Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby

Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby don’t like each other. Alexander Semin and Sidney Crosby don’t like each other. The Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins don’t like each other. When these two teams meet Saturday to begin their Eastern Conference Semifinal series, there won’t be a whole lot of love on the ice. You’d better believe the NHL is loving every minute of it. The Caps and Pens will provide the NHL with its best opportunity to expand following their 2004 lockout. Crosby and Ovechkin draw casual hockey fans to watch them play, or for some, to watch them fight. Though they’ve never actually fought. Crosby is the NHL’s face that they use to promote the league. The clean shaven “sid the kid” has given the NHL it’s most recognizable figure since Wayne Gretzky’s retirement. In the other corner stands the complete opposite in Ovechkin. Ovechkin plays the sport with what Caps coach Bruce Boudreau calls a “reckless abandonment”. He rarely shaves, is missing a tooth and celebrates goals in a way that make hockey historians cringe, they are complete opposites. While these two stars will draw most of the attention, don’t forget many of the leagues top players are in this series and are not named Ovechkin or Crosby. Malkin, Semin, Guerin, Green, Fleury or Backstrom could all play a key role in this series. This is the NHL’s dream, only topped if these two rivals would have met in the Eastern Conference Finals.