The Triumphs, Trials And Tribulations Of Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin

Image Courtesy of Flickr. Photograph by Clyde.

Image Courtesy of Flickr. Photograph by Clyde.

Remember when Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin were on the cusp of winning every Art Ross, Hart Trophy and Stanley Cup for years to come? When the two superstars entered the National Hockey League they captured the imagination of hockey fans everywhere like no two players before them. Expectations were high and both young stars delivered incredibly, immediately.

Year One: Crosby And Ovechkin

Sid The Kid was the poster boy for a new era of ultra exciting NHL hockey. He entered the league at the beginning of the 2005-06 season as the most gifted and sure-to-succeed 1st overall draft pick since Eric Lindros nearly two decades before. Crosby did not disappoint. In his first season he scored 102 points, becoming the first rookie to hit the 100 point milestone since Teemu Selanne in the high scoring 1992-93 season. Crosby had arrived and the sky was the limit. Immediately, comparisons were drawn to the game’s greatest star, Wayne Gretzky. Being compared to The Great One is a rare honour bestowed on only a handful of players before Crosby. How promising was Sidney Crosby? He lived with Mario Lemieux and was being compared to Wayne Gretzky. It doesn’t get more promising. On the ice, he was just better than everyone else, except for that other rookie.

Image Courtesy of Flickr. Photograph by Clyde.

Image Courtesy of Flickr. Photograph by Clyde.

The Great 8 was equally impressive, although, slightly less praised when he began his NHL career as a member of the Washington Capitals in 2005-06 (same year as Crosby). A former 1st overall pick in 2004 (the year before Crosby went #1 to the Pens) everyone knew Ovechkin was going to be an impact player in the National Hockey League but no one was sure to what extent. Looking back, to say Ovechkin made an unforgettable impact in his rookie season would be a massive understatement. Ovechkin dominated from the start. The talented, rugged Russian winger scored 52 goals in his first season, becoming the first player to reach the 50 goal plateau as a rookie since, you guessed it, Teemu Selanne in the high scoring 1992-93 season. Ovechkin was a Russian born player who scored goals like a legend and threw body checks like a bruising Canadian boy. Ovie was an enigma. He was the most put-together dominant force in hockey since Eric Lindros. Ovechkin’s rookie campaign is forever enshrined in the footage of what is arguably the best goal in National Hockey League history. Ovie’s 32nd career NHL goal was a display of individual excellence. He singlehandedly out willed a Phoenix Coyotes defenceman and slid one past the sprawling, bewildered Brian Boucher while The Great One watched from behind the Coyotes’ bench.

The Calder Trophy for rookie of the year was given to Alex Ovechkin, even though Crosby finished the season with a few more points. The truth is, you may as well have flipped a coin because both deserved the award.

Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin Save The Day

Before Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin entered the NHL at the beginning of the 2005-06 NHL season the state of hockey was the worst it had been, maybe ever. The prior season was cancelled in its entirety due to a groundbreaking lockout that reshaped the way the NHL product would be known moving forward. The new game was promising to be more exciting offensively and more balanced competitively. The rule changes which included the elimination of two-line passes and a no-tolerance for obstruction hooking and holding definitely made the game more fun to watch. Still, you have to wonder if the National Hockey League recovers from the 2004–05 Lockout the same if Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin aren’t there to usher in the new era.

The Playoff Series Of Epic Proportions

In the 2nd Round of the 2007-08 NHL Playoffs, the world of hockey was treated to one of the most legendary performances in recent hockey history. In Game 2 of the classic series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin each exploded for hat tricks. It was one of the most exciting series of the new millennium, and on this night, hockey’s two biggest icons were at their absolute best.

The Hardware

After five seasons as NHL players the trophy cases of Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin contained more of the NHL’s most respected awards than some entire franchises’ entire alumni can boast.

By the end of their 5th season 2008-09, Sid and Alex had won a combined 2 Art Ross Trophies, 2 Lester B. Pearson Awards, 3 Hart Trophies, and 3 Rocket Richard Trophies, and 1 Stanley Cup. If you don’t know, these are among the most prestigious and impressive awards an NHL player can win.

2011 And Beyond: Crosby And Ovechkin Experience Tough Times

Crosby and Ovechkin are still considered the game’s two best players, or at least, two of the top 3-5. However, both Sid and Ovie have suffered from some rough seasons lately, by their standards.

Image Courtesy of Flickr. Photograph by Thebeev.

Image Courtesy of Flickr. Photograph by Thebeev.

Crosby’s woes have largely consisted of reoccurring concussion problems that have prevented him from playing more than 41 regular season games in any of the last three seasons.

Sid and his Pens have also failed to challenge for another Stanley Cup after two straight Finals appearances in 2008 and 2009. The Penguins playoff woes might be directly related to Crosby’s recent bout with injuries or they may not. Whatever the case, they haven’t returned to the Finals since winning the Cup in 09′ and quite frankly, many thought they’d have at least one more championship by now.

Ovechkin hasn’t battled injuries like Crosby, but he has suffered. At one time, The Great 8 was a guarantee to finish first in goals and points and now he is unpredictable. After scoring 50 or more goals in four of his first five NHL seasons, Ovechkin followed up with 32 and 38 goal campaigns (the two lowest in his career).

Much like Crosby, Ovechkin has also failed to lead his team to any playoffs success recently. However, unlike Crosby, Ovechkin and the Caps have never made the Stanley Cup Finals, and with each new playoff disappointment, the likelihood of them hoisting the Cup becomes more unexpected and hard to imagine.

The Future Looks Promising Again For Crosby And Ovechkin

The rough patch from 2011-2013 seems to be over for the game’s two most recognizable stars. In last season’s NHL shortened 48 game schedule, Crosby managed to avoid concussion problems, although, he did suffer an injury. Sid missed the final 12 games of the season and still managed to finish tied for 3rd in points with none other than the man his name will always be linked to in hockey conversations, Alex Ovechkin. Had Sid played the remaining 12 games of the season he would have won the Art Ross by a mile.

Ovechkin also had a revival of sorts in the 48 game season of 2012-13. His 32 goals was three more than any other player in the National Hockey League, earning Ovie another Rocket Richard Trophy to add to his collection.

No longer is it a certainty that Crosby and Ovechkin will finish top two in scoring but they are still the most dynamic players in the game on any given night. With a little luck, health and intensity, Sid The Kid and Alexander The Great will continue to wow us for years to come. The sky is still the limit.