Penguins: Appreciating the greatness of Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin

Penguins fans, and hockey fans, should take some time to appreciate Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby. It’s such a blessing we get to see two of the greatest.

The devastating passing of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others has been on my mind for a lot over the last week. It is heartbreaking.

Kobe and Gianna had a remarkable bond. January 26th, 2020 will be a day that we all remember for the rest of our lives. May they all rest in peace.

From a sports perspective, I saw this tweet a few days ago and it has made a lasting impression. From Tom Brady to Jaromir Jagr to Alex Rodriguez, we have been blessed to witness some amazing athletes throughout our lives.

The main takeaway here is to show appreciation of the greatness we are witnessing on the field of play. That is regardless of rivalries, fandoms, wins, and losses. That is what Pittsburgh Penguins fans, and all hockey fans, need to start doing with Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin.

For the last 15 years, these two have been battling it out on the ice. For my money, both Crosby and Ovechkin will go down as top 5 players in NHL history. They are both generational talents and we have been spoiled to watch them be at the peak of their crafts for so long.

The most memorable showcase of their individual talent was on full display over a decade ago. On May 5, 2009, Crosby and Ovechkin both recorded hat-tricks in a 4-3 Capitals victory. Per Hockey Reference, these two players combined to record 17 of the 69 shots on goal in this game. A quarter of the shots on goal in this game came from two players (!!)

Crosby and Ovechkin are great in very different ways. Crosby is more of a playmaker with incredible lower-body strength. It is nearly impossible to get the puck off of him along the goal-line. A few weeks ago, he stiff-armed this Red Wings defender into next year.

Crosby is the best player of this era. His accolades and awards speak for themselves. He is 9th all-time in postseason points per game, and 10th in total points. He has two playoff MVPs. He has likely missed out on multiple MVP and scoring title awards due to injuries.

It’s a shame that we got robbed of a large part of Crosby’s true offensive prime (his age 23-25 seasons) due to injuries. He averaged 1.61 points per game in the games he played in that window. By the math of HockeyBuzz writer Ryan Wilson, Crosby missed out on 238 career points to injuries over that three-year span. That would put him at 1,478 points today. That would put him 15th all-time in terms of career points. It makes me appreciate his ability to recover and return to play at an elite level even more.

Ovechkin is the best goal scorer of all-time. Prashanth Iyer of The Athletic did a great job of visualizing this and comparing Ovechkin to his peers. When you account for era-adjusted stats and how much better today’s goaltenders are, what he has done is remarkable.

It is no surprise to see Ovechkin and Crosby atop that list. The gap between Ovechkin and his peers on that visual is astounding. He has nearly a 250 goal lead on the rest of the pack. While injuries to Steven Stamkos and Evgeni Malkin played a role, I would have never guessed Eric Staal would have scored the third most goals over the last 15 years.

The two traits that I admire most about Ovechkin are his durability and consistency. Courtesy of Quant Hockey, he has played in 97.3% of the games on the Capitals schedule since the 2005-06 campaign. He has only missed 31 games in his career. He’s the human version of the Hulk. Ovechkin is a 50 goal threat year after year while scoring the majority of his goals from the left-wing circle. It is no secret where Ovechkin likes to set up in the offensive zone and opponents just cannot stop him.

Despite being on the back nine of their careers, Crosby and Ovechkin are still performing at elite levels. As of today, Crosby needs 482 points to surpass Mario Lemieux for the most in Penguins’ history. Ovechkin needs 201 goals to surpass Wayne Gretzky for the most in NHL history.

It will be a fascinating race over these next 3 or 4 years to see if Crosby and Ovechkin can surpass Lemieux and Gretzky. The fact that these are even a possibility speaks to the generational talents that Crosby and Ovechkin are.

Next: One Player Each Team Should Trade

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So when the Penguins and Capitals meet on this Super Bowl Sunday, be sure to appreciate and enjoy it. You never know when it could be the last time you witness greatness.

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