Crosby and some of the NHL’s top play­ers could be watch­ing the play­offs this sea­son ... Leafs slightly off Bab­cock’s sched­ule ... How does Johnny Cres­cent Street sound? ... Boo to Tonya Harding

Sunday Sports - - SPORTS -

Sid­ney Crosby has two won Hart Tro­phies, two Conn Smythe Tro­phies, two Art Ross Tro­phies and three Stan­ley Cups: And if the sea­son ended today, he would not be on my bal­lot for Most Valu­able Player in the Na­tional Hockey League for the first time in years. This isn’t a con­dem­na­tion, nec­es­sar­ily, of Crosby, who has scored nine points in his past three games af­ter a slow pe­riod, but more of an in­di­ca­tion of where the me­an­der­ing Pitts­burgh Pen­guins find them­selves just past the half­way point of the sched­ule.

Crosby has been a fi­nal­ist for the Hart in six dif­fer­ent sea­sons and top five (on the bal­lot of five) seven times in a mag­nif­i­cent ca­reer. But he has been nowhere near the scor­ing lead­ers for most of his 13th sea­son, although a sec­ond-half push is for­ever an­tic­i­pated. Crosby’s not alone with

Con­nor his team strug­gles. McDavid’s

Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers are nowhere near the play­offs, as are Erik Karls­son’s

Ottawa Sen­a­tors. When asked at the be­gin­ning of the sea­son to list the top 50 play­ers, those were ba­si­cally a con­sen­sus top three.

The bet­ting here is that Crosby and the Pen­guins will find their way to the post­sea­son. The same won’t or can’t be said of McDavid and the Oil­ers or Karls­son and the Sen­a­tors this sea­son.

The play­offs will be­gin in April and some of hockey’s bright­est lights won’t be in­volved.

THIS AND THAT

My Hart Tro­phy bal­lot af­ter 40-plus games might look some­thing like this right now:

Nikita Kucherov; Steven 1. 2. Stamkos; Blake Wheeler;

3. Nathan MacKin­non; 4. 5. John Tavares. And try­ing

Pa­trice to find a place for Berg­eron Vic­tor

... With Hed­man

now hurt, Karls­son and Ottawa strug­gling and Brent Burns

not dom­i­nat­ing the way he did a year ago, Drew Doughty

jumps back in the lead for the Nor­ris Tro­phy as the NHL’s top de­fence­man. The Kings have only given up 99 goals against, best in the league, and Doughty is on the ice for al­most half ev­ery

Ger­ard Gal­lant game ... runs away with the coach-of-theyear award in Las Ve­gas, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some qual­ity work be­ing else­where. On the list of the

Jon Cooper, im­pres­sive:

Bruce Cas­sidy, Tampa;

John Stevens, Bos­ton; Los Travis Green, An­ge­les; Paul Mau­rice, Van­cou­ver; John Hynes, Win­nipeg; Jared Bed­nar, New Jer­sey; Colorado. Worst first-half Phil Hous­ley coach: in Buf­falo, where the Sabres are

Mike Bab­cock a dis­as­ter ... breaks the Leafs’ sea­son down in five-game seg­ments. He wants six points for ev­ery five games played. That would give the club 96 points af­ter 80 games. Right now, they’re one point be­hind where Bab­cock ex­pects them to be ... So what’s more an­noy­ing, Bab­cock’s

Aus­ton un­will­ing­ness to put Matthews

on the Leafs first power play — wouldn’t you

Mitch Marner like to see and Matthews to­gether with the man ad­van­tage? — or his

Ro­man stub­born be­lief that Po­lak

can help his hockey team. When St. Louis traded Po­lak to Toronto years back, the rea­son: They didn’t think they could con­tinue to grow with Po­lak on their blue line ... Marner is the Leafs’ most cre­ative passer. Matthews is their best shooter. It’s nor­mally the op­po­site to have a cen­tre as best passer and a winger as best shooter.

Wayne Gret­zky See and Jari Kurri, Adam Oates

I want to see him race (Kendrys) Mo­rales. I think it would be close. An MLB scout on new Jay Yangervis So­larte

GETTY IM­AGES

Peren­nial Hart Tro­phy can­di­date Sid­ney Crosby is nowhere near the race this sea­son.

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