In case you didn’t know, the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins have a pretty big rivalry. The media took it one step further “created” the Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby rivalry about five years ago. Why did they do it? I could write approximately 3,000 words on why, but in a nutshell: to make the NHL relevant again. The NHL had been lacking a great player rivalry since Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux or Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier.
“I really, honestly don’t care about the Ovechkin-Crosby rivalry. I love our guy. I think our guy’s a world-class player, a fantastic player, and I’m sure every guy on their team is gonna say the same about theirs, but when we play that game, it’s us against Pittsburgh. We don’t look at Ovi like, ‘Oh, Ovi, you have to be bigger than Crosby.’ It’s not how we’ve ever faced it. It’s us against Pittsburgh. We want to be a better team than they are, and it’s the only way it’s ever been, and you guys are the ones that talk about the Ovi-Crosby [rivalry]. Nobody in our locker room, you’ll ever hear them say, ‘Oh, I can’t wait for the Ovi-Crosby game on Wednesday.’ It’s us versus Pittsburgh….”
“Oh, I don’t know, is it the old ‘every superhero needs a villain’ sort of thing? … We honestly, it’s us against Pittsburgh, I mean, it’s the only way. And I understand for you guys — if I was doing [the reporters’] job I would pump that up too. But as a player, if you’re on the other side of it, I mean, you see a full lineup and we’ve got different assignments, they also have a very good hockey player — I don’t know if anyone else has heard of Evgeni Malkin, he’s a good hockey player, too. But they’re a good team. We respect them, and we want to beat them.”
I’m guessing that is how most of the Capitals and Penguins feel. I actually like the fact that the players don’t care about the rivalry because, as Laich alluded to, hockey is a team game. I’m sure both the Capitals and the Penguins get tired of the media hyping up the Ovechkin-Crosby rivalry and ignoring virtually every other player on both teams. Just like we all get tired of how ESPN has been hyping the
Patriots-Broncos Brady-Manning matchup, I’m sure that there are people who are getting very tired of the Ovechkin-Crosby rivalry. I’m not one of them, but I can see why people would be tired of it.
Here’s why I’ll never be one of those people, especially not right now. When it started, the Ovechkin-Crosby rivalry was terrific for the NHL. Capitals-Penguins games got hype and (GASP!) talked about on ESPN. The ratings prove it as well. The rivalry was terrific because Ovechkin and Crosby were arguably the two best hockey players in the world. There would seemingly be daily debates on who was better. One could make a strong case for either player being better than the other. However, in 2011, two things happened:
- Sidney Crosby suffered numerous injury problems
- Alex Ovechkin stopped being his usual self
So from 2011 to right now, the Ovechkin-Crosby rivalry remained pretty irrelevant thanks to both of those reasons. However, right now, Crosby and Ovechkin are back to being arguably the two best hockey players in the world. The Capitals and Penguins are fighting for first place in their division. I think that the Capitals and Penguins being in the same division could help to revive the NHL’s popularity that has been suffering the past few years. If the Capitals and Penguins remain great teams, and Ovechkin and Crosby keep on doing what they do best, I think that down the road, this rivalry could be viewed as the best thing to happen to hockey since Wayne Gretzky.
I think it’s safe to say that Crosby has the upper hand. If you look at stats, Ovechkin and Crosby are very close. It’s impossible to choose one. However, Crosby has one thing that Ovechkin doesn’t, and Ovechkin will be hounded about it until he evens the score: a Stanley Cup. In order for the Ovechkin-Crosby rivalry to be taken to the next level, I think the Capitals will have to win a Stanley Cup to even the championships argument.
Here’s to Ovechkin and Crosby renewing their rivalry on Wednesday. We all know that those two generals will have their troops ready to fight. We know that those two generals will feed off of each other, that’s what they’ve always done when they’ve played each other. It should be a great one!