NHL gets a superstar showdown

Alex Ovechkin doesn’t like Sidney Crosby. Neither does Alexander Semin, who calls Crosby an overrated product of the NHL’s hype machine. Ovechkin disliked Evgeni Malkin, too, but now appears to like him again.

Sidney Crosby

Sidney Crosby

PITTSBURGH — Alex Ovechkin doesn’t like Sidney Crosby. Neither does Alexander Semin, who calls Crosby an overrated product of the NHL’s hype machine. Ovechkin disliked Evgeni Malkin, too, but now appears to like him again.

Oh, but there’s much for the hockey world to like in this Penguins-Capitals matchup, beginning Saturday when the Eastern Conference semifinal series begins in Washington.

Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau compares it to the circus.

The main attraction is flashy enough — the NHL’s three biggest names under one big top for up to two weeks — but the sideshows are intriguing and figure to be entertaining. With the NHL’s last two MVPs and last three scoring champions in the same series, plus a noticeable edginess whenever the teams meet, there should be plenty of subplots and sound bites.

Who will be the ringmaster?

“There’s more to stars meeting here, great hockey players meeting, there’s great personalities, strong personalities, there’s faces of the league that are clashing,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said Wednesday. “That’s great for the league, great for the post-season.”

Clashing is an apt description.

In only four Penguins-Capitals meetings this season (Washington won three), an agitated Ovechkin — apparently motivated by an off-ice dispute involving an agent — lined up Malkin several times for hits.

Although Ovechkin and Malkin patched up their feud at the all-star game, apparently with the help of fellow Russian Ilya Kovalchuk of Atlanta, Crosby said Ovechkin went out of his way to target Malkin.

Later in the season, Ovechkin and Crosby went at it, exchanging pushes and yapping at each other Feb. 22 in Washington.

Semin also created a stir by saying there’s nothing special about Crosby and that “if you take any player, even if he’s dead wood, and start promoting him, he’ll be a star.”

That was before Crosby, the 2006-07 MVP and the league’s No. 3 scorer this season, led the Penguins’ 4-3 win in Washington on March 8 by scoring in regulation and during the shootout.

To the Capitals, Crosby is more than the face of the league, he’s also the mouth of it — they accuse of him of talking too much and whining to the officials.

Crosby hasn’t responded with criticism in kind, but it’s obvious he thinks Ovechkin, last season’s MVP and scoring champion, is a hot dog.

Malkin, who succeeded Ovechkin (2007-08) and Crosby (2006-07) by winning the scoring title this season, Ovechkin and Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk were announced Wednesday as the three finalists for the Hart Trophy that goes to the league MVP.

No wonder Boudreau said after the Capitals eliminated the Rangers by winning 2-1 Tuesday in Game 7, “It wasn’t Ringling Brothers, anyway. Now we’re playing Pittsburgh (and) welcome to the circus.”

There’s plenty to fill all three rings of it.

Just three years ago, they were the two worst teams in the Eastern Conference: Pittsburgh was No. 15 and last, Washington was No. 14. Pittsburgh has since won the conference and reached the Stanley Cup finals, losing last season to Detroit, and Washington won its first playoff series in 11 years after finishing second in the conference this season.

“I remember (telling) Alex when he first came over, his first day, I said we are going to be really bad, really bad, (but) we’re going to be good, and then we’re going to be great,” Capitals owner Ted Leonsis said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

AstraZeneca vaccine is ready to be used at a homeless shelter in Romford, east London, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Frank Augstein
Select Alberta physicians to begin offering COVID-19 vaccine next week

Some Alberta physicians will now be offering the COVID-19 vaccine. In an… Continue reading

An example of zero lot line properties. Red Deer County council approved rezoning to allow zero lot line properties on three streets in Springbrook.
Photo from Red Deer County
Narrower house lots being tested in Springbrook to improve affordability

Zero lot line homes will be built on three streets in Springbrook

Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair listens to a speaker during a news conference Tuesday June 9, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Red Deer part of project to support victims of human trafficking

Federal government sends $500k over next four to Alberta-based project

Mayzie the Canada goose is back nesting in a flower pot on a backyard balcony in Anders on the Lake. (Contributed)
Canada goose is back nesting on Red Deer balcony

Third year in a row geese return

FILE - Conor McGregor poses during a ceremonial weigh-in for the UFC 246 mixed martial arts bout in Las Vegas, in this Friday, Jan. 17, 2020, file photo. The UFC intends to welcome a capacity crowd at Las Vegas' T-Mobile Arena on July 10, 2021, when Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor fight for the third time. UFC President Dana White announced his plan Wednesday, April 14, 2021, for the promotion's first sellout show in its hometown since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.(AP Photo/John Locher, File)
UFC plans full Vegas crowd in July at Poirier-McGregor fight

The UFC intends to welcome a capacity crowd at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile… Continue reading

Juno Awards signage hangs in downtown Saskatoon on Thursday, March 12, 2020. Organizers of the Juno Awards say they've postponed this year's 50th-anniversary celebration until June 6 "out of an abundance of caution in response to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic." THE CANADIAN PRESS/Matt Smith
Juno Awards postpone 50th anniversary show date to June 6 amid COVID-19 pandemic

TORONTO — Organizers of the Juno Awards say they’re postponing this year’s… Continue reading

Infrastructure and Communities Minister Catherine McKenna rises in the House of Commons following Question Period Monday March 22, 2021 in Ottawa. McKenna is announcing a $1.5-billion program designed to spur green building through retrofits, upgrades and new construction. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal government unveils $1.5-billion plan to boost green building

OTTAWA — Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna has announced a $1.5-billion program designed… Continue reading

In this Monday, March 15, 2021 file photo a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is pictured in a pharmacy in Boulogne Billancourt, outside Paris.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Christophe Ena, File
AstraZeneca very safe, effective, with extremely rare risk of clots: Health Canada

OTTAWA — There is enough evidence to say the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine may… Continue reading

Demonstrators take cover from crowd-dispersal munitions from police outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department while protesting the shooting death of Daunte Wright, late Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Brooklyn Center, Minn. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Minnesota cop will be charged in shooting of Black motorist

BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. — A prosecutor said Wednesday that he will charge… Continue reading

Families, Children and Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen listens to a question during a news conference Tuesday April 21, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Housing advocates eye federal budget for aid to urban Indigenous providers

OTTAWA — The Trudeau Liberals have told stakeholders in the affordable-housing sector… Continue reading

Two women lay flowers outside Windsor Castle in Windsor, England, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. Britain's Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, died Friday April 9 aged 99. His funeral service will take place on Saturday at Windsor Castle. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Queen returns to royal duties after death of Prince Philip

LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II has returned to royal duties, four days… Continue reading

The mobile phone icon for the Coinbase app is shown in this photo, in New York, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. Coinbase is going public at a time when chatter about cryptocurrencies is everywhere, even at the United States Federal Reserve. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Coinbase soars in market debut, valued near $100 billion

Coinbase made a rousing debut on Wall Street Wednesday, with the digital… Continue reading

Most Read