Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins are coming to town tonight to faceoff against the Edmonton Oilers in their first of only two regular season games this year. It’s no secret that Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have been one of the best one-two punches in the NHL for over a decade while Edmonton’s more recently established duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are just coming into the prime of their careers. Will Edmonton’s elite duo be able to see the same success as Crosby and Malkin? Only time will tell. Let’s take a closer look at the two duos and compare them.
By the numbers
One of the NHL’s all-time greats, Crosby has played 1111 games since his draft year in 2005, scoring an incredible 519 goals and 896 assists for a total of 1415 points. Crosby is an incredibly well-rounded player who can do it all; his hockey IQ, puck protection skills, and passing ability are at an elite level. His defensive play is notable, outsmarting his opponents, keeping them to the outside and effectively getting his stick in passing lanes to break up plays.
Crosby is reliable in the faceoff dot with an impressive 52.7 career faceoff win percentage which is vital on both ends of the ice. His hand-eye coordination and active stick make him dangerous around the net, notably batting in pucks out of the air for goals more than once. Even though Crosby is now 35, he is still a top ten player in the NHL and carries a lot of respect among players in the league and fans within the sport.
Crosby’s left-handed man, Malkin, has played 984 games in the NHL. During that time, he accumulated 447 goals and 703 assists for 1150 points. Malkin is also a well-rounded player whose bread and butter is in the offensive zone, but he can also hold his own on the defensive side. He’s a good skater who sees the ice well and has an elite arsenal of shots between his wrist, snap and slap shot. He’s an emotionally driven player, and his emotions have impacted games both negatively and positively but are usually in the form of retaliation penalties.
Malkin is now 36 and has battled injuries, including a herniated disk back in 2017 and knee surgery last offseason that saw him miss 34 games during the 2021–22 season. Even though he has battled injuries, he is still an effective and dangerous second-line centre, especially when playing with Crosby on the powerplay.
Connor McDavid has played 490 games in the NHL since he was drafted back in 2015. He has scored 243 goals and potted 460 assists for 703 points with the Oilers and is currently the best player in the NHL. McDavid is one of those exceptional players like Michael Jordan or Tom Brady. His skating ability is incredible and deceptive, not to mention he can do it all while stick handling and dangling past defenders. He also seems to have the ability to see plays before they happen, carefully planning when he should push the play and when to hold off and pass the puck to an open teammate.
Even knowing he is currently the best player in the game, McDavid is still looking for ways to improve. Recently, he took it upon himself to improve his defensive game, ensuring that he is backchecking when needed and focusing on his faceoff skills.
Since his draft year in 2014, Leon Draisaitl has played 562 games in the NHL, scoring 256 goals while getting 368 assists for a total of 624 career points. Draisaitl’s playing style is unique: when he gets the puck, he slows down and sometimes stops looking for passes. If none are available, he waits for opponents to check him, often reversing the check creating space and opportunities. He is one of, if not the best, passers of the puck in the NHL on both his forehand and backhand. His wrist shot and one-timer are up there with the best and are dangerous even at the most extreme angles. He’s a big player, and although he isn’t known for his hitting, he does use his body effectively to outmuscle other players.
Draisaitl is also very good in the faceoff dot sitting at 56.7% FOW since the start of the season, and is often taking most of the faceoffs for the Oilers on any given night. He tends to play a high risk, high reward type of hockey but his incredible skill level enables him to execute successful plays more often than not.
McDavid and Crosby have been linked since they were both granted exceptional status at the young age of 15, allowing them to play in the Ontario Hockey League before they were of age to qualify.
Since then, Crosby has won a lot of hardware, including three Stanley Cups alongside Malkin, multiple Art Ross, Ted Lindsay, Hart, Conn Smythe and Rocket Richard trophies. Malkin too has won his fair share, including a Calder, Conn Smythe, Hart, Ted Lindsay and two Art Ross trophies.
Since entering the league, McDavid has won four Art Ross, three Ted Lindsay, and two Hart trophies so far. Draisaitl has won an Art Ross, a Ted Lindsay, and a Hart Trophy all in the 2019–20 season.
Comparing these past achievements, it’s clear that Crosby and Malkin have seen more success, but McDavid and Draisaitl have been in the league for less time. That being said, It doesn’t mean that McDavid and Draisaitl will end up being able to pass the Penguin’s star duo. One thing is sure, in time, we will get the answer.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire