So there was some nice hockey played Thursday night. You may have seen it. You may have also noticed that two of the biggest names in the sport were right in the thick of the matter. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby notched his league-leading 16th goal of the campaign, while Oilers captain Connor McDavid kept his perch atop the NHL scoring pile by tallying three assists, giving him 34 points through 25 games.
This is fun, people. Because this is the first year in which Crosby and McDavid will go head-to-head for the Hart Trophy. We probably have a couple seasons of this happening, as eventually age will catch up with Crosby, while Jack Eichel, Auston Matthews and others attempt to catch up with McDavid.
So with all due respect to Nikita Kucherov, Carey Price and Vladimir Tarasenko, let's take a look at the debate. First, let's take a look at Sid's artistry:
Ohhh, that's the good stuff. Not to be outdone, McDavid had an excellent scoring chance against the Jets last night by stripping the puck off defenseman Paul Postma in what can only be described as a spiritual de-pantsing. To put it another way, both Crosby and McDavid are hot right now. And barring injury – which has basically been the only thing to slow these players down in the past – we're looking at McDavid collecting his first-ever Art Ross Trophy as NHL scoring champ this season.
The Edmonton phenom is on pace for 111 points and as impressive as that is, his team is in a playoff position right now. As an explainer for Millennial Oilers fans, the playoffs happen after the NHL's 82 regular season game schedule. It's almost as exciting as the draft lottery.
Sarcasm aside, McDavid isn't the only one on his team having a good season and that means the world. I'm not calling them contenders just yet, but a post-season berth looks very real.
Meanwhile, Crosby has the best points-per-game mark in the NHL at 1.39. Missing the first six games of the year due to a concussion is the only thing keeping him from the scoring crown right now and even if he can't quite continue his torrid pace, he still has a great shot at 50 goals and the Rocket Richard Trophy. Right now, he's on pace for 106 points in 76 games.
Crosby has a slight edge in possession numbers (58 percent Corsi For vs. 55 percent for McDavid) and is better on faceoffs. But his supporting cast is also better in Pittsburgh – Evgeni Malkin is, himself, a Hart Trophy winner – so how do you compare the Penguin to the Oiler?
It may come down to the "feel" a bunch of writers get. The Hart, like most awards, is determined by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association (or "FWAH!" as I pronounce it. And yes, I am a member). Crosby is widely acknowledged as the best player in the game right now, so does that give him a bit of an edge, should both players finish with similar stats? Or does the newness of McDavid propel him over the top? I mean, Sid's already got Harts, right?
We also have higher standards for the Penguins. Pittsburgh should make the playoffs, as the defending Stanley Cup champs. If they don't win the division, is that a knock on Sid? Meanwhile, McDavid getting Edmonton to the post-season would be seen as a big accomplishment.
It's a great debate and one we'll likely be hearing for quite some time. And the best part is, it involves two incredibly gifted players putting up a bunch of points and highlights.