For the first time in their careers, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin will face off as Division rivals at 8 p.m. tonight at the Verizon Center. Ever since their 2005 debut in the league, the debate over which is better and more valuable to his team has lit up discussion panels and online message boards. It’s a never-ending argument, but this article is not meant to make a value judgment about who is better, it’s simply a pre-game primer to show how the two men stack up against each other so far in their careers in a few key categories.
Both players have well-stocked trophy cases. Alex Ovechkin is just the eighth player in NHL history to have won three or more MVP awards, most recently in 2013. He also has one scoring title, three Ted Lindsay awards for the player that is deemed to be the most valuable by the NHLPA, three Rocket Richard trophies and the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year. In addition, his 1.22 average points per game ranks second among active players and 11th overall in the NHL.
Crosby also has an MVP, scoring title, two Ted Lindsay Awards, the last one coming in 2013, and a Rocket Richard Trophy, which he split with Steven Stamkos in 2010. In addition, he leads active players in points per game with 1.41, fourth on the NHL all-time list trailing only Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Mike Bossy.
Both Ovechkin and Crosby became their respective teams’ saviors when the lockout ended in 2005. Ovechkin pulled his team out of the gutter and led them to five Southeast Division Championships, one Presidents’ Trophy and six straight playoff appearance in his first eight years with the team. In international play, Ovechkin represented Russia in the Olympics in 2006 and 2010. Though he has yet to win an Olympic medal, he does have two gold medals, two bronze and one silver while playing for Russia in the IIHF World Championships.
Crosby not only buoyed Pittsburgh in the standings, kicking off seven consecutive years of playoff appearances and taking them from last place to Stanley Cup Champions in three seasons, he also revitalized Pittsburgh’s love of hockey, ensuring the construction of a new arena and making sure the Pens would not be relocated. His overtime goal that led Canada over the United States in the gold medal game gave him more team honors and a special place in Canadian sports history. In addition, Crosby’s Penguins have had more playoff success than the Caps, with one Cup win, two appearances in the Finals and an additional trip to the Eastern Conference Final in 2013.
Crosby’s recent career has been plagued by injury struggles. Between lingering concussion symptoms and a broken jaw last year, he has missed 113 games from 2010-2013. Even before that, a high-ankle sprain sidelined him for over a third of the 2007-2008 campaign.
Ovechkin, by comparison, is an iron man. The 10 games he missed in 2010 was a career high and in three of his first eight seasons, including last year’s lockout -shortened season, he played in every game on the schedule.
Both players thrive under the bright spotlights of a Pens-Caps rivalry game. In 25 career regular season games against the Capitals, Crosby has 43 points. Ovechkin has amassed 40 points in 31 games against the Penguins. While the Capitals have a better record – 14-12-5 – against the Penguins in the regular season since the Sid-Ovi era, and beat the Penguins in the regular season Winter Classic game in 2011, the zenith of the feud so far was the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinal series, which the Penguins came back to win, 4-3, en route to the franchise’s third Stanley Cup.
Raw talent is not what makes Sidney Crosby great, which is why this category easily tips in Alexander Ovechkin’s favor. Crosby’s greatness is more the result of hard work, great vision and attention to detail. The Great Eight is naturally more gifted.
Mark Messier may disagree here as he awarded his leadership trophy to Crosby in 2010, but both men’s leadership style is marked more by actions than words. Neither is very likely to give a rousing intermission speech, but Crosby’s dedication and competitiveness and Ovechkin’s passion set the tone for their respective teams and an example for their teammates.