By Mark Madden
The debate ended not with a bang, but a whimper.
Sidney Crosby is, by acclaim, the world’s best hockey player. You used to hear Ovechkin vs. Crosby non-stop. Now, not so much. That debate may crop up again, perhaps when the Winter Classic puts down stakes at Heinz Field. But it will be forced and trite.
So, what the heck happened?
Most of it is Crosby’s doing. No one even approaches the way Crosby plays the game from goal line to goal line. No one approaches the consistency thereof. Crosby does all the little things right. He has all the intangibles. Only Steven Stamkos challenges his productivity.
Ovechkin doesn’t. Not this year.
At the end of play Nov. 27, Ovechkin was nine points and eight goals behind Crosby, eight points and 11 goals behind Stamkos. Those deficits are hardly insurmountable. But Ovechkin has lost a lot of buzz, deferring to teammate and countryman Alexander Semin on many nights. Semin has 17 goals, Ovechkin 10.
Boy, a talented Russian coming out of lethargy to turn it up several notches during a contract year. Can you believe that?
All this might have something to do with Crosby winning and Ovechkin losing. Crosby has a Stanley Cup and an Olympic gold medal. Ovechkin does not. Perhaps it will require Ovechkin winning something to truly reignite the debate.
Ovechkin’s cachet has also been diluted by the emergence of several players challenging him for his rung on the ladder, namely Stamkos and Jonathan Toews.
There’s also a good chance fans have wearied of Ovechkin’s act. Rebels without a clue come and go. Class is permanent.
Sometimes the truth sneaks up on you. Sometimes it has to be pounded through your thick skull. If you watch Crosby long enough and often enough, the truth becomes inescapable. Crosby is the world’s best hockey player. It’s undeniable.
Evgeni Malkin? It’s up to him to gain reentry into this conversation. Right now, he’s not in it.
OBSESSED LUNATIC RUES MISSED OPPORTUNITY
Crosby was not altogether happy following the Penguins’ 4-1 home win over Calgary Nov. 27 despite scoring a hat trick and netting his 200th career goal in the process.
The source of Crosby’s discontent was a missed penalty shot in the first period. Sid lamented that converting said opportunity would have given him a chance at five goals, five ways, something achieved only by Mario Lemieux (even strength, power play, shorthanded, empty net, penalty shot). Crosby considers that one of hockey’s unmatchable feats.
As it was, Sid had three goals, four ways. His first goal was even-strength. His second came on the power play. His third was both short-handed and into the empty net. If he’d netted the penalty shot, he would have had four goals, five ways.