SUN Hockey Pool

Conroy big Crosby fan

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:42 PM ET

LOS ANGELES — Having spent nearly a week training with Sidney Crosby this summer, Craig Conroy is an ardent supporter of the young superstar.

“After my 1,000th game, he sent me a text, so I’m a big fan,” Conroy said with a wide grin. “I wish him the best now.”

Right now, Crosby is the best.

It’s not even much of a debate any longer, either.

Nearly one-third into the NHL season, the Pittsburgh Penguins captain has put space between himself and the pack in the scoring race by going on a torrid 17-game point-scoring spree.

Crosby’s two-goal performance when the Penguins beat Toronto 5-2 Wednesday night ran his streak to 17 games, in which he’s netted 20 goals and 35 points.

Before Thursday’s action, only one other player, Tampa Bay’s Steve Stamkos, had more than 35 points for the season.

If that’s not enough to grab your attention, Crosby has notched at least one point in all but two of his last 27 games.

Conroy, who took part in a training camp with Crosby and about a dozen other NHLers in Vail, Col., in early September, isn’t all that shocked to see what his new friend has achieved.

“It’s amazing to see that guy in practice. He’s so good,” Conroy said.

The camp, run by Andy O’Brien, who is also the high performance training director at Calgary’s Edge School, included the likes of Colorado’s Matt Duchene, Ottawa’s Jason Spezza, John Tavares of the New York Islanders, former Flames winger and current Minnesota Wild forward Chuck Kobasew and Edmonton Oilers defenceman Ryan Whitney.

Conroy was caught off guard by how good Crosby’s skating is, especially with the puck.

“When you don’t play him that often, you don’t realize how strong he is. When he’s got the puck, it’s so hard to get it off him, unless he wants to give it up,” Conroy said.

Close behind are Crosby’s work ethic, shooting and passing.

“Chuck Kobasew got a pass through two guys’ legs to the back door. He said, ‘I don’t get passes like that,’ ” Conroy said. “I said, ‘You sure don’t.’

“But he works on his skills. We’d do all these things after the sessions were over, but Sidney would stay out there forever. I’d be thinking, ‘He’s not coming off the ice.’ I got off after a while because I’d be done, but he and Duchene would be having fun showing off their moves.”

Crosby’s magical run is starting to take the league by storm.

He’s on pace for 71 goals and 136 points, and is taking a run at being the first player to score 50 goals in 50 games since Brett Hull did it in 1991-92.

Someone who can relate to Crosby’s spree is Flames captain Jarome Iginla.

His longest point streak was 16 games during the 1999-2000 season in which he had 12 goals and 26 points. (Iginla had a 15-game run in 2001-02 and netted 18 goals and 31 points).

“You have to admire it,” Iginla said. “I saw a stat that in his last six games, he had four multiple-goal games. That’s pretty cool. Goals aren’t scored at the same clip as they did in the 1980s, but he’s going like that. Back then, you had guys with 70, 80, 90 goals, but it’s been a while, and he and Stamkos have made it look like they have a shot at 50.

“I’m impressed with how he’s scoring, too. With some guys, you can say, ‘He’s playing well, but he’s getting breaks.’ I watch the highlights and his goals aren’t ones that went off his hip — and we’ll all take those — but he scores them so many different ways.

“He scores on tip-ins, one-timers, shots down the wing. You name it, he’s scoring that way.”

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/RandySportak


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