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Rivalry Night on NBCSN: Cruising Crosby, Ovechkin collide

Jan 15, 2014, 8:44 AM EDT

Washington Capitals right wing Alex Ovechkin (8), of Russia, collides with Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) in the second period of an NHL hockey game, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) AP

Throughout the season, NBCSN will feature the NHL’s fiercest rivalries on Wednesday nights. Tonight the Washington Capitals will head to the Consol Energy Center to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins at 8:00 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

The Penguins have been hit hard by the injury bug this season, but you wouldn’t know it based on their record. They have a 16-point cushion over the Capitals in the battle for the Metropolitan Division title going into tonight’s meeting.

Sidney Crosby deserves a lot of the credit for that. He’s one of just six Penguins players to participate in all 47 of the team’s games and it’s rare for him to be held off the scoresheet. Just like Pittsburgh has been dominating the Metropolitan, Crosby has a comfortable lead in the battle for the Art Ross Trophy with 67 points this season.

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $1,500 Fantasy Hockey league for Wednesday’s NHL games. It’s just $10 to join and first prize is $350. Starts Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

He’s not the only one that’s been a force to be reckoned with though. Just as Crosby has dominated the points race, no one is close to Washington’s Alex Ovechkin when it comes to putting the puck in the back of the net. He has 33 markers in 44 contests while three other players, including Crosby, are tied for second with 25 goals.

So once again Washington versus Pittsburgh will be defined by Ovechkin and Crosby, but while that’s certainly been talked about before, that rivalry did go through something of a hiatus due to Crosby’s injury problems and Ovechkin’s struggles a couple years back.

Even last season really didn’t feature a long period where they were both at the top of their game given that Ovechkin didn’t catch fire until the second half of the shortened campaign and Crosby’s regular season was cut short due to a broken jaw. In fact, this might prove to be the first season since 2009-10 where they both manage to stay largely healthy and neither of them goes through any season-defining rough patches.

While they’re the headlines of this contest, they both have impressive supporting casts. Both teams also have big X-Factors, such as James Neal‘s (upper body) availability and the Capitals’ goaltending situation. Washington has employed three different goaltenders in its last three games and they all had solid performances. Even still, it’s made for an awkward and uncertain scenario.

On a broader level, the Penguins would seem to have the edge. Even with all their injuries, they have a lot of offensive depth and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has been excellent in the regular season. Pittsburgh is also an unreal 19-3-0 at home and earned a crushing 4-0 over Washington earlier this season.

At the same time, Washington has to be hungry for a win. This game should mean more to the Capitals in the heated battle for second place in the division and they have to be frustrated after enduring back-to-back shootout losses. Perhaps that will inspire them tonight.

  1. ibieiniid - Jan 15, 2014 at 9:06 AM

    for once, “rivalry” night applies.

  2. jpelle82 - Jan 15, 2014 at 9:21 AM

    just noticed this over the past 5 or 6 games i’ve seen but how long has ovechkin been playing with grabovski and fehr? is that the reason his goal production has slowed so much? i have seen backstrom with brouwer and laich lately…is oates looking to spread the wealth a little bit? dont see why they are messing with a good thing in the 19 and 8 duo. seems ovechkin only has 3 goals in his last 10 games compared to the pace he was on before (30 in 35 games). what gives?

    • kyzslew77 - Jan 15, 2014 at 10:42 AM

      Yeah, I think the idea is Oates is trying to make two scoring lines by splitting up 8 and 19. It’s not a bad idea in theory, but it’s a horrible idea in execution if he’s going to put 20 and 21 together with 19. 20 and 21 should never be on the ice at the same time, ever.

      • jpelle82 - Jan 15, 2014 at 11:05 AM

        i dont blame him trying to find some balance but its becoming apparent that they need another top 6 winger if this is how they are going to roll the lines. i will say in fehr’s case i am glad to see he’s stepping his game up and playing well, pretty solid even though he’s not putting up gawdy numbers he seems to get quality chances and skates his butt off. i strongly believe in second chances, looks like he’s making the most of his in dc and getting rewarded with top 6 minutes.

    • c9castine - Jan 15, 2014 at 2:21 PM

      what about johanssen…why wouldn’t he play center for ovechkin if they want to split up him and backstrom?

      • jpelle82 - Jan 15, 2014 at 3:17 PM

        i dont know if i even saw mojo last night…i mean he was playing but i believe it was 3rd line duty and he didnt really stand out. it still blows my mind they split all three (90 19 8) off what was one of the best producing lines in the league this year. now they are all 3 on different lines. i think oates just likes to f around…i mean the first thing he did when he got to washington was switch their superstar’s natural position for crying out loud.

      • jpelle82 - Jan 15, 2014 at 3:21 PM

        well that was pretty gay, i’ve never used an emoticon in my life…i guess the number 8 plus a parentheses equals that retarded smiley face….smh…the world we live in i guess…

  3. joey4id - Jan 15, 2014 at 9:32 AM

    The Ovechkin/Crosby rivalry is slowly becoming over blown hype. Crosby just keeps getting better and better, and is elevating his game to become one of the all time greats. Ovi is just becoming another very good player. He is a prolific goal scorer, but a very lame passer (only 14 assists), and can’t play 200 feet (-14 rating). He’s slowly going down the power ranking of top NHL players/captains. Time for trade? I saw move the guy!

    • ibieiniid - Jan 15, 2014 at 10:23 AM

      i couldn’t disagree more.

      • joey4id - Jan 15, 2014 at 10:25 AM

        Don’y you think Chara/Phaneuf vs Crosby is a better rivalry?

      • ibieiniid - Jan 15, 2014 at 10:28 AM

        I didn’t really elaborate because we clearly have different opinions on OV. not really a point in arguing this one, but yes, OV vs Crosby is better than either of those in my opinion.

      • basedrum777 - Jan 15, 2014 at 10:44 AM

        While I wouldn’t agree that ovi is fallen off that much I think it’d be easy to assert that the true comparison is more Malkin/Ovi with Crosby playing a step above both of them. That’s the eye test.

      • joey4id - Jan 15, 2014 at 11:48 AM

        I like Phaneuf/Chara vs Crosby more because they are on the ice at the same time more often than not, and they always battle when those 2 are defending their d zone. The Phaneuf/Crosby rivalry goes back to their junior days when they battled during practice for Team Canada.

      • thailer35 - Jan 15, 2014 at 1:49 PM

        “Don’y you think Chara/Phaneuf vs Crosby is a better rivalry?”

        Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!! Especially at the Phaneuf part! I really hope this is sarcasm/trolling, ’cause if it’s not, I don’t want to run the risk of drinking the same water that you do, Joey.

      • c9castine - Jan 15, 2014 at 2:22 PM

        i hope the thing you disagree with is the trade thing, which is silly. because everything else is pretty accurate lets be honest.

    • jpelle82 - Jan 15, 2014 at 10:43 AM

      i realize you’re trying to get a debate going here but i really hope you dont believe what you’re saying. ovechkin has over 400 goals and is 28 years old. he could hit 800 by the time he’s 36 at his current pace…good enough for greatest of all time status in my book. here’s an interesting stat for you to illustrate what i mean and to show you how impressive he is despite the obvious and well documented flaws in his game. wayne gretzky: 1487 games 894 goals = .601 goals per game average. ovechkin: 645 games and 404 goals = .626 goals per game. if ovechkin plays 1487 games like 99 did, he will have 930 goals if he maintains his current pace…and thats including those 2 seasons where 8 only scored 30 something goals…gretzky tailed off signicantly in his later years but he had made up for it by putting up 70, 80, 90, goal seasons early on. plus ovechkin is doing it in the modern era where goaltending is king…thats a whole other debate in itself but as a fan for my whole life i can say what ovechkin does to goalies these days impresses me far more than what wayne did to those poor floppers in the 80′s.

      • joey4id - Jan 15, 2014 at 10:53 AM

        jpelle, you bring some very valid points. And! NoI I’m not trying to get a debate going here. I just can’t seem to come up with the argument that Ovi should be in the same class as Crosby let alone 99. If we talk strictly from a goal scoring perspective, not doubt Ovi is on pace to be one of the greatest. However, I assess the players from the perspective of “the complete player” to include them amongst the greatest. To me! Ovi is no where close to being a complete player, and never will be, and because of that I can’t put him up there with Howe, Gretzky, Orr, Richard, etc….. No way! Goal scorer he is and he should be revered as one of the best. But! That doesn’t qualify him to be in the top echelon of the greatest players. My 2 cents.

      • jpelle82 - Jan 15, 2014 at 11:18 AM

        i use wayne because thats who has the most goals. he was the greatest of all time. if ovechkin beats him in any category, he would probably be the first to do so and therefore elevating him to all time great in most people’s opinion. no one will care if ovechkin didnt backcheck especially 30 years from now when his numbers are still sitting at the top of the list.

      • rspensfan72 - Jan 15, 2014 at 11:37 AM

        He was the greatest passer of all time. Look at his stats, take away all goals and his assists are better then everyone else total points. So your comparing an elite all around player to a cherry picking, pass it to me puck hog. Just to try to give you an example of how foolish it is to compare.

      • jpelle82 - Jan 15, 2014 at 12:29 PM

        guys like hull werent out there to win the selke, neither is ovechkin so if you feel better about me comparing hull’s numbers to ovechkin’s then i’m ok with that as in to pay no disrespect to the great one who did it all as a player. i merely used the highest goal total in history as a means of comparison and to show that ovechkin has a higher goals per game average than the current record holder. hull had a .583 (741 in 1279 games) goals per game average and played about as much defense as ovechkin does. if ovechkin plays 1279 games like hull he should score 794 goals if you believe in the law of averages, which obliterates the number 3 spot record holder’s numbers and only putting him 8 goals outside of #2 all time. i predict he plays more than 1300 games in his career though and i think he’s got quite a few more 50 goal seasons in him.

    • kyzslew77 - Jan 15, 2014 at 11:09 AM

      Crosby is a step above Ovechkin (and everyone else), but Ovechkin is still a top 5 player in the world and will be for a while. No, he doesn’t play great defense, but he does a better job than the idiots in the hockey media (most of them xenophobic Canadians who hate the idea of elite Russian players) give him credit for. Elite snipers (like Brett Hull–career total of just 28+, and was a minus player in a season in which he scored 70 goals) end up with bad +/- numbers from time to time. It happens.

      Ovechkin’s low assist total this year has a lot to do with his linemates not being able to shoot the puck into the ocean if they were standing on a pier. It may be better now but as of a couple weeks ago, the team’s shooting percentage with him on the ice, but with his shots and goals removed from the equation, was like 2%.

      In any case, those are tired talking points but what really matters, as described by jpelle, is that he’s the best pure scorer in the league, has been for years, and will almost certainly retire in the top 10 in career goals. Top 5 isn’t out of the question. He’s awesome. Period.

      • joey4id - Jan 15, 2014 at 11:42 AM

        I’m sure one can make a case for him being in the top 5 best of the world today. However, I can easily see the following 5 players be selected before Ovi if one was to select one player to build a team around. In alphabetical order; Chara, Crosby, Datsyuk, Stamkos, Toews, Zetteberg. Would you select Ovi before anyone of these players to captain your team and build around?

      • kyzslew77 - Jan 15, 2014 at 1:03 PM

        I’d choose him before Chara, Datsyuk and Zetterberg if it was to build a team going forward, because those guys are old (36, 35 and 33 respectively). I might choose him before Stamkos, who is a very similar player but not quite as good, although probably not since Stamkos is 24. If it were just for one year, I’d still choose him before Zetterberg, who is frankly not on the same level as the rest of these guys, and Stamkos, who again is a similar player (ZOMG career +/- of 2! He doesn’t play defense!) but doesn’t have the same track record as Ovi. I would take Crosby and Toews ahead of him pretty much under any circumstances.

      • c9castine - Jan 15, 2014 at 2:25 PM

        without addressing anything else stamkos is a better player than ovechkin come on now.

      • jpelle82 - Jan 15, 2014 at 3:08 PM

        not so sure stamkos is any better, he’s canadian though so he wont get as much crap for being one dimensional

      • c9castine - Jan 15, 2014 at 3:28 PM

        yeah well he’s not one dimensional remember he broke his leg back checking lifting a guys stick.

        thats my point.

      • joey4id - Jan 15, 2014 at 9:13 PM

        kyzslew77, brilliant! You’d chose the guy that hasn’t won a SC before those three leaders that have. Too much pride to admit Ovi is the worse leader of the bunch.

    • ibieiniid - Jan 15, 2014 at 2:30 PM

      “Ovi is just becoming another very good player.”
      “He’s slowly going down the power ranking of top NHL players/captains. Time for trade? I saw move the guy!”

      I disagree with all of that ^^^. OV’s a great player that will set some big scoring records and make the HOF, without a doubt. He’s just overshadowed by Crosby being better, but I think he’s a solid #2 in the league (there’s about 3 or 4 players that are tied at #2 in my book). I think he gets a bad rap sometimes for the entire team underachieving. EVERYBODY hates on GMGM, but then when the Caps lose a series, it’s OV’s fault all of a sudden. I never got that.

      • bhunter47 - Jan 15, 2014 at 2:46 PM

        Well said, sir. I’m a Penguins fan, and I agree. I believe that Crosby is the best player in the league, and you have guys like Ovechkin, Stamkos, Malkin, Toews, Getzlaf all solid #2/3′s.

        Clearly, Ovechkin and Stamkos are the top two goal scorers in the NHL by a long margin, and Stamkos’ age might put him a notch above, since he (until injury) was effectively matching/surpassing Ovi’s goal totals at a younger age. But until he comes back, there is no better sniper than Ovechkin, and as long as he has that shot, he’ll be in the Top 5 for me.

      • joey4id - Jan 15, 2014 at 2:51 PM

        Dang! You were making a reasonable case until “when the Caps lose a series, it’s OV’s fault all of a sudden. I never got that.” He’s the $9 million player, which means when the chips are down you need to step it up. What did Ovi do in the playoffs last year? ничего!

        You know what. Pitt failed last year and a big part of the blame has to go on Crosby. He’s the leader and go to guy, but still managed to finish but 4 pts behind second place Kane who played 9 more games than 87.

        Ovi had 1G 1A in 7 games. Ouch!

      • ibieiniid - Jan 15, 2014 at 2:58 PM

        sorry joey, didn’t mean to make that a reply directly attacking your points. this was supposed to be a reply to c9 when he asked what part I disagreed with, but my points remain. ok, maybe he lets his head get to him and flips the switch from I to O sometimes, but one Stanley Cup before he retires washes that all away. the saga isn’t over, but I have no doubt that he’s more than just a very good player.

      • ibieiniid - Jan 15, 2014 at 3:00 PM

        “He’s the $9 million player, which means when the chips are down you need to step it up”

        and if you applied that logic to every high-paid player, Perry/Getz, Sidney/Geno and the Sedins are all trade-worthy after not winning the cup last year.

      • jpelle82 - Jan 15, 2014 at 3:04 PM

        ov should get some blame this past season nyr series – just like crosby and malkin justifiably should have in their boston series disaster performance. 8 had 1 goal in seven games in which he didnt score in any of the losses. 3 of those 4 losses were 1 goal games. mcdonaugh and friends shut him down, just like rask and chara shut down the malkin/crosby combo.

  4. steelpenbucs87 - Jan 15, 2014 at 9:34 AM

    This is the only game in an eight day period for the Pens so hopefully they can get a win and get some rest. While this team is firmly seated at the top of the Metropolitan, the Flyguys, Rangers, Caps, and even the Canes have started to round the corner it would seem. From here on out games against those teams are really opportunities to ‘sweep the leg’ so to speak.

    Ovi, Crosby, and Malkin all seem to take it to another level when they’re on the ice together, but for some reason I think this game will be tighter-checking than folks expect. Staying out of the box with these two lethal powerplays will be the key.

    • kyzslew77 - Jan 15, 2014 at 11:00 AM

      Last year they had a game in Pittsburgh in mid March that ended 2-1. I believe the Pens got the winner on a power play. That was a great game, and definitely very tightly checked by both teams.

  5. rspensfan72 - Jan 15, 2014 at 11:49 AM

    This rivalry is all about the caps being a stepping stone for the pens to get to the second round. They’ve done that time after time.
    Loose the names and compare league leading goalie in wins>3 goalie tandem, top 5 PP&PK>only winning because of PP, Highest paid giveaway specialist> Green & all your D, 2 top lines> no top lines.
    It’s a checking and battling game for the Caps to be able to compete with the pens. Lure them into that game and put the PP to work. Otherwise step aside and get abused by the Pensguns.

  6. pghchic - Jan 15, 2014 at 12:04 PM

    Pens Fans- You can meet some of your favorite Pens THIS SATURDAY January 18th at Robinson Mall- Vitale, Glass, Bortuzzo, Adams, Engelland and Evgeni Malkin and James Neal- visit http://www.pensshow.com for times and tickets.

  7. capsrockva - Jan 15, 2014 at 12:10 PM

    Go Caps…. Beat the Pens

  8. toiletclown - Jan 15, 2014 at 12:14 PM

    ahhh its so refreshing to have the greatest player in the world on your hometown team. pens win 5-3 as usual. Takin care of business like a well oiled machine

    • ibieiniid - Jan 15, 2014 at 12:35 PM

      especially when that’s the only player you know anything about, right?

  9. westof1club - Jan 15, 2014 at 3:44 PM

    I remember OV injuring Erat AND taking out his man last year in the NY Ranger series. On the back check. Try again

  10. cspsrbums - Jan 16, 2014 at 12:57 AM

    Crosby is only better because he has a much better team around him . If he had to do all the scoring like Ovi does he wouldn’t be near an all around player that he is. I am not talking about scoring the most for the season I am talking about winning games for your team. If it wasn’t for Ovi the Caps wouldn’t have won 3/4 of the games they won.If Cosby didn’t score the pens still win over 3/4 of there wins. That’s why Ovi does and will be the MVP Yes I would build a team around him He needs help. He scores that many goals and everyone I mean everyone knows he is shooting and still leads the NHL.

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