Boy, it feels like it’s been a while since the NHL could hype up Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin, doesn’t it?
Crosby’s concussion issues and Ovechkin’s relative struggles were likely the biggest factors, but there were more; the whole “locking out so we only call last season 2012-13 to make things less confusing in 2013-14” thing and the fact that they’ve only met in one playoff series didn’t help, either. Regardless, things went on hold.
Naturally, the revitalized opportunity to talk Crosby - Ovechkin also opens the door for people to decry other people talking about Crosby - Ovechkin all the time. (People might enjoy complaining about Crosby coverage more than watching him play brilliantly.)
Anyway, is it really unfair to gush about the Great 8 vs. the Guy who’s really into 87?
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SUPPORT FROM THE NUMBERS
Well, it’s probably overly simplistic to boil everything down to points … but hey, do you have any better ideas? (Probably, but you’ll have to relegate them to the comments.) Either way, feast your eyes on the top 10 point-producers since 2005-06, when Ovechkin and Crosby debuted:
1. Ovechkin: 759 points (620 GP)
2. Joe Thornton: 719 (637)
3. Crosby: 691 (491)
4. Martin St. Louis: 674 (636)
5. Henrik Sedin: 668 (645)
6. Pavel Datsyuk: 635 (592)
7. Daniel Sedin: 624 (614)
8. Jarome Iginla: 615 (627)
9t. Eric Staal: 608 (630)
9t. Henrik Zetterberg: 608 (596)
I think it’s pretty fair to say that the Ovechkin - Crosby talk is well-founded. One has scored the most points of any player since he came into the league and the other is producing at a rate - when healthy - that seems almost unthinkable in this tight-checking era.
Still, I totally get why people are frustrated that other stars sometimes get lost in the shuffle, particularly when Crosby suits up with a guy who often one-ups him and might have a more “natural” rivalry with Ovi (being that he’s from the same country, though that’s rarely fuel for such narratives.
With the other guys in mind, a few quick takeaways:
-- Anyone who denies that Joe Thornton is on a Hall of Fame-type path boggles my mind. He’s made an array of very average (or just OK-to-good) shooters look like stars. To some extent, it’s impossible to really know how good Tomas Hertl is because he’s getting the Jumbo Joe turbo boost.
(Maybe we should define him instead by other Joe-boosted forwards? “Is he more of a Cheechoo or Samsonov? Perhaps a young Glen Murray?”)
-- If you ask me, it’s not crazy to call Martin St. Louis underrated, unless you’re just really playing hardball with semantics. There’s something fitting about the fact that Steve Stamkos has taken up Vincent Lecavalier’s mantle of “hyped, No. 1 pick/Canadian center who casts a literal and figurative shadow over St. Louis,” although at least Stamkos deserves that hype. (Sorry, Mr. Michael Jordan of hockey, but your career is a strange mix of highs and lows compared to St. Louis’ steady stream of excellence.)
I’d have a tough time leaving him off of Team Canada with all of that open ice, but it wouldn’t feel right if St. Louis made the mark without people doubting him.
THE FUTURE OF CROSBY VS. OVECHKIN
It’s easy to discount Ovechkin’s quantity advantage because he’s been healthy, but hey, fantasy owners don’t really get a ribbon for most points per game. I wouldn’t have guessed that Crosby’s actually in semi-reasonable shouting distance of catching Ovechkin.
In case you’re the type to ask these questions (please, someone be that way too, I feel so alone …), Crosby’s career average is 1.41 points-per-game while Ovechkin is at 1.22. In a dream world where both players appear in 82 games each year, it would take Crosby a little more than four seasons to catch Ovechkin.
(That average would leave Crosby at 115-16 points per season versus 100 for Ovechkin.)
PITTSBURGH 4, WASHINGTON 0
-- Sidney Crosby won round whatever against Ovechkin on Wednesday, scoring a goal and an assist to give him 28 points on the season. He generated five SOG, too.
-- Marc-Andre Fleury got his second shutout of 2013-14, giving him a 13-6-0 record. He's won three out of his last four games after a mini-slump. Fleury has really delivered under the gun of a make-or-break season so far.
-- James Neal (one goal, one assist) is starting to heat up. He's a top power forward when healthy, so let's hope he continues on this path.
-- This ended a three-game winning streak for Braden Holtby. It's interesting that he has almost the same save percentage (.923) as Fleury (.924), which is probably something Fleury-haters will cling to.
NEW JERSEY 4, ANAHEIM 3 (OT)
-- The Devils have now won four of their last five games and have points in five of six (4-1-1). I feel a little less dumb about being optimistic about New Jersey. They're only .500 (8-8-5), though, so I'm not going to go too over the top.
-- How can you really talk the Devils out of rolling with the hot hand in Martin Brodeur right now? Yes, he's getting pretty lucky lately, but he's on a five-game winning streak and has won seven of his last eight games. Brodeur had "steal" potential written all over him, so hopefully you didn't invest too much in Cory Schneider, if you did. I still think Schneider's a good goalie, and maybe it will turn around. (I'm confident long-term, but maybe not short.)
-- Speaking of old dudes, Jaromir Jagr's been amazing, and not just for his 17 points (along with +10 and 10 PIM!). The thing that really blows me away is that he's logging some serious minutes; he's averaging 18:12 per game. Impressive at any age, especially 41.
-- Hey look, Dustin Penner continues to make good on his lottery ticket, with 15 points in 17 games (+16, too). He's owned in just 28 percent of leagues. I'll admit he isn't the greatest peripheral guy, but this gig is promising and he's putting up sustained numbers.
MINNESOTA 4, OTTAWA 3
-- Dany Heatley stuck it to Ottawa Senators fans and now has three points in his last two games. He did that in 9:44 time on ice, on one SOG, so ... yeah, I wouldn't get too excited.
-- Mikko Koivu generated three points last night, giving him 20 in 23 games on the season. Koivu hasn't had a bad season by any means, but he's been especially impressive in November. Koivu has four of his five goals this season and 12 points in 10 games over November.
-- Kyle Turris continues to distinguish himself this season, with 20 points in 22 games. His career-high is 29, so with the usual health caveats in mind, he could very well blow those numbers out of the water. His $3.5 million cap hit (through 2017-18) could turn out to be a real steal.
-- It seems like Josh Harding is having the year that Craig Anderson is experiencing, and vice versa. Anderson's dropped three out of four and has decidedly average individual stats.
-- Chris Neil is absolutely worth having in deeper leagues, with 75 hits and 44 PIM. His offense hasn't been impressive (three goals, 30 SOG), but that's more of a bonus with the Ottawa tough guy (whose face, by the way, is taking an even bigger beating than usual this season).
COLUMBUS 2, CALGARY 1 (OT)
-- Boy, what a collection of terrible. I think people are really sleeping on the Blue Jackets as a depressing team; the Oilers have a "been there, done that about six times" vibe while the Flames and Sabres seem to be embracing reality. Columbus is in a bit of an awkward spot, which includes just not being as bad as Calgary on a Wednesday.
-- Sergei Bobrovsky gets his seventh win of 2013-14. He's been mediocre but oh well.
-- Hey, at least Reto Berra makes the occasional awesome save.
Click here for a full list of suspensions and injuries, including Jonathan Quick’s bad news (he’s out at least another month).