Young Rivals Battle for Supremacy in NHL Playoffs

Ovechkin and Crosby Alex the Great vs. Sid the Kid in Round 2

By Bryan Mongeau-Eastmond, staff writer

WASHINGTON (RPRN) 5/01/09– Nicknames in the world of sports are generally reserved for the “crème de la crème”. Face it, not only do you have to be good – you have to be the best. Consider it a right of passage or better yet world wide acclamation.

Certain nicknames such as “Air Jordan,” makes perfect sense describing basketball’s legendary Michael Jordan’s ability to defy gravity. Alex Ovechkin’s and his alter ego “Alex the Great,” falls under this category.

Other nicknames escape any rational comprehension and are just plain fun to say. Todd
“Smack Crackle” VanPoppel is surely one of them. Sidney Crosby or should I say “Sid the Kid,” falls under the latter.

“Alex the Great” and “Sid the Kid” are preeminent players when considering the best the NHL has to offer. No other player comes close to these guys – talent wise, and despite their young age, both are at the summit of their game.

Although he was just passed the legal drinking age in the U.S. the “kid” is anything but. Already he as participated in last year’s Stanley Cup finals against the Detroit Red Wings, took home MVP honors last season and became the face of a franchise.

And simply watching the way in which Ovechkin handles the puck and manages to score goals that would make for an extensive highlight reel, is merely the reason why fans chant his surname. Indeed, much like the ancient Greek King, the Caps superstar has conquered the title of this year’s MVP as well as the scoring title. And much like the historic icon, the Russian yougster is a general on the ice.

So who is the ultimate player between these two top-ranked superstars? The answer is not so obvious and clear cut as some make out to believe. Maybe when these two giants clash in the second round of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the answer will be a little less gloomy.

But battling for supremacy amongst the titans in the NHL, dates back from the days when players wore no helmets and goalies only had their mitts to protect their faces.

Gordie Howe or Bobby Orr? Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux? Alex Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby? No matter the decade, competition reigns. As good as they are respectively, there can be only one. Only one can create a separation and be crowned the absolute best.

Don’t think that Sid and Ovie are not aware of this as tension rose and harsh words were exchanged during their last meeting. Since their arrival into the league, both have been matched up against the other in the rink as pundits cast their vote for who they believe is the better hockey player.

Stick handling, speed, vision, passing are just some of the game’s aspect on which the quality of the game is measured on. But just like in any professional sport, success in the postseason and winning big games enhances your candidacy and eligibility for greatness.

Ovechkin, the first overall draft in 2004, finally took a step in the right direction helping Washington win its first series in over a decade. The New York Rangers couldn’t close out the Capitals. They had everything going in their direction, but they just couldn’t get the job done. After taking a commanding 3-1 series lead, the Rangers fell victim of a major playoff meltdown, while the Capitals enjoyed resurgence and forced a winner-take-all Game 7.

Unlike Washington, Pittsburgh escaped a Game 7 winner-take-all scenario in of the first round playoff series by eliminating the Flyers in Game 6. It’s safe to say that both teams have including their leaders, have gained some valuable experience against worthy opponents.

Whether you are from Washington or Pittsburgh, your vote goes with the hometown hero. If you are a fan from another NHL team, then your votes will most likely be split down the middle.

GAME 1: @ Washington, Sat. 5/2, 1 p.m. ET

Photo of Ovechkin and Crosby courtesy of the National Hockey League

Read all of Bryan’s stories here.