Yes, we are just one-third of the way through this 2013-14 campaign. But if you look at the standings and the league statistical leaders, the NHL is heading directly towards what would be an incredible ending. That is, if you count incredible as “very easily marketable in a way that could gain PR for hockey and help grow the game.”
After 28 and 27 games, respectively, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, two of the most marketable teams in the league, are sitting in first and second place in the Metropolitan Division. The Penguins are in the midst of a three-game winning streak and lead the Eastern Conference in offense with 86 goals for. The Capitals have not been quite as successful as of late, but still rank second in the conference (right behind the Pens) in goals scored with 82.
Statistically, The teams lay claim to three of the best players in the league for yet another season. Sidney Crosby leads the league in points with 36 and teammate Evgeni Malkin is right behind at 35. Meanwhile, Alex Ovechkin, after scoring the overtime-winning goal against the New York Islanders Saturday night, leads the league with 21 goals. Crosby and Malkin are each on pace for over 100 points, while Ovechkin is on pace for a career-best 69 goals.
Between these three players, any game in which the Capitals or Penguins are playing has become a must-watch. Crosby is arguably the most intriguing player to watch since Gretzky, while Ovechkin has the passion and enthusiasm that could get even a casual fan out of their seat.
With the standings the way they are, and the new playoff format in effect for this season, the Pens and Capitals could ultimately face each other in the Eastern Conference final, which could be a dream come true for the NHL’s marketing department. Fans might claim to be sick and tired of hearing about Crosby, Ovechkin, and their respective teams. But the bottom line is that when those two teams meet, ratings shoot through the roof – and the sports world pays attention.