Sidney Crosby recorded his 1,000th NHL point Thursday night, in just his 757th career game.
It seems like it took forever for Crosby to get to four digits, as he was hung up in the high 990s for several games, but with a first period assist on a Chris Kunitz goal, Crosby became the 86th player in NHL history to reach the milestone, and the sixth to do it as a member of the Penguins organization.
Crosby, frankly, could have passed the mark some time ago, but the 12-year veteran has missed significant time in his career, with injuries limiting his ability to stay on the ice throughout his time in Pittsburgh. Crosby has been healthier the last four years, playing in 287 of the Penguins’ last 301 regular season games, but what stands out in his career isn’t just the accumulation of points, but the rate at which he’s done it.
Crosby’s points per game average is 1.321 over the length of his career, the fifth-best rate in NHL history, behind only Bobby Orr (1.393), Mike Bossy (1.497), Mario Lemieux (1.883) and Wayne Gretzky (1.921).
The only other active players in the top 20 points per game in NHL history are Evgeni Malkin (No. 14, with 1.179 per game), Alex Ovechkin (No. 18, 1.136) and the ageless Jaromir Jagr (No. 20, 1.128) who collected his 1,900th career point Wednesday. For reference, Patrick Kane is next on the list of active players, at No. 46 all-time, averaging nearly a third of point per game behind Crosby — or just about 25.5 points per 82 games.
Crosby’s rate is even more impressive given the drop in league scoring over the last 15 or 20 years. Back when Lemieux and Gretzky were playing, teams averaged well over three goals per game. In 1992, the league average per team was 3.63 goals per game, per Sporting Charts. Since 2010, the team average has hovered around 2.70 per game, making Crosby’s points-per-game rate kind of amazing.
His career will forever be tethered to Malkin and Ovechkin, too, as the trio helped usher in a new era of hockey after the NHL work stoppage in 2004. Ovechkin and Crosby both entered the league in 2005, but the Washington star has played in 895 games over the same span, registering his 1,000th career point Jan. 11 against, yep, the Penguins.
Malkin entered the NHL a year later, despite being drafted the same year as Ovechkin — taken by the Pens the year before Crosby. Entering play Thursday, Malkin had 816 points in 692 career games.
Crosby became the fastest active player to 1,000 points, eclipsing Jagr’s mark of 763 games. Gretzky holds the record, scoring his 1,00th point in just 424 games. Lemieux, predictably, holds the Penguins record at 513 games.
What’s incredible is that throughout his career, Crosby hasn’t been that much of a goal scorer, netting just — just being a relative term — 368 goals in his first 756 games. He scored more than 50 goals just once, in 2009-10, and hasn’t scored more than 39 in any other season, with that number coming in his first year in the league.
This year, Crosby has shown remarkable balance, with a league-best 30 goals to go with his 31 assists in the first 55 games of the Pens’ season. He is on pace to have the second-best scoring season of his career and should end the season with the most goals and points in the league.
“He is the hardest-working guy out there,” Penguins owner Mario Lemieux said at the All-Star break per USA Today. “Whether it’s at practice, or a three-on-three game at practice, he wants to win. He wants to be the best.”
Crosby has won a Stanley Cup, Conn Smythe and World Cup of Hockey MVP all in the last year, so if he wants to be the best, he’s doing a darn good job at it. He may never get to be the best player in Penguins history — Lemieux has that distinction in perpetuity — but he has proven to be the best player of this generation.
And now he has another milestone to celebrate. Finally.