Since he entered the league, Alex Ovechkin has been linked with Sidney Crosby. Though they were drafted a year apart, both players began their NHL careers in the same year after a lockout wiped out the 2004-05 season. It has been the best rivalry in the NHL over the past 15 years, but it has not been the only rivalry for the Great 8 in his storied career. There have also been numerous battles against goalie Henrik Lundqvist who for 15 years manned the pipes for the New York Rangers. Now that rivalry will be put aside as the two will join together as teammates on the Capitals.
Despite the storied history of the Ovechkin/Crosby rivalry, Ovechkin has actually played Lundqvist in the postseason more. Ovechkin and Crosby have met four times in the playoffs, but Ovechkin and Lundqvist have met five times. The Caps won the first two meetings, but the Rangers won the last three.
"It’s been so many years of battles and I have so much respect for [Ovechkin] for what he’s accomplished," Lundqvist said after signing with Washington. "He’s one of the toughest players to stop, there’s no way around it. You look at his record, it speaks for itself. And it’s been so much fun too to go up against him for so many years."
Rivalries can take on different forms and the Ovechkin/Lundqvist rivalry was never an overly contentious one. Sure, it has had its moments, but this rivalry never took on the look of a Mathew Tkachuk/Drew Doughty rivalry in which both players openly dislike the other. In their frequent battles, both Ovechkin and Lundqvist grew a healthy respect for one another.
"He’s been so fun to play against because of how good he is," Lundqvist said of Ovechkin, "But he’s also a character on the ice. So I look forward to now being on the same team."
While Lundqvist may have gotten the better of Ovechkin overall in their playoff meetings, Ovechkin has the one thing Lundqvist's storied NHL career is missing: a Stanley Cup. That is ultimately why they are now teammates.
With two young goalies on the roster in New York and management's eyes locked squarely on the future, Lundqvist was bought out of his contract and free to sign with any team in the offseason. He chose Washington because he believes the Caps give him a chance to win.
"I think at this point in my career, that's the most important thing. I want to have a chance to win," Lundqvist said.
And so long as Ovechkin remains one of the top goal-scorers in the NHL, Washington certainly has a chance. Lundqvist is willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen.
Well, except one thing.
“The one thing I told [Ovechkin], though, is I won’t do any one-time drills with him," Lundqvist said. "His shot is just way too hard, so I already took myself out of that one. ... Ovi with all the years playing against him, I definitely look forward to being on the same side now.”