The never-ending ascent of Sidney Crosby

By Dan Di Sciullo
NHL Editor

Dan Di Sciullo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Stephen King is best known for scaring the living daylights out of the reading public with his tales of horror and suspense, and with novels like "The Shining" and "Pet Sematary" to his credit, it's a well-deserved reputation.

But the world-famous Maine resident has a lesser-know knack for letting nuggets of wisdom slip through in the nearly 40 years since his first novel "Carrie" was released back in 1973.

My favorite piece of sage King advice goes like this, "Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work."

I'm not sure if Sidney Crosby has ever actually read those words, but the sentiment is obviously something the Pittsburgh Penguins superstar could get behind.

When Crosby entered the NHL as an 18-year-old rookie in the fall of 2005 he seemed to be a ready-made superstar, the kind of player who is seemingly born with the talent to dominate a hockey game.

Five years down the road, however, it's clear that natural ability is just the opening chapter in the Crosby success story. When the book of Crosby's career is finally completed, Sid the Kid's tireless work ethic will make up the bulk of his tale as an NHL superstar.

Crosby's dedication to his craft was always apparent, but with every passing season it becomes more and more apparent that hockey's most famous Nova Scotian has a drive that can best described as super-human.

Sidney Crosby is in the midst of one of the best stretches of his NHL career.
Back in the summer of 2009 it seemed that Crosby had little left to prove to the hockey world. After all, he was fresh off of winning his first Stanley Cup title and just months before that he had put the finishing touches on his third 100-point season in four years as an NHLer. It would have been be easy for Crosby, who is still just 23 years old, to rest on his laurels and put it in cruise control.

What Crosby did instead was take what little criticism people had left to throw his way and use it to take his game to another stratosphere. You see, the knock on Crosby in those days was that he was a great playmaker who didn't score enough goals to make him as valuable as a player like Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals.

So what did Crosby do? He began scoring goals at an Ovechkin-esque pace, of course and that trend has continued to the present day.

Last season, after averaging 33 goals per year in his first four NHL campaigns, Crosby exploded for 51 goals to tie Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos for the Rocket Richard Trophy. That output was enough to render his critics silent, but just over two months into the current season it appears that 2009-10 was merely sign of things to come.

Currently, Crosby is in the midst of one of the best stretches of his NHL career. He has recorded a point in 17 straight games and has an amazing 20 goals and 35 points during that run, which was extended with a two-goal performance in Wednesday's win over Toronto. That victory over the Maple Leafs was also Pittsburgh's 11 straight win and the team's hot streak has a great deal to with the play of its captain.

All told, Crosby has 26 goals and 24 assists for a grand total of 50 points in 30 games this season, placing him first in the league in goals and points and second in assists.

The prolific start to the season puts Crosby on pace for 71 goals and 137 points, which would be his best offensive output since piling up 168 points for Rimouski of the QMJHL in his final year of junior hockey.

With those type of numbers it's not surprising the crowd in Pittsburgh gave Crosby a standing ovation and chanted "MVP" on Wednesday when he scored the second of his two goals against the Maple Leafs. Crosby was humbled by the reception at CONSOL Energy Center, but also kept this season in perspective.

"That was nice," Crosby told his team's website. "It's December though. As a group and individually, I want to keep it going".

If Crosby and the Pens can keep it going they still have a ways to go before reaching certain milestones. Pittsburgh is in the midst of the second-longest winning streak in club history, but the Pens won't be able to tie the team record until it reaches 17 straight wins, a mark set during the 1992-93 season.

Pittsburgh's point streak record is even safer from being broken, as Mario Lemieux once managed to reach the scoresheet in 46 consecutive games from Oct. 31, 1989-Feb. 14, 1990. Of course, the legendary Lemieux played in an era when the game was wide open and points were much easier to come by.

Crosby will always be measured against Lemieux, the co-owner and chairman of the Penguins, and although it once seemed that Crosby would never be able to live up to the Hall of Fame career of "Super Mario", that no longer seems to be a foregone conclusion.

Things are going great for Crosby right now, but there is little chance that fact will change the way he approaches the game. Crosby doesn't just want to succeed, he has a clear desire to be considered one of the game's greatest all-time players and that may be the case when all is said and done.

There will come a day when Crosby's career reaches its apex, but with the way his progress has gone on unabated up to this point there is little reason to believe that it will come this year.

And that, my friends, is a scary thought for the rest of the league.

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