There are a lot of great things about the new NHL. (By the way, when are we going to stop calling it that?) One of them is that the mantle of the best player on the planet keeps getting passed around like a bong at a frat party.
This month, the designation belongs unequivocally to Sidney Crosby. And the way he has been playing lately, it looks as though he’s intent on hanging onto it for a while. Crosby has been otherworldly, well, since The Hockey News put Steven Stamkos on its cover and declared him “The NHL’s New Best Player.”
Oops. We probably should have known Crosby was going to take that personally.
In any event, Crosby has been a one-man wrecking crew in leading his Pittsburgh Penguins to 11 straight victories going into Saturday night’s game against the Buffalo Sabres. He has 14 goals and 22 points in those games and get this: during his 17-game point streak he has 20 goals and 35 points. For those of you who keep track of such things, only two other players in the NHL have that many points all this season.
Ho hum, perhaps we should be growing accustomed to this kind of play. But it’s still wonderful to behold, isn’t it?
GAME OF THE MONTH: Take your pick. Was it Nov. 27 when Crosby scored a hat trick against the Calgary Flames, one on the power play, one even strength and a shorthander into an empty net? Or was it five nights later when his natural hat trick provided all the offense the Penguins needed in a 3-2 win over the Atlanta Thrashers? Whatever.
RISING: Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens is proving his mettle in an enormous way, going 10-2-1 in his past 13 starts. Pierre Gauthier, please accept our apologies for all those nasty things we said about you for trading Jaroslav Halak and keeping Price.
FALLING: Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning was No. 1 on our list last month and was on pace to score 50 goals in 50 games before going six straight without a goal.
MAKING THE CASE
The Penguins sniper needs 24 goals in his next 20 games to hit the 50-in-50 mark. The way he’s playing, don’t bet against him doing it.
He hasn’t been as impregnable as he was early in the season, but all he does is win, like, every game he plays.
Like Thomas, Price had a rough 2009-10 season. Like Thomas, he has been spectacular so far in 2010-11. He’s 3-0-0 with a .964 save percentage in his past three games.
He’s still the only other 20-goal man in the NHL this season, but he clearly has to pick up his level of play and production to get back into the Hart Trophy mix.
After going nine games without a goal, he has picked up his scoring again and even when he’s not scoring goals, Ovechkin remains dangerous and dynamic.
He leads all defensemen in goals and points and continues to amaze those who thought he could only stick his butt into the opposing goaltender’s face.
Byfuglien has been great for the Thrashers, but their resurgence this season wouldn’t have been possible without the brilliant play of Pavelec, who has literally picked himself up off the ice – remember opening night? – to be one of the league’s top goalies.
You have to look a long way down the scoring list to see Kopitar’s name, but what he lacks in quantity, he makes up for in quality. Including shootout goals, he has seven tallies that have put the Kings into the lead this season.
The other Alex in Washington is scoring a ton and picking up the goal-scoring slack from Alex No. 1. He’s picked a great year to be in the last season of his contract.
The Red Wings are in first place in the Western Conference largely because Datsyuk remains one of the best two-way players in the world.
OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: With his twin brother teeing them up, Daniel Sedin keeps knocking them in for the Vancouver Canucks. He’s also feasting on the power play, with eight extra-man goals. Other notables:Johan Franzen, Patrick Sharp, Brad Richards.
DROPPED OUT: Like Stamkos, Martin St-Louis hasn’t been as dominant as he was earlier in the season, but the ageless wonder is still among the league leaders in assists.
THN.com's Hart Trophy Watch will appear monthly throughout the season and don't miss out as we'll also track the Vezina, Norris and Jack Adams.
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