As many of you have already seen during SB Nation’s “what if” week, different scenarios have popped into the heads of some of us at PensBurgh. Today is no different. I want to examine one of the biggest Penguins “what ifs” over the last 10-15 years. What would the Penguins have accomplished/looked like if Sidney Crosby wasn’t slowed down from his concussion/concussion symptoms during 2011.
Let’s go all the way back to the start-ish of the 2010-11 season. Crosby, at 23-years-old, entering the true prime of his professional athletic career, was on a a 25-game point streak, beginning on November 5, 2010 against the Anaheim Ducks and going through December 28, 2010 against the Thrashers.
During this streak, he racked up 26 goals and 24 assists for 50 points, with two hat-tricks thrown in there for good measure. This streak was tied for 11th-longest point streak in NHL history, and he was named First Star of the Month in both November and December. Crosby’s incredible run of play earned him All-Star Game honors for the 2011 season. Right here, you could begin to make the argument that this would have been Crosby’s best statistical season as an NHLer, with Sid being on a pace for 64 goals and 132 points, 12 more points than he registered during his 120-point season in 2006-07.
Fast forward to the 2011 Winter Classic and, well, you know what happens next:
Crosby would also suffer a hit from Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman in the following game which put him out of action until November of that year. Crosby’s concussion issues would thrust the face of hockey into the national spotlight for all the wrong reasons, with many wondering if we had seen the last of Sidney Crosby in the NHL.
With Crosby out, many looked to Evgeni Malkin to shoulder the load left by Crosby’s absence. And even Malkin was not immune to the long-term injury bug, as the center would tear his ACL and MCL in a game against the Buffalo Sabres on February 4, 2011. With the two best Penguins on the shelf for the foreseeable future, the Penguins trudged on into the 2011 postseason, losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games after going up 3-1 in the first-round series.
Had Crosby (and Malkin) been fully healthy for the 2010-11 campaign, I believe they do away with the Lightning rather easily in round one.
Round two would have seen the Penguins go up against the one-seeded Washington Capitals. In reality, the Lightning swept the Caps and outscored them 16-10. Given the rivalry of these two teams, however, I’d give the Capitals a bit more pep in their step, but these Crosby-led Penguins fight on past their divisional foes and win the series 4-2.
The Eastern Conference Final pits the Penguins against the Boston Bruins, who are coming off a sweep of their own by discarding the Philadelphia Flyers and outscoring Philly 20-7 in the series. As we know now, the Bruins were the eventual winners of Lord Stanley’s Cup this year, and I do think the Penguins would have faced difficulty against this Beantown squad.
As much as I don’t want to, I think in a 7-game series, Boston edges out Pittsburgh 4-3 and still advances to win the Stanley Cup.
While I don’t have the Penguins winning the ultimate prize in this “what if” scenario, I wouldn’t have considered this season an absolute failure. Sidney Crosby finishes the season and wins the Hart Memorial Trophy with 132 points, capping off one of the greatest seasons of this era.
Additionally, if we take this scenario further, Crosby would not have missed the first 20 games of the 2011-12 season due to his lingering concussion problems.
And if that was the case, we would have never been treated to this:
It is an interesting concept to go back and see how, in an alternate timeline or universe, the Penguins would have fared against the competition with a healthy and dominant Crosby leading the way. But as they say, everything happens for a reason, be it positive or negative.
Let me know down below what you think would have happened if Sidney Crosby was never brought down due to his concussion issues.