Capitals

Quick Links

Why Ovechkin, Crosby 'couldn't be any more different'

ovicrosby.png

Why Ovechkin, Crosby 'couldn't be any more different'

As front row spectators, no one can better describe the Alex Ovechkin-Sidney Crosby rivalry as well as former Penguins and current Capitals defensemen Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen, who have gotten to know both superstars both on the ice and off.

“They couldn’t be any more different,” said Orpik, whose task will be to shut down Crosby tonight when the Penguins (4-4-0) visit the Capitals (6-1-0) at Verizon Center (8 p.m., NBCSN). “They are two of the bigger names in the game, but in terms of the way they carry themselves off the ice they couldn’t be more opposites.”

Orpik played nine seasons and won a Stanley Cup with Crosby before signing with the Capitals in 2014 with the hopes of getting Ovechkin his first.

“Sid definitely has sort of a more serious demeanor 90 percent of the time,” Orpik said. “When Ovi leaves the rink, I could be wrong here, but I don’t think he watches a lot of hockey. I know Sid is constantly thinking about hockey and how to improve himself and Ovi, I think, turns it on when he comes to the rink. At night he does other stuff (than watch hockey). It is pretty cool to see the different personalities.”

A little more than 10 years ago, on Oct. 5, 2005, Ovechkin and Crosby burst onto the NHL stage and they have been entertaining millions of NHL fans ever since.

In 766 career games, Ovechkin has 480 goals, 424 assists and 904 points, and has won the Calder Trophy, three Hart Trophies, five Rocket Richard Trophies and one Art Ross Trophy.

In 635 games career games, Crosby has 303 goals, 553 assists and 856 points, and has won two Hart Trophies, two Art Ross Trophies, one Rocket Richard Trophy and one Stanley Cup.

“They set the standard for the next guys,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “Those two guys will go down in history as not rivals, but faces of the game. And if they retire at the same time they’ll probably be standing at a podium in Toronto going into the Hall of Fame together because they were the faces that put the NHL back on the map and gave it a real boost when it needed it.”

So, who’s better? Ovechkin was asked that question on Wednesday morning.

“Are you kidding me right now?” Ovechkin replied with a laugh, turning his attention to the rivalry between the Caps and Pens.

“It’s been 10 years,” he said. “It’s still a game between two teams. They have great players. We have great players, so it’s a fun night. You want to win the game and do something special out there.”

MORE CAPITALS: WILLIAMS REJOINS CAPS, BUT WILL HE PLAY?

Crosby called Ovechkin, who has averaged 47.5 goals a season in his first 10 years, a “true goal scorer.”

“Regardless if scoring has gotten tougher or not, I think the consistency of putting in that amount of goals every year is pretty incredible,” Crosby said. “Alex is a true goal scorer. He’s proven that year after year. But he’s done it a lot of different ways. He’s got a great shot that’s dangerous, but he’s found a way to put the puck in the net.”

Niskanen, who played parts of four seasons with Crosby before signing with the Capitals in 20014, said it’s hard to say which player he’d rather have on his team.

“I’m usually partial to my current teammates, naturally,” he said. “When you play against guys, mentally you try to find a way to pick away at their game and find negatives in what they do. And when you’re teammates you see all the positives because you’re around them every day and you want them to do well. So right now, I’m all about Ovi.”

Over the past 10 seasons, Ovechkin has played 39 regular-season games against the Penguins and has racked up 27 goals and 46 points. Crosby has faced the Caps 33 times and has 18 goals and 51 points. The two have met just once in the playoffs, with the Pens eliminating the Caps in seven entertaining games in 2009.

That, Orpik said, has diminished the rivalry between the two teams.

“It was a rivalry,” Orpik said, “but Philly was always the big rival because we always seemed to play them in the playoffs.”

Since Crosby and Ovechkin entered the NHL following the 2004-05 lockout,  the Pengiuiins have won 22 of the 39 regular-season meetings between the two teams. This season, Ovechkin has led the Caps to a fast start with five goals and nine points in six games, while Crosby has managed just one goal and three points in eight games.

Through eight games, the Penguins have just 13 goals, far fewer than anyone anticipated with the addition of Phil Kessel, who leads the Pens with three goals. Caps coach Barry Trotz said he can appreciate what Penguins coach Mike Johnston is trying to accomplish in Pittsburgh with a tighter defensive philosophy.

“That’s what we did here,” said Trotz, whose team has outscored its first seven opponents by a 29-18 margin. “It’s not the easiest thing to do. You have to have a buy-in from your players and it looks like they have. They’re winning 2-1 games and that’s more of what you’ll see in the playoffs.”

Crosby was quick to defend himself and his teammates when asked about the Penguins being on board with Johnston’s game plan.

“I don’t think buy-in is an issue,” he said. “I don’t think buy-in is a question with us, it’s a matter of finding ways to finish. We’ve been pretty good defensively and that’s usually a pretty good indicator of how you’re playing defensively and how you are structurally that way. I think when you’re good defensively, you believe that pucks will find a way to go in offensively.”

Quick Links

Trotz's future in Washington remains unsettled on eve Stanley Cup Final

usatsi_10028482.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Trotz's future in Washington remains unsettled on eve Stanley Cup Final

Caps Coach Barry Trotz doesn’t have a contract beyond the Stanley Cup Final, and any potential talks about an extension will wait until the trophy is awarded, GM Brian MacLellan said Friday.

“No,” MacLellan said, asked if a decision on Trotz’s future had been made. “We’re going to address everything after the playoffs are over.”

Trotz’s four-year contract expires at season’s end.

It’s rare for a head coach to enter a season while in the final year of his deal. But that’s how the Caps decided to handle Trotz’s situation last offseason after another strong regular season performance ended with yet another second round playoff exit at the hands of the Penguins.

It was a suboptimal situation for Trotz, a 55-year-old who ranks fifth all-time in regular season victories but, until this year, had never led any team beyond the conference semifinals.

Despite his lame duck status, all Trotz did was produce his best coaching performance to date. 

Consider:

  • While visiting his son in Russia last summer, Trotz visited Alex Ovechkin in Moscow to discuss the changes he’d like to see the Caps’ captain make to his training and his game.
  • When the Caps reconvened for training camp in September, it was clear there were still some hurt feelings in the locker room. So Trotz and his assistants backed off, allowing some necessary healing to occur.
  • When the team suffered back-to-back blowout losses in Nashville and Colorado back in November, Trotz initiated a tell-it-like-it-is team meeting that many players have pointed to as the turning point of the regular season, which ended with the team’s third straight Metropolitan title.
  • Trotz also got his highly-skilled lineup to buy into a more structured, detailed style of play late in the campaign, a transformation that prompted MacLellan to call this playoff run the most defensively responsible of Trotz’s tenure.
  • In each of the two previous conference semifinals, Washington was defeated by Pittsburgh and, as a result, the Penguins had become a physical and a mental hurdle for the Caps. Earlier this month, Trotz helped direct Ovechkin and Co. past the two-time Cup champions.

Although MacLellan wouldn’t say much about Trotz’s contract, he did say that he’s noticed a big change in Trotz’s day-to-day approach to his job, a change possibly prompted by the coach’s free agent status.

“I think his demeanor has changed a little bit,” MacLellan said. “He seems a little lighter, a little looser, a little less pressure. Maybe a little more freedom about how he goes about things. He’s more relaxed, I guess would be the way to describe him.”

MacLellan also acknowledged the job Trotz’s has done this season, beginning with his delicate handling of the dressing room to start the year.

“I think he’s done a good job managing it,” MacLellan said. “To come in this year with so many questions—from my point of view, the lineup questions weren’t that big of a deal—but just the emotional state of our coming into to start the year [and] how to handle that. I think he’s done an outstanding job.”

Indeed, Trotz’s situation remains unclear on the eve of the Final. But we do know this much: He’s having one of the best contract years in NHL coaching history.

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS:

Quick Links

Small Virginia town changes name to Capitalsville ahead of Stanley Cup Final

capitalsville-stanley-cup-lovettsville.jpg
FB/The Town of Lovettsville

Small Virginia town changes name to Capitalsville ahead of Stanley Cup Final

Welcome to Capitalsville, Va., population: #ALLCAPS

Hoping to become the Washington Capitals' Stanley Cup headquarters, the small Northern Virginia town of Lovettsville has renamed itself to Capitalsville, Va.

Caps superfan and Mayor of Lovettsville, Bob Zoldos, had a lightbulb moment while watching Game 7 in a local bar and restaurant, Velocity Wings. Overcome with emotion from the win, he decided to take his idea to the town council meeting Thursday and Capitalsville was born after a unanimous vote to "unleash the fury."

This is not the first time name changes have occurred ahead of a big game. Ahead of the Caps' first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Blue Jacket Brewery located in downtown D.C. changed its Twitter handle to "Grujacket Brewery" in support of goaltender Philipp Grubauer.

The name change from Lovettsville to Capitalsville is temporary, with the plan to keep the new name through the end of the Stanley Cup Final. However, Zoldos hopes the sign brings in other Caps superfans from across the DMV to take in a piece of history 20 years in the making. 

Here's to hoping Capitalsville brings the city some luck heading into Game 1 on Memorial Day.

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS: