Posted: Monday December 11, 2006 11:55AM; Updated: Thursday December 14, 2006 2:26PM
The two stars met four times in 2005-06; the Pens won three. Crosby (3 goals, 6 assists) outscored Ovechkin (3,3) in those games.
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Darren Eliot will periodically answer questions from SI.com users in his mailbag.
Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin met for the first time this season on Monday after rookie campaigns that inextricably linked them as the NHL's young saviors. Both are having extraordinary sophomore follow-ups, continuing to demonstrate that they have that certain something that makes them special.
And for a league looking to package and promote its elite talent, the NHL has bona fide blue chippers in Crosby and Ovechkin. Crosby appeared in the league's pre-season ad campaign and Ovechkin has taped spots that will run beginning next month. Ovechkin seems to really embrace the public aspect that goes along with the mantel as last season's Calder Trophy sensation.
Crosby is just as obliging as Ovechkin, if somewhat more understated in his approach. He is intense and serious about seemingly everything, and interacting with the media is no different. Crosby inherently understands his spokesman obligation -- certainly a role he learned in Canada's media spotlight during his junior days. Don't forget that Wayne Gretzky -- maybe the best all-time spokesperson for any sport -- decreed that Crosby would be the one to break his scoring records ... and that was when Crosby was 16.
This brings us to the ice, where these young phenoms are most comfortable and can demonstrate what all the fuss is about in the first place. Both are electrifying in the open ice and once again their scoring numbers are near the top of the league, even though Crosby is still just 19 years old and Ovechkin 20.
But what separates this pair of aces is their competitive drive. Ovechkin is one of the hits leaders on his team -- always looking to put a body on an opponent on the forecheck. He plays with an edge and, in fact, the NHL recently fined him for a late hit on Buffalo's Daniel Briere.
Crosby's intensity applies to all aspects of his game. He strives for star status on all fronts, right down to the mundane minutiae of winning face-offs. He works just as hard defensively as he does offensively. So while fans recognize and understandably respond to Crosby's offensive creativity, his diligence with the details has people in the game taking note.
Atlanta Thrashers head coach Bob Hartley speaks glowingly of Crosby as "the perfect role model for all young players in hockey" because of his work ethic and demeanor -- high praise from an opposing coach.
Yet, while the league has Crosby and Ovechkin as a tandem when it comes to marketing, the duo isn't alone anymore when it comes to the Penguins-Capitals matchup. Both stars have skilled running mates this season, with Evgeni Malkin providing the Pens with more offensive brilliance from the center position and Alexander Semin giving the Caps another shooting option of the wing. Malkin will surely be this season's Calder recipient. Thus, the Penguins and Capitals have winning records so far and neither team is as one-dimensional as it was during Crosby and Ovechkin's rookie campaign.
But make no mistake: This is still the Crosby and Ovechkin show and it is always worth catching. Next showing: Feb. 3, in Pittsburgh.