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Sid vs. Ovi: A Classic duel

Friday, 12.31.2010 / 9:34 AM / Hockey's Finest Presented by Army

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Sid vs. Ovi: A Classic duel
The rivalry between Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin figures to take center stage at the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.
When the NHL selected the teams for the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, hockey fans were treated to the promise not only of another memorable outdoor game before a packed crowd on New Year's Day, but also to what is widely regarded as the top rivalry in the sport today -- the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals.

Of course, a lot of the hype centers around the head-to-head rivalry between the game's biggest superstars, Sidney Crosby of the Penguins and Alex Ovechkin of the Capitals.

"[Crosby] is a great player. He's the face of hockey, especially in Canada," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last year. "Alex is a great player. He's the face of hockey in D.C., for sure."


Each went first in his respective draft year -- Ovechkin in 2004, Crosby in 2005 -- and due to the work stoppage they entered the League at the same time, for the 2005-06 season.

In their early days, Ovechkin was regarded as the pure goal scorer, as well as the more physical player, while Crosby was seen as the crafty one and a better playmaker. Ovechkin scored at least 50 goals in four of his first five seasons -- including a whopping 65 in 2007-08 -- while Crosby racked up the first of his four seasons of at least 100 points as a rookie and then put up 84 assists and 120 points his sophomore campaign.

But last season, Crosby stepped up his goal-scoring to post a career-high 51, one more than Ovechkin. And so far this season Crosby, who had a 25-game points streak snapped against the Islanders on Wednesday, has a League-best 32 goals, more than double Ovechkin's 14.

In the major awards category, Ovechkin got the better of Crosby in the Calder Trophy vote their rookie season and has won the Hart Trophy as MVP and Rocket Richard Trophy as the League's top goal scorer twice each. Crosby has one Hart and tied Steven Stamkos for the Richard Trophy last season with his 51 goals.

Each player has won the Art Ross Trophy as overall scoring leader once.

"He's a great player. It's always a tough battle," Crosby said before the two competed against one another on the Olympic stage in February -- he and Team Canada beat Russia en route to winning the gold medal. "Our games can speak for themselves."

When you boil the rivalry down to head-to-head competition, Crosby has 13 goals and 22 assists for 35 points in 20 career regular-season games against Washington. Ovechkin has 17 goals and 14 assists for 31 points in 21 career regular-season games against the Penguins. Slight edge Sid, but it gets bigger once you factor in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Penguins and Capitals met in a thrilling, seven-game series in the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 2009, with dueling hat tricks by Crosby and Ovechkin in Game 2 that led Ovechkin to comment afterward: "Sick game. Sick. Three goals by me and Crosby." The Capitals won that night, but the Penguins captured the series with a decisive Game 7 win in Washington in which Crosby scored a pair of goals.

"It feels good, just because of the way the series went," Crosby said, "not particularly because it was me and him."

A turn of the calendar page later and Sid the Kid was a Stanley Cup champion after Pittsburgh rallied to beat Detroit in another seven-game thriller.

In addition to the Penguins beating the Capitals en route to the Final in 2009, Crosby had also been there the previous season, when the Red Wings got the better of him and his teammates. Ovechkin, meanwhile, is still hoping to lead the Capitals to the promised land -- despite three straight Southeast Division titles, they haven't gotten past the second round, and last spring they let a 3-1 series lead against the Canadiens slip away after winning the Presidents' Trophy as the League's top team in the regular season.

Finally, perhaps the most lasting image of the Crosby-Ovechkin rivalry in the memories of many fans doesn't involve a precision pass or a brilliant deke to score a goal, but the time on Feb. 22, 2009 -- a couple months before their playoff matchup -- when Sid and Ovi came together near the bench area late in the second period and punches nearly flew.

Pushing and shoving between the two superstars resulted in Crosby being restrained by a linesman and Ovechkin dismissing his counterpart with a wave of the hand.

"[Crosby] is a great player. He's the face of hockey, especially in Canada. Alex is a great player. He's the face of hockey in D.C., for sure." -- Bruce Boudreau

Ovechkin entered that game unhappy that Crosby had accused the Capitals star of a "cheap shot" hit in a previous Washington win over Pittsburgh.

"What I can say about him?" Ovechkin said. "He is a good player, but he talks too much. I play hard. If he wants to do something like hit me again, try to hit me again -- and I'll talk to you guys (about) who plays dirty. That's my game. It's not cheap shots, it's a game moment. But he doesn't like it, it's his problem."

Crosby, meanwhile, made clear he wasn't a big fan of Ovechkin's theatrics, which have ranged from the merely effusive -- jumping into the glass to celebrate a big goal -- to the over-the-top, like when he scored against the Lightning and then dropped his stick and performed a routine in which he acted like it was on fire.

"Like it or lump it, that's what he does," Crosby said. "Some people like it, some people don't. Personally, I don't like it."

Crosby and Ovechkin will take their rivalry outside on Saturday -- and it promises to be a special treat to ring in 2011.

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