Michael O’Grady | Staff Writer
When the 2024 NHL All-Star festivities begin in Toronto this weekend, there will be a familiar face missing among the Metropolitan Division attendees, and this time it won’t be by choice.
Alex Ovechkin, currently second in all-time goals behind Wayne Gretzky, was not voted as the Washington Capitals representative this year. In fact, it would’ve been a mistake to invite him.
The 38-year-old has tallied just nine goals and 22 assists this year in 44 games, a stunning drop-off after his 42-goal season last year and 50 the season prior.
The record nine-time Rocket Richard Trophy winner now finds himself fourth on Washington’s roster in goals, and although he ties for the team lead with 31 points, the NHL opted to send Tom Wilson to Toronto instead. Joining Wilson as the Penguins rep will be Sidney Crosby.
The Penguins and Capitals sit packed in a Metro Division more competitive than ever, yet despite their similar records, a 36-year-old Crosby is averaging over a point-per-game and leads Pittsburgh in goals with 27, just six shy of his total last year in a full 82 games. Amid lackluster performance from most of the roster and rumors that the Penguins might trade Jake Guentzel, Crosby has almost single handedly kept his team competitive.
Neither the Capitals or Penguins have made it out of the first round come April since 2018, the last of the three consecutive second round epics between the two teams. While Ovi and his Caps went on to win the franchise’s first Stanley Cup that year, Crosby and the Penguins were victorious over Washington in 2016 and 2017 en route to Pittsburgh’s fourth and fifth Cups, and it was the even the same story way back in 2009, when neither Crosby nor Ovechkin had tasted Cup glory yet.
The two greats are now both in their 18th season, and their battles are the stuff of hockey legend, but even today when playoffs are no longer a guarantee, Crosby has never relinquished the upper hand in the rivalry. A hot second half this season could get him 100 points for the seventh time, which only five players ever have done (six, once Connor McDavid finishes his season). As for Ovechkin? He has four such seasons, and it sure looks as if he’ll finish his career with four.
The advantage is apparent even in international play. At the 2005 World Juniors, Crosby’s Canada romped Ovechkin’s (and Evgeni Malkin’s) Russia 6-1 in the gold medal game. And there is simply no moment in Ovechkin’s storied career that compares to Crosby’s Golden Goal in Vancouver, and the subsequent gold in Sochi in 2014.
As Ovechkin is demonstrating, we don’t have too much longer to appreciate their collective greatness. But if Crosby is your champion, the memories will be a little sweeter, because he’s won the war.