Sidney Crosby has always been known for his lethal backhander and incredible edge work.
Evgeni Malkin has always been known for his dazzling dangles and ability to power his way to the most dangerous areas of the ice.
But what about their defensive game?
Malkin has never been considered a good defensive player. Although most of this crowd has disappeared, you’ll occasionally run into someone who thinks he is lazy and doesn’t play defense at all.
That isn’t the case.
Crosby, on the other hand, turned 30 and suddenly started popping up in conversations for the Selke Trophy, an award handed out after each season to the forward who demonstrates the most skill in the defensive component of the game.
The narrative that Crosby had rounded out his game by becoming a force in his own zone was likely contrived by the media in an attempt to romanticize the legacy of the best player of the post-lockout era.
I think there is a middle ground to be found.
Using data as well as video clips, I will be analyzing the defensive play of Crosby and Malkin. The answer to which player has a better defensive impact may surprise you.
What the data says
Measuring defense in hockey is immensely difficult.
It’s even more difficult when trying to isolate a player’s defensive impact.
The days of citing plus/minus, takeaways and blocked shots as the only benchmarks for defensive ability are a thing of the past, though if you take a look in the rear-view, you’ll find a group of angry hockey men who disagree.