Crosby—Ovechkin Delivering the Goods for NHL

Between Super Bowl XIX and XXXI, the NFC won 13-straight Vince Lombardi trophies. The AFC had no chance.
Crosby—Ovechkin Delivering the Goods for NHL
EAGERLY ANTICIPATED DUEL: Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby recorded hat tricks in a highly entertaining Game 2 on Monday night. (Len Redkoles/Getty Images)
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<a><img src="https://www.theepochtimes.com/assets/uploads/2015/09/Crosby-Ovechkin.jpg" alt="EAGERLY ANTICIPATED DUEL: Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby recorded hat tricks in a highly entertaining Game 2 on Monday night. (Len Redkoles/Getty Images)" title="EAGERLY ANTICIPATED DUEL: Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby recorded hat tricks in a highly entertaining Game 2 on Monday night. (Len Redkoles/Getty Images)" width="320" class="size-medium wp-image-1828421"/></a>
EAGERLY ANTICIPATED DUEL: Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby recorded hat tricks in a highly entertaining Game 2 on Monday night. (Len Redkoles/Getty Images)
Between Super Bowl XIX and XXXI, when the AFC champ was nothing but a sacrificial lamb, the NFC won 13-straight Vince Lombardi trophies. The media would dub the NFC championship game the “real” Super Bowl.
 
And while neither the NHL’s Eastern or Western conferences has an overwhelming advantage in Stanley Cup wins—the West has gone 8–6 since the Prince of Wales and Campbell Conferences were re-christened in 1993–94—the must-see playoff series won’t be in the Stanley Cup final this year.
 
The NHL got exactly what it wanted when Carolina edged New Jersey in Round 1 because this meant that the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals would face one another in Round 2. Now, the NHL has a playoff series featuring its two most exciting players in the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby and the Capitals’ Alexander Ovechkin.
 
Canada’s National Post referred to the tilt as the NHL’s version of Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird while a headline in the sportsbusinessdaily.com read “NHL Poised To Benefit From Penguins–Capitals, Crosby–Ovechkin.”
 
The two stars have accounted for the NHL’s last two MVP awards, with Crosby winning the Hart trophy two seasons ago and Ovechkin winning last year. Washington’s No. 8 is also a nominee for the honor this year.

They were also the last two point scoring champions (Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin has that honor this year). Each player’s Art Ross trophy coincided with their Hart trophy wins.
 
But the Bird–Magic battles wouldn’t have been nearly as intriguing without strong supporting casts and the same goes for the current series between Steel Town and the nation’s capital.
 
Crosby has the likes of Evgeni Malkin (another nominee for this year’s Hart), offensive-minded defenseman Sergei Gonchar, veteran power forward  Bill Guerin, promising youngsters Chris Kunitz and Jordan Staal, and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
 
Ovechkin isn’t surrounded by slouches either; among his teammates are Norris trophy candidate Mike Green, C Niklas Backstrom, LW Alexander Semin, old sage and C Sergei Fedorov, and perhaps most importantly in the playoffs, rookie goalie sensation Simeon Varlamov.

Varlamov, who only started five regular season games, is among the top five in goals against average, save percentage, wins, and shutouts in the playoffs thus far.

Rivalry

 
The series also has a key ingredient for intriguing viewing—a dislike of each other.
 
The two teams have been exchanging verbal shots all season.
 
A couple of weeks after a meeting in October, Alexander Semin took a shot at Crosby in a Yahoo.com interview when he suggested that Crosby was overrated.
 
“What’s so special about [Crosby]?” Semin asked.
 
“I don’t see anything special there.”
 
Hostilities were renewed in a game in late-February where Crosby and Ovechkin got into a tussle in what would be a 5–2 Washington win.
 
“I was just skating to the bench and he pushed me from behind,” Crosby told the AP.
 
“So I just gave him a shot back. That’s hockey, and he likes to run around these days, so that was it.”
 
Crosby also hinted that Ovechkin was a cheap player and the Russian winger resented the insinuation.
 
“That’s my game. It’s not cheap shots, it’s a game moment. But he doesn’t like it, it’s his problem,” said Ovechkin.
 
Both Ovechkin and Crosby scored in a 3–2 win for the Caps in Game 1 on Saturday, and in a Game 2 classic on Monday night each netted their first playoff hat tricks in a 4–3 home win for Washington.
 
The drama and the energy weren’t lost on either star.
 
“I’m sure it’s entertaining for people to watch,” said Crosby in the postgame interview.
 
“If I were to look at it from the fans point of view, obviously that would be the case but as a player you don’t like seeing a player on the other team get a hat trick, it’s usually not a good sign.”
 
“It was a sick game,” exclaimed Ovechkin.
 
“It was a sick three goals by me and [Crosby]. If I was a Capitals fan I’d be very happy right now.”  

Game 3 was another “sick game” as the Pens took it in OT. Ovechkin had a goal and an assist while Crosby had two assists, including one on Kris Letang’s OT winner.
 
And you can be sure the NHL and its fans are tickled pink at having two superstars playing to their potential and against each other in the Stanley Cup playoffs.