't supposed to be his rookie season. 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.
The team said Wednesday that his status for Thursday's game against the Rangers was in doubt since the rookie was feeling ill. He was expected to be a game-time decision. If he does play, Crosby must average 1.8 points in his remaining games against the Blueshirts, 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 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 drafted.
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 against the Rangers.
He added: "I don't want to let up. These are my playoffs, basically."
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 likely 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 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 league."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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