Crosby, Lecavalier, Backstrom tops in NHL 2006-07

Apr 9, 2007 - 1:19 AM By PA SportsTicker

Unlike others before him, Sidney Crosby is living up to enormous expectations.

A superstar in just his second season with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Crosby became the youngest player in NHL history to win the Art Ross Trophy as the league's leading scorer.

Four months shy of his 20th birthday, Crosby recorded 120 points, six more than San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton, who won the award last season.

In leading the Penguins to their first playoff berth since 2001, Crosby won the scoring title while seven months younger than Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky, who claimed the prize in 1981 at 20 years, 3 months.

With 36 goals and 84 assists, the 2005 top overall pick already has eclipsed the best seasons of several former phenoms who were expected to be the faces of the NHL.

Alexandre Daigle, the first selection of the 1993 draft by Ottawa, reached a ceiling of 51 points three times in his enigmatic career that included a two-year hiatus to pursue acting.

And despite winning the Hart Trophy in 1995, Eric Lindros was not the dominant force he was touted to be after being drafted first by Quebec in 1991. Currently a member of the Dallas Stars, Lindros recorded a career-best 115 points in 1995-96 but has suffered numerous concussions during an injury-plagued career. He missed a total of 33 games this season - including the last 16 - with a variety of ailments.

As a rookie last season, Crosby was one of just seven players to post at least 100 points and finished second to Washington Capitals sensation Alex Ovechkin in Calder Trophy voting.

Vincent Lecavalier of the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Maurice Richard Trophy after scoring a career-high and franchise-record 52 goals, two more than Dany Heatley of the Atlanta Thrashers.

The 1998 first overall pick, Lecavalier shattered his previous high of 35 tallies set last season. The 26-year-old former captain of the Lightning, who also finished third in the league with 108 points, posted six multi-goal performances.

Lecavalier's longest run of consecutive games with a tally was six, accomplished from October 21-November 2.

Thornton, who won the Hart Trophy as MVP last season, led the NHL with a career-best 92 assists. Thomas Vanek of the Presidents' Trophy-winning Buffalo Sabres ended the campaign with the league's top plus-minus rating at plus-47, while Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin was the scoring leader among rookies with 85 points.

On the other side of the puck, Niklas Backstrom of the Minnesota Wild received a chance when teammate Manny Fernandez was injured and ran with it.

In his first season in the NHL following a solid career in his native Finland, Backstrom led all goaltenders in goals-against average (1.97) and save percentage (.929) while teaming with Fernandez to win the Jennings Trophy as the netminders allowing the fewest total goals.

Signed as a free agent last June, the 29-year-old Backstrom surrendered just 73 tallies on 1,101 shots in 41 games. He made a season-high 41 saves against the Florida Panthers on February 8 and registered five shutouts.

Fernandez yielded 103 tallies on 1,261 shots.

While Backstrom's shutout total was impressive, it fell well short of the league lead. Two-time Vezina Trophy winner Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils posted 12 - just three short of the modern record set by Hall of Famer Tony Esposito in 1969-70.

Brodeur, a favorite to win the Vezina this season, set a league record by posting 48 victories in a career-high 78 appearances. The previous mark of 47 triumphs was established in 1974-75 by Hall of Fame netminder Bernie Parent.

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