Ovechkin Hopes Spotlight Switches Focus to Teams
Monday, December 11, 2006
While surfing the Web for some sports news recently, Washington Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin was annoyed by some of the hockey headlines he encountered.
"It was all, 'Ovechkin and Crosby meet again in D.C.,' " he said after yesterday's practice. "But this year it's 'Capitals and Penguins meet,' not 'Crosby and Ovechkin.' "
Ovechkin and Crosby, the NHL's brightest young stars, renew their rivalry tonight as the Capitals host the Penguins. The game will be broadcast nationally. One of the largest crowds of this season is expected to pack Verizon Center. Media outlets from across the continent -- and beyond -- will converge to record their every move.
Ovechkin, however, would prefer the spotlight shine on the rapidly improving teams in Pittsburgh and Washington, both of which hope to challenge for a playoff spot, rather than the two individuals.
"It's not me playing, it's my team," said Ovechkin, last season's rookie of the year. "It's very important we win the game. We want to go to playoffs. We don't look at our stats right now. We look at our team stats."
And when he does, the 21-year-old likes what he sees.
The Capitals have won five of their past six games and have posted a respectable record of 13-10-6, significantly better than the 9-17-2 record they had a year ago today. The Penguins have enjoyed similar improvement. They have four more wins and are just three standings points behind Washington.
"These are meaningful games now," Crosby said. "Last year, we were out of the playoff race pretty early. The first few times we played each other it was different because we had never played before. Now it's more regular."
More regular, maybe. But completely regular? Not any time soon. The NHL has centered much of its post-lockout marketing around its star players, namely Ovechkin and Crosby. Which is why tonight's game is likely the most-publicized contest of the season, having been hyped by the league and its cable television partner, Versus, for weeks.
In the teams' four meetings last season, Crosby had three goals and six assists, edging out Ovechkin, who recorded three goals and three assists. The Penguins won three times, twice at home and once in Washington.
Here's a refresher on what transpired: