Sidney Crosby broke Mario Lemieux's Pittsburgh Penguins mark for career postseason points with a goal and an assist in the Penguins' 5-0 rout of the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 4 of their first-round playoff series. Crosby established a record of 173 with his 62nd career playoff goal midway through the second period. So we asked our NHL experts:
Has Crosby surpassed Lemieux in the Penguins' pantheon yet? If not, what else does Crosby need to accomplish?
Greg Wyshynski, senior writer: Let's start with a definition of terms. Mario Lemieux is the most dominant hockey player I've ever seen, with the caveat that youth and the frustrating limitations of a predigital world didn't allow me to see Wayne Gretzky in his prime. And if the "Penguins' pantheon" extends off the ice, well, Mario's work to keep the Penguins in Pittsburgh probably merits a second statue outside the arena.
That established: Within the Penguins' pantheon, Sid has surpassed Mario. Let's focus on where it counts the most -- the postseason. That Crosby now leads the Penguins in postseason points (173 in 152 games) is admirable, but as usual, Mario wins in sample size (107 games). Crosby has the Penguins' record for the most multipoint games in the playoffs, with 59, to Lemieux's 51. They both have won two Conn Smythe Trophies as playoffs MVP.
They diverge in two places. First, Crosby won that third Stanley Cup to Mario's two victories. Second, his back-to-back MVP performances in winning back-to-back Cups is an exponentially more impressive accomplishment than Mario's back-to-back Cups and Conns, given the relative quality of play in their respective eras, as well as the modern challenges Crosby had to deal with in the salary-cap age.
Look, I'll freely admit to being an era snob. This argument would change dramatically if Crosby had the opportunity to post 199 points like Mario did when the goals-for average for teams was 3.74. (It was 2.77 last season.) If this is a greatest-players-of-all-time list, Lemieux's numbers likely rank him higher than Crosby. But within the context of this franchise, I think there's a case to be made that Sidney Crosby is the greatest Penguin. He came into the league living in Mario's basement. It's his house now.
Emily Kaplan, national NHL reporter: I have a hard time comparing stats. I'm dating myself here, but I still can't wrap my head around a player scoring 80-plus goals and notching nearly 200 points in one season. Since Lemieux's era (1984-2006) was so vastly different from Crosby's (2005-who knows when), stat adjustments don't quite do it for me, either. The comparison is about impact. It's hard to understate Lemieux's significance to Pittsburgh. He thrice revived this franchise. Lemieux's arrival in 1984 transformed the Penguins into winners. Fifteen years later, he saved them from bankruptcy, and, in 2007, he ushered in a new arena deal to block the team from bolting to Kansas City (despite flirting with the possibility).
When it comes to purely on-ice achievements, Crosby has a chance to measure up to Lemieux, if not surpass him. Crosby winning a third consecutive Stanley Cup, something his mentor fell short of, would amplify his case. And if Crosby's Penguins win five (or more) championships in his tenure, as Crosby leapfrogs Lemieux's postseason point totals, we'll have to weigh that heavily. The pantheon now stands as a 1a and 1b situation, and Lemieux's total body of work makes him the easy A.
Chris Peters, NHL prospects columnist: As much respect as I have for Crosby, it's hard for me to put him ahead of Lemieux. Super Mario was such a singular talent, with six scoring titles to go with his two Stanley Cups. If we're talking pure ability, there is no contest. Lemieux was a complete freak of nature and one of the most gifted players ever to appear on the ice. There's no question that Crosby has taken his place in the upper echelon of franchise history, with only Lemieux ahead of him, but No. 66 is No. 1 for me.
I'm with Emily in that if Crosby leads the Pens to a third consecutive Cup -- his fourth overall with the franchise -- it will certainly narrow the gap. But I think Lemieux is too ingrained in Pittsburgh's culture, a literal savior of the franchise and one of the most extraordinary players to play the game. It will be impossible for anyone to topple him as the face of the franchise. With all of that said, the Crosby statue will make a nice addition outside of PPG Paints Arena when he finally decides to hang up the skates.