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Caps-Pens: A not-so-civil war

by Dan Rosen /
PITTSBURGH -- Just as we've seen him in front of the HBO cameras, Washington coach Bruce Boudreau pulled no punches Thursday night when he was asked about the Penguins-Capitals rivalry that will add a new and intriguing chapter Saturday in the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.

"They don't like us, so why should we like them," Boudreau told "Wasn't it (Max) Talbot who said over the summer that he didn't like (Alex) Ovechkin? Well, so why can't we say we don't like Talbot? I didn't like him when he was in Wilkes-Barre, and I don't like him in Pittsburgh. Anybody that can beat us we don't like."

Boudreau said the rivalry between the Winter Classic opponents has to "stay above-board" because it takes place in the NHL, not a minor league somewhere. But that doesn't mean it always has to stay civil.

For instance, he was asked if he thinks it's a good thing or a bad thing for the Capitals that Sidney Crosby's point streak ended on Long Island on Wednesday night.

One could think it's good for the Capitals because maybe they think it's a sign of Crosby coming back down to earth a bit, perhaps even going into a little slump? One could also think it's bad for the Caps because maybe the weight of the streak being lifted will allow Crosby to do even greater things?

Boudreau didn't care about any of that. He cut right to the heart of the issue as it pertains to him and his team.

"I'm just happy he didn't get a point," Boudreau said. "I don't want him to get any points ever. Why would I? He gets points and they win, and I don't want them to win. That's part of the rivalry."

It's not that Boudreau personally hates Crosby or Talbot. But because they wear a Penguins  logo on their jerseys and he stands behind the Capitals' bench, well, it's natural to have a decent amount of disdain.

That's just what this rivalry is all about, and it goes beyond the Boudreau, Bylsma, Ovechkin and Crosby era.

Washington has won only one of eight playoff series against Pittsburgh in the last 20 years, and the teams haven't gotten along well at any point during that time period. Now the rivalry is ratcheted up even more because it is the most publicized in the sport.

Knowing all this and how he really does feel about the Penguins, will Boudreau be nervous when the puck drops in the Winter Classic?

"I was a lot more nervous when we lost three, four and five in a row because going into the next games you had to win, it was so important," he said. "I'll be nervous because you want to get over the 50-point bracket, you want to keep going, and we like to beat these guys because I don't think we like them. That's not a secret."

No, it definitely is not.

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