The league obviously thinks very highly of the match up tonight on the VS Network between Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin. They have been hyping it for over a week, even having the 2 team up for a conference call last Monday. I am sure that these two young men will step up on the national stage, they always seem to play great against each other. When one of them does something amazing, the other answers with something even more amazing. The games between the two last season were definitely must see TV, and I am sort of surprised that this isn't one that NBC would have snapped up, even though their coverage doesn't begin until later in the season.
There is a new variable to consider this year, and his name is Evgeni Malkin. I think that his first game against Alexander Ovechkin could be his true coming out party, sort of like Sidney Crosby had his when he blew Jose Theodore's water bottle off the top of the net last season in his first game against the Montreal Canadians.
Malkin has sort of been in AO's shadow since they were drafted. Ovechkin the consensus #1 and Malkin the consensus #2 even though he was a full year younger. The two have started to form a friendship and Malkin has done his best to make everyone forget that he was the consolation prize for the Penguins when they lost the draft lottery. His best has shown the world that he is on the same stage with Ovechkin, and he may still prove to be the better player, though time will tell.
Malkin is coming off one of the best performances of his young career and I am sure he wants to keep the momentum going. What better chance than on National TV against your countryman who was drafted one spot ahead of you. This is his opportunity to thrive...the spotlight will be on Crosby and AO, Malkin can relax and play his game. I think that Malkin plays a major part in a Penguins victory this evening.
In the immortal words of Mike Lange, Penguins radio play by play man, "shame on you for 6 weeks if you miss this one." What more can you ask for, three of the top young players in the National Hockey League will be digging their blades into the same sheet of ice this evening. The three could also form the starting line for the Eastern All Star team if voting stays consistent. Cancel your plans, do what you have to do to see this one.
Some news could break on John Leclair today. I will keep you posted.
Marc Andre Fleury is expected to start in goal tonight. Let's hope that Michel Therrien keeps the lines together as he did against Atlanta. They seemed to gel a bit. More after the game...
Here is the chat transcript from last week's call....I took out the questions about the Briere hit, I think it was debated enough last week....overall it was an upbeat interview with the two young stars.
DAVID KEON: I'm David Keon of the National Hockey League's Public Relations Department, and I'd like to welcome you to today's call. With us we have Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby, and Washington Capitals left winger Alexander Ovechkin. Thanks to both of them for taking the time to join us today, and thanks to Frank Buonomo of the Penguins and Nate Ewell of the Caps for arranging the call.
Sidney leads the Penguins and is tied for fifth in overall league scoring with 34 points on 10 goals and 24 assists in 22 games. With a record of 11-10-4 for 26 points, Pittsburgh is fourth in the Atlantic Division.
Alex leads the Caps and is 20th in NHL scoring with 17 goals and 11 assists for 28 points in 26 games played. Washington sits third in the Southeast Division with a record of 11-9-6 for 28 points.
The two of them will meet next Monday, December 11, in Washington on Versus at 7:00 p.m. eastern time in the first of four head-to-head meetings taking place this season.
Thanks to both Sid and Alex for joining us today to answer your questions.
Q. I'd like to ask both players. How much do you guys get up when you face one another in a game? Do you guys consider that like a prime game for both of you just to show what you can do, or show each other what you can do?
SIDNEY CROSBY: I don't know. I think it's always a little bit more motivating. You know, from my side I think that it's built up so much that, in a way you want to respond and make sure you have a good game. But at the end of the night the win is most important. That's the way I looked at it. But there's no doubt there seems to be more emotion and intensity when we play each other.
ALEX OVECHKIN: I think Sidney is right. It's important for us, for our team, to win the game. Of course, Sidney and me want to score goals and have some points, but it's important for us to win the game.
Q. For both of you. You guys have been compared to each other a lot over the past couple of years. A lot of comparisons saying who's better. What are your feelings on finally getting to play together?
SIDNEY CROSBY: It will be nice. You know, like you said, there's always so many comparisons. But for me I think with my game I'm more much a playmaker and I think Alex is more of a shooter. It would be great to be passing to someone like that, so I look forward to that sure for.
ALEX OVECHKIN: Me too. He's a great player I watch lots of games he plays. He just give the pass, and guys just love to shoot, you know. So I’m looking forward to playing with him.
Q. Just wanted to know, for the both of you, how different is life in your second year now that you're not rookies anymore?
SIDNEY CROSBY: It's not a whole lot different. I think there are more familiar faces, which is nice, and not as many new buildings. So I think that's just nice part about not being a rookie.
You're not surprised by as many things. Just a little bit more comfortable and you know, other than that I don't think there's been a lot that's changes.
ALEX OVECHKIN: Yeah. I just feel for comfortable right now. We know the league and we know the rules and we now how good team -- you know, we know how to play against some teams. Just I think right now we know the league better than first year. For me right now I know the league and the team and I feel more comfortable.
Q. For Alex, how do you feel about your friend Malkin being involved in this rivalry now, too?
ALEX OVECHKIN: I'm really happy for him, because he is a great player and he's a great guy. He's a very good person and he's unbelievable player. His team is lucky team to have Sidney, Malkin. They were drafted and they are good players and probably will be best team in the league. But we have couple guys, too.
Q. This goes to Sidney. Tal k about the hype coming into last season, your rookie year, and all the, I guess, advice you got. What kind of advice do you pass on to Malkin this season?
SIDNEY CROSBY: To be honest, I think the main thing for me coming into last year was just to worry about playing hockey. I didn't really -- to be honest with you, I didn't really pass any advice to him.
I think everyone has their own way of handling things and dealing with it mentally. And for him he had been through so much just to get here, so I think hockey was the relaxing part for him. That's the way
I looked at it. You'd have to ask him how he handled it, but I think it was just important for him to come here and play hockey.
Q. Alex, what do you feel has been your biggest -- I guess your biggest thing you've had to get used to with the new rules and everything this season?
ALEX OVECHKIN: New rules?
Q. Yes. What have you had to adjust to the most this year?
ALEX OVECHKIN: Playing hockey, enjoy. You know, because I think me and Sidney, lots of young guys who play, should enjoy the time, because it was our dream. It doesn't matter what rules. If it's old or new rules, we just want to play hockey and do best what we can.
Q. One question for Sidney and one for Alex. Sidney, first of all, I'm just wondering with you and Malkin, obviously the two of you are the face of hockey or the future in Pittsburgh, if not for the whole league. How have the two of you meshed together? And how has it been being with him so far this year?
SIDNEY CROSBY: It's been great to be able to play with someone that's that creative and has that much fun out there on the ice. It's a lot of fun. I think that myself I'm improving just from playing with him. He's a fun guy to play with and even just to be on the ice practicing with every day. He's still learning English so it's hard to communicate, but we're doing our best. And I think he's coming along as the season goes on, which is good. It's just been fine.
I think that myself and him we're lucky we have guys like Staal and Fleury. It's been a lot of fun so far.
Q. You guys have been linked ever since last year started. Do you have any sort of a friendship away from the rink? Do you guys talk or compare notes at all away from the arena at all?
SIDNEY CROSBY: We don't really kee p really keep in touch other than when we see each other when we play each other. We've done a few things off the ice and ran into each other. But I think outside of that it's just a relationship where we see each other when we play.
Q. Alex, have you played golf since the hole-in-one?
ALEX OVECHKIN: No.
Q. Calling it quits there?
ALEX OVECHKIN: Yeah.
Q. Can you turn back the calendar to this time last year. Compare the player you were then to the player you are now. And how much more improving can you do? That's for both of them.
SIDNEY CROSBY: I think for me, I think experience is something that, you know, I can look back and say that I'm more experienced a lot more knowledgeable about everything that has to do about playing the game. So I think I have a lot to learning and a long ways to go, but I think I can definitely bring that from last year. I'm just more aware. I think I've tried to become a guy that's going to shoot the puck more often when I get the chance just to keep guys honest. I'm always learning, always trying. Those are the a couple things I've tried to improve on this year.
ALEX OVECHKIN: For me, this year, I try to play more defensively. I have talk with my coach a lot and he tell me, "I don't care about how we play offensively. I care about how he play defensively." I know I play right now better defensively. I think all my teammates and all my coaches, they my fans, see it and they know I try to play more defensively like last year.
Q. For Sidney, today they announced the roster for the Canadian World Junior Team, and amazingly you were still eligible for that. How distant does that seem to you now a few years into the NHL? What did the experience of playing for the national team do for you as a player
SIDNEY CROSBY: It's an amazing experience. I think it is for anyone. I think for me I was lucky enough to play on the team I did my second year. We were just so deep and so good.
And I think I improved over three weeks or a month just from playing with those guys. They were NHL caliber guys. If you look at the guys on that team there's an awful lot that are in the NHL already.
That was a special group, and having Coach Sutter coach our team was great as well. The on-ice part was an experience in itself, and I became a better player for it. And being part of the whole experience as far as having Canadian fans follow that it was so big and something I grew up watching. I wanted to be a part of it. It was a special experience, and no doubt it helped me a lot.
Q. Sidney, if you could tell me one thing you admire most about Alex's game, and Alex I'm going ask you the same question about Sid.
SIDNEY CROSBY: I'd say his goal-scoring ability. I don't think you can really teach anyone that. It's just a knack. It's an ability. You know, he definitely has that. So it's exciting to watch when someone can score goals like that.
ALEX OVECHKIN: Well, I think how he control the puck. How he find his partners. It's unbelievable.