They are the two names that surface at the top of every fantasy hockey draft board. They are the two names most synonymous with the NHL right now. They are the two names that transcend between hockey and pop culture, sport and celebrity.
Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby
While their rivalry may be more media creation than anything else because neither has a bad word to say about the other one, it is no doubt great theater when the Capitals and Penguins meet, which they will do for the first time this season Thursday night in Pittsburgh.
NHL.com wants to hear from you. If you were a GM and could choose between these two to start your team, who would you choose? There are compelling arguments for both.
When it comes to personal achievements, Ovechkin, a 23-year-old from Moscow, has the edge on his 21-year-old rival who hails from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia.
Tale of the tape
Ht: 5' 11"
Wt: 200 lbs
left wing wsh (#8)
ht: 6' 2"
wt: 220 lbs
Ovechkin beat out Crosby for the 2006 Calder Memorial Trophy and wound up with four pieces of hardware following last season, when he had 65 goals and 112 points. He won the Hart Trophy as the League's MVP, the Rocket Richard Trophy as the leading goal scorer, the Art Ross Trophy as the leading points scorer and the Lester B. Pearson Award, which goes to the NHL MVP as voted on by the NHL Players' Association.
Crosby took home the Hart Trophy, Art Ross Trophy and Lester B. Pearson Award after recording 36 goals and 84 assists in the 2006-07 season.
When it comes to team achievements, Crosby is rounds ahead of Ovechkin.
As the youngest full-time captain in NHL history last season, Crosby guided the Penguins to the Stanley Cup Final, where they lost in six games to Detroit. Crosby's 27 postseason points tied him with Henrik Zetterberg for the League lead. The Crosby-led Penguins also made the playoffs in 2007, but lost in the first round despite Crosby's five points in five games.
Ovechkin's 65 goals propelled the Capitals to an improbable Southeast Division title last season, but as the third seed, the Caps lost to Philadelphia, four games to three, in the first round. It was Ovechkin's first playoff appearance and he wound up with 4 goals and 5 assists.
Entering this season, Pittsburgh had won 116 games in the Crosby era, including 47 in each of the past two seasons after a League-worst 22 in 2005-06. Washington had won 100 with Ovechkin, including 43 last season after winning 28 and 29 in the previous two seasons.
They are different players.
Crosby, a center, is one of the best playmakers in the game. He entered this season with 195 assists in 214 career games. Many believe he could finish his career as an assist-per-game center, putting him in a category with Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux.
Ovechkin, a left wing, is the best goal scorer the League has seen in more than a decade. He entered this season with 163 goals in his first three seasons. The only two players to score more were Gretzky and Mike Bossy, a pair of Hall of Famers. Coincidentally, Ovechkin has led the League in shots in each of his first three seasons.
Ovechkin's durability is also amazing. He has missed just one game in his first three seasons. Crosby was out for 29 last season due to a high ankle sprain.
They are complete players.
Crosby is a natural-born leader and entered this season with a plus-28 rating for his career. Even when the Penguins were the worst team in the League in 2005-06, Crosby still was only a minus-1.
Ovechkin hasn't worn a "C" on his sweater yet, but he does wear an "A" as alternate captain and his defense has improved by leaps and bounds. He was a minus-19 in 2006-07, but a plus-28 last season. He entered this season with a plus-13 career rating.
They are international superstars.
Prior to turning pro, Crosby helped Team Canada win gold at the 2005 World Junior Championship with 9 points in 6 games. He was also the leading scorer at the 2006 IIHF World Championship, but Canada finished third.
Ovechkin helped Russia to the 2003 World Juniors gold medal with 7 points in 6 games. His remarkable run of dominance continued this past season even after the Caps were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, as he led Russia to its first gold at the IIHF World Championships in 15 years with 12 points in 9 games. He also had 5 goals at the 2006 Winter Olympics, but Russia finished fourth.
They are both business-like and emotional, but in different ways.
Crosby's off-ice schedule doesn't allow for much quiet time, but he never complains and he always gives his time to sell the game and the NHL. He's one of the great ambassadors for the game and easily the League's most recognizable superstar, so much so that he's been known to use freight elevators in hotels and backdoors in restaurants to avoid crowds. His teammates call ahead to restaurants.
On the ice, No. 87 rarely loses himself in the celebration and is always skating hard and sacrificing his body in dangerous areas. You can certainly tell he's having fun, but he's very serious and focused.
Ovechkin is also a businessman off the ice -- he has a new line of streetwear clothing -- but in a much more playful manner. Then again, he doesn't attract the same attention as Crosby, at least not yet.
On the ice, No. 8 is similar to Crosby in that he's one of the hardest-working and hardest-skating players in the game, but his goal celebrations have become must-see TV. He never leaves the fans wanting more.
You just read the arguments, now you make the call. Will it be Ovechkin or Crosby? Send us your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.Contact Dan Rosen at email@example.com.
Author: Dan Rosen | NHL.com Staff Writer