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2015-16 Pensburgh Recap: Sidney Crosby

The captain's roller coaster season mirrored fortunes of the team with a frustrating start, followed by a red hot finish culminating in the glory of the Stanley Cup

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Age and Contract Status

Age: The kid is a kid no longer, turning 29 years old next week with his famous 8/7/87 birthday. Luckily the Penguins have Crosby locked up contract wise for the next 9 seasons through the 2024-25 season at what else but an $8.7 salary cap hit.

Preseason Expectations

As usual, expectations were sky-high for Crosby to rack up a bunch of points after the summer 2015 trade to bring Phil Kessel to the team. No one arguably has more expected than Crosby, who's basically supposed to win the Art Ross every season based on his skill set and pedigree.

2015-16 Stats

Regular season: 80 games played, 36 goals, 49 assists, 85 points, 42 penalty minutes

Playoffs: 24 gp, 6g + 13a, 18p, 4 PIMs


Crosby's season mirrored that of his team, with early struggles and frustrations, followed by a major turnaround and the ultimate success at the end.

In October we gave Crosby as down arrow for a slow start, saying "He only has 5 points (1g+4a) on the month, and has been held off the scoreboard for 9 of the team's 11 games. A very un-Sid-like open of the season. No one's held to higher standards than Crosby, and there's no doubt he's in a rut right now".

November seemed to represent a small bounce-back with 10 points in 12 games, but things were not going smoothly for the team or its leader. December showed 12 points in 13 games, and a Christmas break trip back to Cole Harbour that Crosby credited with getting his mind right and turning his season around.

With Mike Sullivan's reign in full swing in January Crosby kicked it into high-gear, earning his first up arrow of the season where we said, "with a team high 8 goals (4 on PP and 3 of them GWG) and 6 assists for 14 points in the 11 games, for season highs in G,A and P. He's looked reinvigorated, focused and dangerous just about every shift."

Crosby's February (8g+10a in 13 games) topped his January, and his March (7g+14a in 16 games) topped his February as the Penguins rocketed into the playoffs.

Ready for the playoffs, Crosby was a main driving factor in the first round win over the New York Rangers, scoring 8 points in the 5 game series win, including a 1g+2a night in Game 1. Crosby's play against the Capitals was better than his limited production (just 2 assists in the 6 games) reflects, with most the damage being done by the HBK line, a beneficary of weaker opponents as the Caps looked to shutdown Sid.

Crosby was back to a impacting force on the scoreboard against Tampa, scoring Pittsburgh's first 3 series game winning goals (in OT in Game 2, in Game 3 and then Game 6 when the team was facing elimination). He followed that up with a 4 assist series against the Sharks (including helpers on both the team's goals in the clinching Game 6) to end up being awarded the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP and cap off a historic season, even for his own lofty standards.


Looks bright at this point, the Penguins are bringing back basically the same team that won the Stanley Cup, and Crosby finished the playoffs by his own admission generally pretty healthy. In fact, it might be a little lost in the shuffle that Crosby's only missed 9 games in the last 246 (3 seasons worth). With most of those being precautionary or rest type of absences. Sid's health has been checkered and questionable, so it's nice to see that he's been able to stay pretty much fully healthy of late.

With the World Cup of Hockey starting in September, it will be a short summer for the Pens star players. It would probably be wise if Crosby and Evgeni Malkin don't play 20+ minutes very often in the regular season to keep them as fresh as possible for the playoffs. Luckily, with the Pens depth and skill sprinkled throughout the lineup, there's never been a better time to roll 4 lines and give the bottom-6 more responsibility and minutes.

2015-16 Pens 5v5 Forward Usage Chart

(via Corsica Hockey)

Crosby has the lowest o-zone starts of all the top-6 forwards. He's not being used fully as a two-way center, but as his career morphs he's getting more defensive assignments tossed out him. Some of this is because Crosby is leaned on a ton - he ended up #2 in the league in total faceoffs taken (behind only Boston's Patrice Bergeron) and as a solid 50+% faceoff guy, is a good bet to help the team get possession back and get the puck out of the zone.

Crosby's HERO Chart

(From Own The Puck)

2015-16 Game-by-Game Analysis

(From HockeyViz, explained here)


Crosby is a very good player, who makes his linemates much better and produces points at a rate better than anyone in the league. This is ground breaking analysis you can only find here on Pensburgh, folks. For as much criticism as he can receive at times it's almost just worth pointing out how special of a player he is, and the standard of play he has maintained for a decade now in the NHL.

It's also interesting how little Conor Sheary played with Crosby prior to the playoffs, and just how quickly (and almost permanently) that the plug got pulled on the Crosby-Kessel experiment after the first few handful of games.

Distribution of Teammates and Competition

(From HockeyViz, explained here)


GIFs of the Year

In the first game of the playoffs, Crosby puts the Pens up 2-0 late in the 2nd period on a breakaway goal. Something very poetic about Marc Staal and Dan Girardi diving on the ice in vein to stop Hornqvist's pass and being non-factors on the play.

A deft deflection at the front of the net to tie Game 3 against NYR late in the first period. Pittsburgh would go on to win this game 3-1 and take a 2-1 series lead.

Crosby's first playoff GWG, Game 2 vs Tampa, this goal split the first two games at 1-1 and prevented the team from going down in an 0-2 hole.

crosby ot gwg

One of my favorite goals of the year, Crosby skates through 3 Lightning players to score a goal in Game 6 to make the game 3-0 with 26 seconds left in the first period. This was the team's only true "must win" game, and the captain wasn't about to lose this one.

crosby goal tampa16

One of the best things about Crosby is any and every shift, there's a chance he can do something you've never seen before. Like flipping the stick back to Patric Hornqvist here back in November.

More magic here against the Colorado Avalanche.

crosby pass2016col

Crosby and Kris Letang combined to score 3 goals in a game against Florida late to lead the Pens to a win in one of the most exciting games of the season. First, a pass from 87 to 58 with about 5 minutes remaining to put the Pens on the board at losing 2-1.

Then Crosby deflects a point-shot in for a goal with 1:15 left to send the game to OT.

Finally Crosby finds Letang again for a goal in the 3v3 OT.

Speaking of OT, Crosby scored this beaut against the Capitals in the last week of the regular season.

It didn't result in a goal, but look at this pass from the SCF. I mean, who else can do that?


And the best cap to a season ends with the raising of the Stanley Cup.


Feel free to vote in the poll below to rate Sidney Crosby's season. Vote based on your expectations coming into the season, with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest.