Even if he does not win the Calder Trophy as this season's top rookie -- and many feel he hasn't been the odds-on favourite for several months -- Sidney Crosby has left a more extraordinary mark in the National Hockey League record books. He has had one of the greatest first seasons by a teenager.
And he isn't done yet.
This past weekend, on a warm spring night in Sunrise, Fla., at the age of 18 years, 243 days, the Pittsburgh Penguins centre scored one goal and had three assists to become the youngest player in NHL history to score 90 points.
He bettered the previous record set by Hall of Fame forward Dale Hawerchuk, who hit 90 points at the age of 18 years, 343 days and finished his own remarkable rookie season with the 1982-83 Winnipeg Jets with 103 points.
After last night's game in Philadelphia, Mr. Crosby, who had a goal and an assist, has 93 points (37 goals, 56 assists) with four games remaining and his eye on 100 points. He moves into the top 10 on the all-time rookie scoring list; only Mr. Hawerchuk and Penguins legend Mario Lemieux (100 points in 1984-85) have done better among players who entered the league in the same year they were drafted.
To achieve the century mark, Mr. Crosby must average 1.8 points a game the rest of the way. His season ends April 18 in Toronto.
"I'm just going to try and play my best for the rest of the season," he said. "If it happens, it's meant to happen and if not, that's just the way it goes. I don't want to let up here. The season's not over. This is basically my playoffs, and I want to leave it all out there and finish the best I can."
Not so long ago, with 10 games left, he had just 80 points. At that point, 100 seemed awfully far-fetched.
Even though the Penguins have just 20 wins and are the NHL's worst team, Mr. Crosby has been playing some of his best, most consistent hockey of the season down the final stretch. He had 13 points in his past six games and scored at least two points in seven of his past nine games.
Alexander Ovechkin, the favourite to win the Calder Trophy because of his flashy goals, eye-popping one-on-one play and point totals, has slowed a bit just as Mr. Crosby pours it on.
The Washington Capitals winger, who is 23 months older than his Pittsburgh peer, scored for his 100th point (49 goals, 51 assists) Monday night -- Mr. Ovechkin's first goal in seven games.
Mr. Crosby's accomplishment may not affect Calder voting by the media, but in a historical context, it has a much better chance of standing the test of time.
"Regardless of the Calder, we'll have to sit back and marvel at what Sidney has done at 18," said Tom McMillan, the Penguins' vice-president of communications. "Even when you're around hockey for years, it's staggering. Rarely has a teenager played so well.
"You break into the league when you break in; you can't help when your birthday is, but it's remarkable what Sidney's doing so young with a team in last place. Mario played on a last-place team, too, but he was old for his draft class. He turned 19 before the season started."
Teemu Selanne holds the rookie record for goals and points (76 and 132), but he was 22 in his first season with the Jets in 1992-93. And Peter Stastny was 24 with the Quebec Nordiques when he had 70 assists -- a rookie record.
"A hundred points is huge, huge, especially for an 18-year-old," said 23-year-old Penguins rookie Colby Armstrong, Mr. Crosby's right winger and his roommate on the road. "It's unbelievable. It's definitely something I want to help him achieve. Maybe he's kind of [playing it down], but it's on my mind for him, and it's something I hope he can get to.
"We figure out how many games we have left, how many [points] do you have; it's a big thing for him and there's a lot of pressure on him. It's not something we necessarily talk about, but we do the math. It would be a great achievement to get 100 points, and I'm going to try and help get him there."
While Mr. Crosby suffered an unspecified injury to his lower body in Tampa against the Lightning on Saturday, it isn't expected to hamper his efforts.
"It's winding down, and it's going to be a long off-season," Mr. Crosby said. "I don't want to have any regrets that I pulled up too early just because we weren't in the playoffs. I want to be able to look myself in the mirror and know I played the most complete season I was capable of."
THE GREAT ONES
Most NHL points before
Dale Hawerchuk: 103 in 79 games
Sidney Crosby: 93 in 78 games*
Steve Yzerman: 87 in 80 games
Jimmy Carson: 79 in 80 games
Wayne Gretzky: 69 in 45 games
*With four games remaining
Source: Elias Sports Bureau