The NHL couldn’t have scripted the playoff collision of Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin any better.
Crosby and Ovechkin, winners of the past two MVPs and the faces of the NHL since breaking into the league in 2005-06 after the lockout, have built a slow-burning rivalry that has engaged media and fans alike over the past four seasons.
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Throw in Crosby’s running mate, Art Ross winner and Hart Trophy candidate Evgeni Malkin, and the flamboyant Ovechkin’s supporting cast, Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom, and the league has a match made in heaven.
“It makes for a great story, makes for great media, makes for a great product,” said Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma. “Hopefully, all of hockey can capitalize on it.”
Crosby has shown disdain toward Ovechkin’s flashy goal celebrations, while Ovechkin once said Crosby “talks too much.” Semin, meanwhile, threw his two cents into the equation, saying “What’s so special about (Crosby)?”
All of this raised the profile of the Crosby-Ovechkin rivalry.
Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau, a standout forward with the Nova Scotia Oilers in his playing days, said there is no issue with the back-and-forth jawing that has gone on.
“Any word said is picked up and magnified,” he said.
“I watch my Alexes and there is no animosity or vindictiveness (toward Crosby) but anything they say will be picked up and it’s the top news. I don’t want them to change who they are.”
Beyond the drama, the hockey should be fast-paced and free-wheeling.
It features the only 100-point scorers in the NHL the past two seasons and the past three scoring champions, and fans tuning in could be in for a treat.
Said Bylsma: “At a time when we’re trying to grow our game, we have a lot of special young players and to get them going head-to-head against each other is an amazing thing.”