In honor of Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin renewing their rivalry with their respective teams one point apart for the lead of the Metropolitan Division, it is time to once again compare the two foes and determine which one currently has the upper hand.
It would be easy to look at the Stanley Cup victory and two Stanley Cup Final appearances for Crosby and declare that a ring will trump all. Under Ovechkin, the Washington Capitals have never made it to the Eastern Conference Final. The playoff success has never been there for Ovechkin and unfortunately a lot of his legacy will be decided by the rings he wins.
Hockey is a team sport and one player cannot win a championship all by himself. While the Pittsburgh Penguins have been a phenomenal team under the captaincy of Crosby, the team has the ability to function and win just fine without him. Last season, when Crosby missed 27 of the 48 games, the Penguins still ended the season with the top offense and as the number 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Penguins could rely on the then reigning Hart Trophy winner Evegeni Malkin to lead the way.
The Capitals do not have the same luxury. The team is completely dependent on the play of Ovechkin to contend; when he has a bad season, the Capitals will be down in the standings. The Capitals are not as well built as the Penguins and that should be what the lack of playoff success is attributed to over the play of Ovechkin. Ovechkin has won the Hart Trophy 3 times in his career, not sure that his play can be questioned.
While it is not fair to judge a player based on his ability to stay healthy, Crosby’s inability to play a full season since 2009-2010 because of lingering concussions has to play some factor in determining who currently has the edge in this matchup. While Crosby has been very effective while in the lineup, Ovechkin has started to shine even brighter in the last few seasons. While Crosby continues to struggle to come back completely from his concussions, Ovechkin is going to continue to flourish under head coach Adams Oates and will have the opportunity to put some distance between himself and Crosby.
It still may all come down to postseason success, which Crosby will continue to hold the edge in until Ovechkin can win a Cup, but if it is in terms of regular season success and what each player ends up meaning to his respective teams, the “Great 8” may come out ahead yet.