A greasy rebound or deflection off a skate just wouldn’t have felt right. For Sidney Crosby, a player synonymous with doing his best work in big moments, goal No. 500 had to be special. It was. He did it at home in Pittsburgh, his parents in attendance, his Penguins facing their state-rival Philadelphia Flyers, converting a power-play pass from his longtime teammate Evgeni Malkin. It was picture-perfect, just like the water-bottle goal Crosby scored in a shootout in his rookie season and the golden goal he delivered for Canada at the 2010 Olympics.
Crosby joins Alex Ovechkin as the only active players with 500 goals, and Crosby now sits 46th all-time, tied with Lanny McDonald. The Penguins have 32 games left on their schedule and, if Crosby gets 14 or more goals over that span, he’ll crack the top 40 by season’s end, passing Joe Mullen (502), Peter Bondra (503), Jean Beliveau (507), Gilbert Perreault (512) and Jeremy Roenick (513).
Hockey is obviously accustomed to celebrating Crosby’s brilliance. We’ve done it since he was an early-teens phenom even predating his time with Rimouski in the QMJHL. The Hockey News published an updated list of the Top 75 players of all-time this season, and we confidently ranked Crosby fifth behind only Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, Mario Lemieux and Gordie Howe. Crosby was the youngest player to score 100 points in a season and youngest to win the scoring title. He’s sixth all-time in points per game among players with 500 or more games played, and he’s third all-time among those who reached 1,000 games. Now 34 and sitting at 1,371 points, he’s still playing at a high enough level that he should become the 13th member of the 1,500-point club (or 14th if Ovechkin gets there first), and Crosby has a reasonable shot to become the league’s ninth 1,600-point player. He’s one of three players to win the Conn Smythe Trophy in consecutive seasons.
So, yes, Sid is a Mount-Rushmore-tier great, one of the most dominant point accumulators and clutch two-way superstars ever. But Sidney Crosby The Goal-Scorer doesn’t get a ton of play. Reaching 500 goals reminds us he also deserves mentioning as one of the best goal-scorers ever. That might feel strange, as the famously team-first Crosby doesn’t conjure images of hungry twine hunters like Ovechkin, Maurice Richard or Mike Bossy. Crosby is “only” the 25th-fastest player to score 500, doing it in 1,077 games. But a deeper dive reveals a tremendous goal-scoring profile.
Since Crosby debuted in the NHL in 2005-06, only Ovechkin has more goals, yet Crosby ranks 25th in games played. Crosby has won or shared the Rocket Richard Trophy as the league’s No. 1 goal-scorer twice, and there’s a sense he could’ve chased more goals if we wanted to, almost like he “flicked a switch” a couple times in his career and became an elite goal-scorer just for the heck of it. Supporting that idea: Among 63 NHLers who have scored at least 250 goals since Crosby’s debut, only three have converted a higher percentage of their shots. With a potent wrister and arguably the hardest backhander in NHL history, Crosby has always possessed the tools to pile up goals.
Crosby is one of 24 players to lead the NHL in goals more than once. He has tallied nine 30-goal seasons. But, obviously, he’s been too busy trying to be the best at everything, not just one thing, during his career. Maybe Crosby could have 600 or 700 goals by this point, but he traded those in for Stanley Cup rings, Conn Smythe Trophies and a legacy as one of the greatest all-around players ever to compete.