Sid vs. Ovi, Part III
Sid vs. Ovi, Part III
Rivalry, a decade old, still captivates
Grand Forks, North Dakota, IIHF World Junior Championship, Canada versus Russia, gold medal game. It’s all coming back now.
That first meeting was possible thanks to the NHL lockout of 2004/05. Ovechkin had been the first overall draft choice in 2004, but because of the absence of NHL hockey, he was able to play at the U20. Crosby was going to be the first overall choice in 2005, and both would, of course, start their NHL careers at the same time in the fall of 2005.
Ovechkin took a serious hit in that gold-medal game from none other than Crosby, and spent most of the game on the bench, injured. Canada rolled to a 6-1 win with what may well have been the greatest U20 team of all time. After the game, Crosby talked about the hit.
“I knew it was him. And really it was a situation we knew to look for. From watching him, and from the scouting reports, we knew that Ovechkin liked to pull up at the blue line and skate towards the middle.”
The first time they played each other in the NHL came on 22nd November 2005, a special night on several fronts. Pittsburgh beat Washington, 5-4, and Crosby, as he would do so often, rose to the occasion, scoring a brilliant goal and adding an equally brilliant assist on a Ziggy Palffy goal.
And a bit of amazing history. This game marked the only time Ovechkin played against his boyhood idol, Mario Lemieux. Mario and Sid played on a line with Mark Recchi and were dominant.
Crosby’s Penguins beat Ovechkin’s Capitals nine of the first ten times they faced each other, but without a doubt their greatest NHL match came in the playoffs. Pittsburgh and Washington faced each other in 2009. The Caps won game one, 3-2, but in the second game BOTH players recorded hat tricks. Washington won that game, 4-3, but Crosby got the last laugh.Continue reading
The series went to seven games, and number 87 had two goals and an assist to lead the Pens to a 6-2 win. The Pens went on to win the Stanley Cup, their only one during Crosby’s career, but Ovechkin has yet to make it even as far as the conference finals.
Internationally, their rookie seasons could not have been more different. The 2005/06 calendar included the Olympics, but first Lemieux retired in January 2006 because of his health and then Wayne Gretzky left the 18-year-old Crosby off the Canadian team. Ovechkin played for Russia, which eliminated Canada, 2-0, in the quarter-finals. Russia lost the bronze-medal game to the Czechs and finished fourth.
Although both players appeared at the 2006 IIHF World Championship in Riga, Canada and Russia never met. Their international follow-up to 2005 had to wait until the quarter-finals of the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. Neither player was a factor in the outcome, and Canada hammered the Russians, 7-3, en route to gold. Russia finished a disappointing sixth.
In 2014, in Sochi, the two teams again never met. So, despite the fact that these players are the faces of their country and are the defining players of their generation, today’s gold-medal game marks only the third time they have faced each other in IIHF competition.
Whoever plays better today will likely lead his team to victory, but if both play at the same level then it will be up to the rest of the roster to decide who wins gold, who has to settle for silver, who takes home bragging rights ‘til they meet again.
And who knows when will that be?
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