Lemieux: Crosby more impressive than me

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PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby's season is more impressive than anything Mario Lemieux ever did, Super Mario himself said Friday.

Citing today's more effective defensive schemes, the Pittsburgh Penguins part-owner said what his captain has accomplished so far this season is incredible.

"What he's doing now is much more impressive than what I did years ago," Lemieux told reporters after his alumni game at Heinz Field.

That Lemieux held court with media was a story in itself. He rarely talks to the media anymore. But when he does, he's got something to say. And on Friday, he didn't hold back on his admiration for his franchise player, who leads all NHL scorers with 65 points (32-33) in 39 games. Crosby is on pace for a career-best 136 points this season.

"He's been incredible all year," Lemieux said. "Since he came into the league, he got better and better every year. He's an incredible player and an incredible person. What he did this year with the 25 games with a point, that's pretty hard to do in this day and age. It's not the same as it was 20 years ago. You have good goalies and good defensemen who can skate. Defensive schemes are very good compared to 20 years ago. So it's pretty impressive what he's been able to do. Just his work ethic is the best in the world. That's why he is the best in the world."

Lemieux credited both Crosby and Washington rival Alex Ovechkin for their roles in helping sell the game, as a reporter cited: much like Super Mario and Wayne Gretzky did in their day.

"Gretz did a lot throughout his career, he was the real ambassador for the game," Lemieux said. "He did a lot for the game and the league worldwide. But I think these two guys, Ovechkin and Sid, do everything they can to promote the game. I think they're doing a great job."

And on the ice, Lemieux was asked to compare Ovechkin/Crosby to 66/99.

"They have two different styles from Gretzky and myself," Lemieux said. "Ovechkin is very physical, and he's got a great shot. Sid is more about controlling the play and using his strength. Gretz was finesse and making plays and curling and buying some time, which you can't do anymore with the back pressure. Two different styles, two different eras, but these guys [Crosby and Ovechkin] are great players."

Clearly, what impressed Lemieux the most about his star player is Crosby's focus and work ethic.

"He thinks about hockey 24 hours a day, even in his sleep, it looks like," Lemieux said.

"He has the ability to do whatever he wants out there. I'm not surprised at the success he's had this year."