Wed May 13 10:55am EDT
In the 381 minutes and 13 seconds the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals have played during their instant classic Eastern Conference semifinal series -- which ends with Game 7 tonight in D.C. -- stars Sidney Crosby(notes) and Alexander Ovechkin(notes) have only appeared on the ice together for just 28:57.
This isn't Ali and Frazier in the same ring, or Magic and Bird on the same court for most of the game. Their rivalry in this series is more akin to the one between Pacino and De Niro in Michael Mann's "Heat": The protagonist and antagonist are only face to face in two scenes, yet the intensity of their opposition propels the entire narrative.
The contrasting styles of the two players have been on display all series: The offensive flamboyance and physical play of Ovechkin against Crosby's incredible passing radar and fearless grit while hanging in goalie Simeon Varlamov's(notes) crease.
From Game 1 on, it's been their consistent gamesmanship that's cemented their personal rivalry and captivated sports fans; from die-hard puckheads all the way to Charles Barkley at the other end of the spectrum. Every shift demands attention, because there's no telling what these stars are going to do next.
In the glamour stats, Ovechkin leads in goals (7 to Crosby's 6) and assists (6 to Crosby's 4) for an overall lead in points (13 to Crosby's 10). He's also a plus-6 to Crosby's plus-3, for whatever that stat is worth.
But those numbers are only part of a larger statistic picture, which in turn only tells part of the story in this series: There's also game-by-game impact for Ovechkin and Crosby, like how they score and when they score.
Coming up, we look at Crosby vs. Ovechkin in the first six games of the series. But first, from what you've witnessed and based on the facts, which player has had the better series heading into tonight's Game 7?
Here's a look back at Crosby and Ovechkin through six.
In weighing their performances, we also took into account that they play different positions; hence, Crosby contributes in the face-off circle more than Ovechkin would. The stats are from the official game summaries from each contest; see the end of the post for a key to the abbreviations.
Crosby opened the scoring at 4:09 of the first period on a wrist shot against Simeon Varlamov, who would later rob him with a now-legendary stick save. Ovechkin gave the Capitals the lead on a 5-on-3 power play, although Pittsburgh would later tie the game. While the merits of Ovechkin's 17 shots can be debated, Game 1 was a close battle between the two stars. Advantage: Even.
The one for the time capsule, as Crosby and Ovechkin trade the first career postseason hat tricks for both players. (A few too many hats fell for Sidney's liking.) Crosby opened the scoring with a power-play goal, Ovechkin answered, and then Crosby tallied again to give Pittsburgh the lead. With the score tied at 2-2 in the third, Ovechkin scored on the power play and then completed the hat trick 2:19 later to blow the roof off the arena. Crosby's hat trick would be completed on the power-play and with an extra attacker at 19:29.
Statistically and from an impact standpoint, it was Ovechkin's game; a dominating performance that actually elicited a "death threat" from a disgruntled Penguins fan on a message board. Ovechkin's effort in relation to Crosby led Mike Wise of the Washington Post to write: "The beauty, technical superiority and all-around productivity of Sid the Kid cannot yet match the unbridled aggression and fury of Ovie the Beast." Advantage: Ovechkin.
Ovechkin scored 83 seconds into the game on a strange bounce and misplay by goalie Marc-Andre Fleury(notes) (video). He would later assist on Nicklas Backstrom's(notes) critical power-play goal to tie the game in the third. Crosby earned his two assists by getting a primary helper on Evgeni Malkin's(notes) power-play goal and then winning the faceoff on a set play in overtime, which led to Kris Letang's(notes) game-winning goal. Both players' numbers were affected by the parade of Capitals to the penalty box during the game. Advantage: Even.
By far Ovechkin's most underwhelming game of the series, and one in which he injured Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar's(notes) knee with an irresponsible hit. His lone point came as a secondary assist on a Chris Clark(notes) goal in the second period. Crosby had the primary assist on Bill Guerin's(notes) tie-breaking goal in the first, and then potted his ninth of the playoffs at 4:16 of the third period. Not the best night for either player, but one was clearly better than the other. Advantage: Crosby.
And then it was Crosby's turn to have his weakest performance of the series, at least on paper: Zero points, a minus-2 and less than 40 percent in the faceoff circle. Although the captain did factor in on the game-winning goal by Malkin, going to the net hard to draw a pass that deflected off of Capitals defenseman Tom Poti(notes) for the goal.
Ovechkin rebounded impressively with two big game-tying goals (video), including one at 15:52 of the third period . He also had a secondary assist. Advantage: Ovechkin.
Another instant classic with the Capitals facing elimination, and one in which Ovechkin's supporting cast power Washington to victory. He had three assists on the night (one primary, two secondary), including two on linemate Viktor Kozlov's(notes) goals, but Ovechkin didn't find the back of the net himself for only the second time in the series. Ovechkin silenced the already quiet crowd as he left the ice, but it was his teammates that did the talking.
Crosby, meanwhile, assisted on Bill Guerin's first-period goal and scored a hard-working goal in the crease, on a second-effort, to tie the game at 15:42 of the third -- before David Steckel's deflection goal ended the game in overtime. Crosby skated well all night, creating several chances that were squandered by teammates. He had one less point than Ovechkin, but his goal was critical. Advantage: Crosby.
• • •
Agree to disagree on the assessments, but our scorecard has it two games for Ovechkin, two for Crosby and two ties. Games 2 and 5 were Ovechkin's signature moments; Crosby simply wouldn't allow the Penguins to lose in regulation in Game 6.
These teams, this series, this rivalry ... they've already given hockey fans more than we could have begged for during the first six games. And yet we have but one request for Game 7 tonight in D.C.:
Let one of these guys decide the series tonight. (Preferably without the benefit of a controversial penalty or a quirky deflection.)
Key: G=Goals A=Assists P=Points +/-=Plus/Minus PN=Number of Penalties PIM=Penalty Minutes TOI=Time On Ice SHF=# of Shifts AVG=Average Time/Shift S=Shots on Goal A/B=Attempts Blocked MS=Missed Shots HT=Hits Given GV=Giveaways TK=Takeaways BS=Blocked Shots FW=Faceoffs Won FL=Faceoffs Lost F%=Faceoff Win Percentage PP=Power Play SH=Short Handed EV=Even Strength OT=Overtime TOT=Total.