When the Penguins and the Capitals meet, the first thought on nearly everyone’s mind is “Crosby vs Ovechkin”. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that as they are arguably the best players of their generation. But when you really look at what makes this rivalry tick, you have to ask yourself if we are really discussing the most important narrative.
Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin have been compared to one another since they were teenagers in Russia. It is obvious to this day that both of them treat their on-ice meetings with a higher level of intensity than other games.
— PGHSportsInitiative (@PGH_Initiative) April 25, 2016
Sidney Crosby and Ovechkin have had some epic meetings during their careers, but when one of the Russians is missing, there is obviously something missing. “Geno” and “Ovie” clearly try to upstage each other, almost at the cost of their own team’s structure. On more than one occasion Ovechkin has gone out of his way to run over Malkin with huge hits…or at least attempted hits.
|Pitt v Wash||GF%||CF%||OZone%|
They’ve both had their share of big moments when hey have met. Game winning goals, momentum shifting plays, and big hits to go along with their untimely penalties born of high emotions. This series could be full of career defining moments for one, or both. Malkin and Ovechkin are likely to avoid being overly emotional as they will be focused on the prize at the end of the finish line. But then again, as history has shown us, you can never be too sure.
Penguins vs. Capitals Is the Real Stanley Cup Final
Way back in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s the Avalanche and Red Wings frequently met in the playoffs for what many considered to be a matchup of the most talented teams in the league. Given the skill and intensity showcased in the rivalry, no East vs. West Stanley Cup Final could come close to matching the high-profile contests. In many ways it was the real championship round.
Crosby OT winner pic.twitter.com/C5uPuMTcxe
— Stephanie (@myregularface) April 8, 2016
That may be exactly what we have waiting for us in the second-round matchup between the Penguins and Capitals. The rivalry is in no way lacking for skill and dramatic storylines. Crosby vs. Ovechkin, Malkin vs. Ovechkin, Letang vs. Ovechkin. Matt Niskanen and (possibly) Brooks Orpik vs. the Penguins. The quality narratives are endless.
|On Ice Against||GF%||CF%|
|Sid vs Ovie||46.2||46.1|
|Ovie vs Sid||53.8||53.9|
|Geno vs Ovie||40||42.9|
|Ovie vs Geno||60||57.1|
|Letang vs Ovie||36.4||47.6|
|Ovie vs Letang||63.6||52.4|
It is a shame that the NHL created a playoff format where the 1st and 2nd seeds play each other in the 2nd round. A meeting between the two clubs in the conference final would be much more epic. Not to mention the fact that both teams earned their spot within the standings, and that should allow them to have an “easier” matchup in the earlier rounds. This system makes absolutely no sense.
Playoff chances after the games of April 25th. pic.twitter.com/BOlQM8sgm9
— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) April 26, 2016
The Penguins and Capitals feature some of the most prominent star players in the league, to go with their nearly flawless execution of their respective systems. The NHL should be shouting from the rooftops and dropping leaflets from planes to get people to watch this series.
Of course, we already know how much fun it is going to be.
Until next time.
Greg is a Pittsburgh Penguins writer for ‘The Hockey Writers’.
He is a Pittsburgh area native who has written for multiple Penguins news and opinion sites. In addition to hockey writing, he is also an experienced YouTube creator.
Greg started with THW in 2015 as a Blue Jackets writer, and spent time as a Fantasy Hockey analyst.