Crosby vs. Ovechkin? Not even close
The great debate in hockey over the past few years is who is the best player in the NHL -- is it Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby or Washington's Alex Ovechkin? The conversation almost seems silly today.Crosby has been to two Stanley Cup finals, he has a Stanley Cup ring and an Olympic gold medal -- a medal he earned because he scored THE overtime goal in the gold medal game. What does Ovechkin have? An extra long summer vacation -- again.
Wednesday night marked another historic collapse in the sorry history of the Washington Capitals as they became the first No. 1 seed to blow a 3-1 series lead and lost at home to the Canadiens. Now it's the Canadiens moving on (to face Crosby's Penguins, no less) and the Capitals who are beginning an offseason while the calendar still says April. It's the eighth time the Caps have been up two games in a series and lost and the fourth time they've blown a 3-1 lead.
But when it comes to Ovechkin, here's the number that sticks out. In the past three seasons, Ovechkin has played in four Game 7s and his record is 1-3. What's more is all three losses came on home ice against teams the Caps were favored to beat. They've now lost do-or-die games at home to a fourth seed, a sixth seed and, Monday night, an eighth seed. With Ovechkin, the Caps have played four playoff series, lost three of them and their playoff record is 13-15. (And let's not forget how disappointing Ovechkin and the Russians were during the past Olympics.)
Of course, there are other factors to consider. Teams aren't about just one player. Pittsburgh has had better goaltending and, arguably, better coaching. But don't say Crosby is surrounded by better talent because he hasn't been. Do the Penguins have more heart, more grit, more determination and character? Evidently. But as far as talent, Ovechkin has as much (and maybe more) around him than Crosby does. And as far as hockey skill -- skating, shooting, passing, checking -- most hockey people would say Ovechkin grades higher than Crosby.
Yet, somehow the Pittsburgh captain wills his teams to victory, while the Caps captain and his teammates disappear and figure out a way to lose when the games really count.Maybe Ovechkin will win a Stanley Cup someday. Perhaps these hard lessons learned in the early part of his career will serve him well in the later part of it. For now, all Ovechkin has is a bunch of regular-season highlight-reel goals and embarrassing goal celebrations. Until he wins a Stanley Cup -- or at least shows up at critical points in the postseason -- the comparison between him and Crosby is ridiculous.