Saturday, February 24, 2018
Sports

In Pens-Caps, it's superstars and more

ARLINGTON, Va. — Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin will be the headline of most stories about the Penguins-Capitals playoff series.

The transcendent superstars are meeting in the playoffs for the first time in seven years and the second time in their careers.

"Of course everyone look at it (as) Crosby-Ovi," Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov said. "It's Pittsburgh against Washington, right?"

Shine the spotlight and train the cameras on Crosby and Ovechkin, but Kuznetsov is right: The two top teams in the Eastern Conference have lots of other talent.

Pittsburgh has fellow Russian star Evgeni Malkin, American sniper Phil Kessel and Norris Trophy-caliber defenseman Kris Letang, while Washington has Swedish sensation Nicklas Backstrom, Kuznetsov and goaltender Braden Holtby, a finalist for the Vezina Trophy.

Capitals coach Barry Trotz called it "disrespectful" to boil the series down to Crosby and Ovechkin. "You can match up any names because so much offensive weapons on both teams," he said. "But I think the team wins, not like individuals win."

The Capitals had the most points in the NHL this season. The Penguins were the league's best team after Mike Sullivan replaced Mike Johnston as coach.

Malkin, the No. 2 pick behind Ovechkin in 2004, and the blossoming Kuznetsov are X-factors in the series that begins tonight in Washington. Defenses will be so worried about stopping Crosby and Ovechkin that those playmakers can take advantage.

"I think everyone takes a lot of pride and wants to win this time of year no matter who they're playing against," Crosby said.

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