The arch-rival Capitals and Penguins face off tonight for the third time this season, but there’s a different feel now — and there has been for a while. As Tarik El-Bashir writes, the feud no longer has the tension it once did, not with Sidney Crosby sidelined indefinitely with a concussion and Alex Ovechkin struggling to regain his MVP form.
Tarik spoke with some Pittsburgh players after practice Monday at Consol Energy Center, and they seemed to share that sentiment:
Backup goalie and former Capital Brent Johnson
“Whether it’s Sid being injured, or changing of coaches, it’s just different. It will still be there if it comes down to the playoffs again.
“ I wouldn’t say it’s just another game. The rivalry is still good, but it’s just different. Things have changed.
“We’ve had injuries this year, and now we have other teams I hate.”
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury
“The fun things about those games was watching Ovi and Sid going at it. That was so fun to watch and it was always on NBC.
“It’s a little different for the fans, for us. But that’s hockey. You don’t know what can happen.”
Winger Matt Cooke
“The media no longer has Sidney vs. Alex. That’s how the rivalry started. I think there’s more there than most people would like to admit, because whenever you have a playoff series like we did, it creates a rivalry. Those things aren’t easily forgotten. Especially in 2009, you would be hard-pressed to find many people who say that wasn’t an equivalent to the Stanley Cup final, for only being an Eastern Conference semifinal. It had the elevation of a Cup series. If it hadn’t been us, it might have been Washington.
“The [hat tricks in Game 2] were ridiculous. Both guys, with two completely different styles, accomplished the same thing within their own team dynamic, is so crazy.”
What do you think of the rivalry and hopes of reviving it in the future? Share your thoughts in the comments below.