justified hype

 

NHL PAths of Alex OVechkin & Sidney crosby

A lot has been written, said and thought about these two vastly decorated back to back number one overall draft picks. They come from clashing nationalities and cultures but one thing each shares, in part due to each other, is garnering attention as well as anybody in the sport. Exposure to ice hockey for this current generation has been carried in large part to these two following the 2004-2005 NHL Lockout.

 

The Washington Capitals struck gold when they won the 2004 Draft Lottery and it was unanimous that the franchise would lean on the young Russian winger who was getting, ironically enough, Mario Lemieux comparisons in ESPN Magazine. He was a big strong kid playing in the Russian Superleague on Dynamo Moscow with a power stride, fancy dekes and a blistering wrist shot. Unfortunately, the D.C. faithful would have to wait on seeing the guy that came with so much hype...so much hope.

The following draft came what many were saying was the second coming of Wayne Gretzky. Young Sidney Crosby was a hockey prodigy playing in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for the Rimouski Oceanic, a superior hockey mind on the ice with great composure and balance on his skates and could make plays at a rapid pace. Just a year after selecting star Evgeni Malkin number two overall behind Ovechkin, the Pittsburgh Penguins gleefully chose the consensus first overall pick, running up to the podium once Commissioner Gary Bettman gave the green light.

Both roared out of the gates, eclipsing the one hundred point barrier; quite an impressive feat. However, it was Alex who took home the Calder Cup, winning the rookie of the year with 52 goals along with 54 assists and an overwhelming number of big hits. In fact, Ovechkin's very first shift was one that broke the paneling on the boards behind the opposition's net. He went on to authoritatively put two shots behind Columbus' goaltender and show the hockey world that the hype was real.

Sidney Crosby was even more of a baby faced star then than he is now but it was obvious from day one, he was a prototype prospect- epitome of a young captain and franchise player. He could gracefully float through double teams only to find the open side of the net on a backhand or saucer a precise pass to a waiting teammate for the primary assist. Like Gretzky, Crosby began his career by avoiding big hits and staying strong on his skates. He racked up 63 assists his first season.

As their careers simultaneously began to climb and get notable national press, fans of the game knew a clash for the greatest of bragging rights was inevitable. Crosby became the youngest captain in NHL history at nineteen, winning the Art Ross Trophy and league MVP in just his second season. Ovechkin exploded during the '07-'08 campaign, netting 65 goals and winning the Art Ross Trophy, the Rocket Richard Trophy, the Lester B. Pearson & the league MVP honors. It was a magical individual season but Ovechkin and the Caps were ousted in overtime of Game 7 against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Penguins would go on to win the Eastern Conference on the back of Sid The Kid's 27 points but fall to the Detroit Red Wings for the right to lift Lord Stanley's Cup.

 

The following season both Alex and Sidney again surpassed the 100 point plateau and it was in this campaign's postseason that the heavily awaited playoff matchup between the NHL's biggest superstars came to be; boy, did it not disappoint. The Capitals jumped out to a two games to none advantage, taking both at the Verizon Center.

Game Two was the peak of any Ovechkin-Crosby head to head match ups ever. After Ovechkin had already scored two beautiful goals, he roared down center and converted a knuckling wrist shot past Marc Andre-Fleury for a hat trick and seemingly to put the game away. The Penguins pulled their goalie and just from sheer determination and skill Crosby batted an airborne rebound past goalie Semyon Varlamov for a hat trick of his own, matching Ovi's goal scoring prowess. The Penguins would comeback and frustrate Capitals fans once again, dominating in a Game 7 win in The District en route to their third Stanley Cup victory to add salty lemon water in the wounds in Washington. However, Crosby was fairly silent in the Finals series versus Detroit and it was Ovechkin's countryman Evgeni Malkin who played well enough to secure Conn Smythe Trophy honors.

 

Although with dazzling, diamond-encrusted resumes already in their youngish careers, their paths have not been without hiccup. Sidney Crosby has incurred a wrath of injuries that have robbed him of significant chunks of his regular season on multiple occasions. Bad luck with multiple concussions, broken jaws, high ankle sprains and overall fragility. While Crosby continues to score at an unbelievable pace, he is still trails Ovechkin in total points and goals.

Alex hasn't always had a pristine team environment in recent history so even though The Russian Machine never breaks, Ovechkin saw major dipping in his contributions on both sides of the rink playing three years for coaches that proved to be in over their head as top dog of an NHL club with expectations. One thing Ovechkin will never lose is his shot so although he has lost a bit of the burst of his younger self, still sets up shop in "Ovi's Office" and relays his business in the form of power play goals. Playing for Barry Trotz has undoubtedly made Alex a more relaxed and disciplined player and it has the potential to yield great results for the Capitals.

Meanwhile in Pittsburgh, Sidney Crosby is still the same ultra competitor that will do whatever it takes to get back to the Finals. Despite playing with other world-class talent in his career, Crosby is an especially intelligent player. He has the hardware; to the chagrin of Russians like Ovechkin and Americans, for it was they he scored the Olympics Gold Medal game winner against in his native country. Surely that and the Stanley Cup ring eats at Ovie at least a smidgen of what domestic Caps fans have endured.

There is great young talent at forward throughout the NHL since these two former number one overalls first started earning NHL stats- guys like Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, Anze Kopitar, Tyler Seguin, Vladimir Tarasenko and many others in the pipeline have ensured that the game has bankable stars even after once-in-a-generation standouts Ovechkin and Crosby hang up the blades for the final time.

The thing is though, these two ideally have many years to further bolster their statistics, highlight reels and more attempts to lift the thirty five pounds of glistening silver that has evaded many fellow Hall Of Fame players. For Crosby, it's a path that he expects to take yet in Washington, they still have the monkey on their back and Ovechkin will surely not fade away without giving it all he has left.

Career Stats (as of January 27th):

 

Alexander Ovechkin:

725 GP~ 449 G~ 408 A~ 857 P~ 1.18 P/G~ + 59~ 486 PIM~ 163 PPG~ 175 PPA~ 4 SHG~ 1 SHA

 

Sidney Crosby:

593 GP~ 289 G~ 531 A~ 820 P~ 1.38 P/G~ +131~ 491 PIM~ 88 PPG~ 226 PA~ 3 SHG~ 5 SHA