Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are California-bound later this month for the NHL's All-Star Game, but they'll leave behind Phil Kessel, the man who just might be most responsible for reigniting both their careers.
That might sound like overstatement, but stay with me.
Any scoring superstar throughout hockey history, from Mario Lemieux on down, has feasted on the power play. Not just for points but also for confidence. The feel of the puck going in the net, no matter how many extra men on the ice, comes with its own value. It carries over to five-on-five. It carries over to teammates.
And don't overthink the pivotal point in this process: Crosby was scoring one power-play goal every 9.03 games in the four seasons before Kessel's arrival in the summer of 2015, and he's now scoring once every 6.23 games. Malkin was scoring once every 7.91 games in the four seasons before Kessel's arrival, and he's now scoring once every 4.57 games: