Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Michel Therrien didn’t hesitate when asked if he thought Crosby was the best player in the NHL. And teammate Mark Recchi compared him favourably to current and future Hall of Famers.
Yet the 19-year-old native of Cole Harbour, N.S., was decidedly modest less than 12 hours after collecting a career-high six points in an 8-4 win over Philadelphia.
“That’s up to other people to decide,” Crosby said Thursday after practice. “Obviously my coach, he’s probably on my side. But I don’t put pressure on myself to be that guy. I want to be my best, and that’s all I try to do.”
Crosby, who became the youngest player ever to post 100 points when he had 102 last season, has 15 goals and 32 assists this season. His 47 points were three ahead of Jaromir Jagr, whose Rangers faced the Stars in Dallas on Thursday night.
Wednesday night was just the latest in a string of strong games for Crosby, who has 15 points in his last six games. Crosby has a goal in six straight games and has 15 assists in his last 10 outings.
Statistically speaking, Crosby is making a case as the best player in hockey.
“There’s no doubt in my mind,” Therrien said. “There’s a lot of good players in this league, but right now, the way that young man is playing on the ice and focusing and the way he concentrates, it’s phenomenal. In my mind, he’s the best player in the NHL right now.”
Recchi is the Penguins’ elder statesman at 38, and is currently playing on a line with Crosby. He was a rookie with Pittsburgh in 1988-89, when Hall of Fame forward Mario Lemieux was 23 and in his fifth season.
Lemieux, whose house Crosby is living in, was the last player to have the kind of impact Crosby is having now. Lemieux had 100 points as a rookie and had at least that many in each of his first six seasons.
Drawing comparisons between the two is natural – particularly in terms of vision and passing skills – even if Lemieux was a much larger player.
Recchi even sounded as if he might believe Crosby could be an even better player than Lemieux, who won six scoring titles.
“Obviously, Sid is doing to the game what Mario did,” Recchi said. “A lot of focus is going to him, and deservingly so. But the dynamic of them playing-wise is really different. … Sid’s in a world of his own.”
Crosby is on pace for 137 points, which would be the most in a decade. Lemieux won the Art Ross Trophy with 161 points in 1995-96.