When the Capitals and Penguins faced off in the Eastern Conference Semifinals back in 2009, it was the height of the Alex Ovechkin-Sidney Crosby rivalry.
At the end of the regular season, Ovechkin was second in the league with 110 points, Crosby was third with 103, and in their first and only postseason matchup the marquee players put on an unforgettable show. On May 4, 2009, in Game 2 of that playoff series, Ovechkin and Crosby both recorded hat tricks in a 4-3 Capitals win.
At the time of that game, current Capitals rookie defenseman Nate Schmidt was still two months shy of his 18th birthday, and rookie winger Tom Wilson had just turned 15 that March.
They both remember watching Ovechkin and Crosby go toe-to-toe every chance they could, and both are eager to get their first taste of being part of a Capitals-Penguins matchup Wednesday night at Verizon Center.
“Four, five years ago this was really the matchup. Thankfully for our sport, other great superstars have come about, but I think the original one here recently is Ovi-Crosby, Pens-Caps,” said Schmidt, who with his home-state Wild not consistently in the playoffs turned his focus to the matchups in the East. “Historically the East was always on TV, scoring more, and the West was more technical grinding teams. Everybody wants to watch goals being scored, high-flying offenses, and what better to watch than the two greatest offensive players in the world?”
Wilson enjoyed watching the contrasting styles of Ovechkin and Crosby, how both were such successful players but with completely different approaches to the game.
“When I was growing up, Ovi was so exciting to watch when he first came into the league. He still is, but when he came into the league there really wasn’t that sniper that would hit guys and do all of it and Crosby’s just so graceful with the puck and is such an amazing talent,” Wilson said. “It’s pretty cool, two superstars in the league. I grew up watching that battle my whole life. It’s definitely going to be cool to be a part of it.”
With Ovechkin and Crosby both at the top of the NHL scoring charts and the Capitals and Penguins meeting as divisional opponents for the first time in more than 20 years, this rivalry could begin a new chapter this season and Schmidt is glad for the opportunity to be a part of that type of intensity.
“Everyone in the hockey world is watching, it just gives everyone an extra step. Everyone on the team plays a little harder, those guys play a little harder it just gets a little more amplified,” Schmidt said. “Getting Crosby back healthy into the game is great and Ovi’s been playing extremely well so when both guys are playing well, it’s going to be exciting. I just want to see them go against each other line for line and see what it’s like in person.”