Hot and not
John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks
Gibson saw his three-game winning streak come to an abrupt end against the Penguins. He allowed six goals on 31 shots and was pulled late in the third period.
Is Sidney Crosby positioning himself for a run at the scoring title?
@Real_ESPNLeBrun: So, anyone still worried about Sidney Crosby? My goodness. What a goal Monday night as part of a four-point effort, Crosby being dragged down by Cam Fowler but somehow still roofing a shot past John Gibson. Crosby has 10 goals in his past seven games, after scoring just nine in his first in his first 36. Remember when Team Canada GM Doug Armstrong was actually asked in November whether Crosby was a lock to be among the first 16 players named by the March deadline for initial World Cup of Hockey rosters? For the record, a stunned Armstrong responded "Yes." Pretty sure nobody is going to ask Armstrong that question again. Crosby's incredible offensive surge over the past 17 games -- 29 points, including 17 goals -- now has him fifth in NHL scoring with 53 points on the season (24 goals, 29 assists). He probably won't catch Patrick Kane (76 points) at the top of the race, but watch out Jamie Benn, Erik Karlsson and Tyler Seguin, because No. 87 is coming.
@ESPN_Burnside: When I asked Monday whether the Ducks or the Penguins were more likely to enjoy a long playoff run (or something like that), the consensus seemed to be that the Ducks were the team. I still like them to make noise in the Western Conference, but maybe Monday's thrashing of Anaheim means there is more in store this spring for Pittsburgh than people imagined. After a string of disappointing playoff runs the past few years, perhaps this will be the year they come into the postseason with modest expectations but become one of those darlings of spring. Staying healthy is key, and the Pens, who jumped into third place in the Metropolitan Division with Monday's win, are banged up. That's especially true up front, where Evgeni Malkin, Beau Bennett and Eric Fehr (among others) are out of the lineup. But this is a better team than people believe them to be and, like the Ducks, they've had to learn to scrape together points the hard when the offense wasn't going at top speed. In short, don't sleep on the Penguins, something Anaheim found out the hard way Monday night.
@CraigCustance: The league is a better place when Crosby is playing like he is right now. I was also wondering if there's any way he catches Kane at the top of the points race, but 23 points is a hefty lead, and Kane would probably have to miss games to give Crosby a shot. But you're right, Scott, this stretch is showing that the Penguins could be a more dangerous team in the playoffs than we originally thought. I still have concerns about their depth, especially considering all the injuries, but Pittsburgh's play of late has given GM Jim Rutherford the green light to step up his aggressiveness at the deadline with confidence that his team is capable of making a run in the spring.
@ESPNJoeyMac: There's a reason I had Crosby as the top player in this week's edition of Hot and Not, but were any of us really worried that his early-season struggles would continue? No chance. There's a reason he's a world-class player, and he's proving it once again at the most critical point of the season for the Penguins. Craig recently described Crosby's resurrection perfectly, and I don't envision Crosby slowing down at all during the stretch run. When Pittsburgh fired Mike Johnston and promoted Mike Sullivan from the organization's AHL affiliate, the new bench boss wanted Crosby to be himself. Sullivan had no delusions that he would be the one to "fix" Crosby's issues. Sullivan told me at the time that he looks back at his coaching days with the Boston Bruins and feels he overcoached then-Boston captain Joe Thornton, and it didn't work. Sullivan wasn't going to make the same mistake with Crosby, who now seems more comfortable on the ice and really is being himself, as evidenced by his production.
Around the league
New York Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault was still fuming Monday after captain Ryan McDonagh was concussed by a punch from Philadelphia Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds, who avoided supplemental discipline in the incident.