Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
There is probably no one who would argue with you if you made the statement that Sidney Crosby is "one of the best hockey players in the world."
But what is his effect on the rest of his Pittsburgh Penguins team when he is in the lineup?
The obvious answer is that the Penguins score a lot more when No. 87 is on the ice.
Crosby has been dressed for just 17 games this season, but Pittsburgh has scored 66 goals in those contests - an average of 5.82 goals per game. This compares favorable to 193 goals scored in the remaining 60 non-Crosby games for an average of just 2.12 goals per game.
However, the increase in scoring from the return of Crosby doesn't guarantee that all the other Penguins' players on your fantasy roster have shown a corresponding improvement.
Of the Penguins' top-five scoring forwards, two, Evgeni Malkin and Pascal Dupuis, have shown markedly better production with Crosby in uniform, but Jordan Staal and James Neal have seen a reduction in scoring when "The Kid" has played in 2011-12.
Malkin, the league's leading scorer with 100 points, has averaged 1.40 ppg in non-Crosby games and 1.53 ppg in the 17 games with Crosby.
Dupuis (52 points) had shown the most improvement when Crosby is around, scoring 17 points in 17 games with Crosby and 35 points in 60 games without him.
Going in the opposite direction are the veteran Staal, who scored 36 points in 40 games with Crosby, but just nine in 17 games with him, and James Neal who might be the biggest surprise in fantasy hockey this season.
The problem for Neal is ice time. He doesn't get as much of it when Crosby is around. For the season, Neal averages 19 minutes and 13 seconds of playing time, but in the 17 games Crosby has played, he's reached that number just three times.
Besides the offense, there is an interesting phenomena happening in net. The Penguins' two goaltenders, Marc-Andre Fleury and Brad Thiessen, both have worse records and save percentages in their "Crosby games."
Fleury is 41-16-4 with a save percentage of 0.914 without his best offensive weapon and 8-6-2 with a 0.904 save percentage with Crosby. Thiessen is 3-1-0 without and 1-1, including an ugly 0.815 save percentage, with Crosby.
Perhaps the team's mind-set changes with Crosby on ice and the Penguins concentrate too much on scoring and not enough on defense.
Whatever the reason, as a fantasy owner these results are interesting. If you own Fleury, you should decide whether to trade him now that it appears Crosby is back for the remainder of the season or hope that the poor team defense is a short-term trend. Given Fleury's great overall numbers, you'll have no trouble getting quality offers.
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