Alex Ovechkin beat Marc-Andre Fleury three times in Game 2 of the Pittsburgh-Washington series. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/NHLI via Getty Images)
What can you say but hats off to Sid and Ovie?
Hype is about the hardest thing to live up to anywhere in any context, but this display by the game’s two best players is escalating to epic proportions; just like the smile on commissioner Gary Bettman’s face, one must presume.
I think the sentiment now from all corners - even the one I dwell in where impartiality is supposed to rule - has to be for Pittsburgh to please, please win Game 3. Draw this series out because there is the potential for something truly special to unfold if this thing goes six or seven games.
Just to recap, after trading hat tricks in Washington’s 4-3 win in Game 2, Crosby and Ovechkin have combined to score eight of the 12 total goals scored in this series, which the Caps now lead 2-0.
Crosby, who averaged 0.43 goals per game in the regular season, is now clipping along at a goal-per-game pace with eight through that same number of post-season contests. Ovie is right behind with seven in nine games.
The question now is, who will step up and be the series’ third-best player?
Logic would suggest Evgeni Malkin, but only if logic happened to miss Malkin’s last five, lumbering, goalless games.
When Malkin was about to enter the league three years ago, a few of my coworkers wondered allowed about unfavorable comparisons with Viktor Kozlov.
A whole lot of regular season hardware aside, right now the Pens might think long and hard about making that trade.
The only impact Malkin had in Game 2 was when he took one of a few dumb penalties this game featured, sticking his foot out to upend Dave Steckel right at the end of a failed man advantage for Pittsburgh.
It took Ovechkin all of four seconds to make sure Malkin would remember that moment.
Dan Bylsma has done an incredible job since taking over as Pittsburgh’s coach in February, but he now faces his greatest challenge in trying to figure out how to effectively apply some heat under the pants of a player he needs to be much, much better.
Maybe he can simply re-direct some of the flames shooting out of No. 87’s eyes.
Back to the topic of stupid penalties, Malkin’s minor was far from the only ill-advised infraction in Game 2. Chris Clark – Washington’s captain no less – may have taken the cake in that category with his senseless elbow to the head of Kris Letang about five seconds after the play had been stopped because Pittsburgh’s Bill Guerin took a slashing penalty of his own.
Alexander Semin, who wasn’t exactly miles ahead of Malkin in terms of positive Game 2 contributions, got an additional two minutes during a run-in with Pens defenseman Brooks Orpik for an extra cross-check to the chin. Crosby exploited that bonehead decision by opening the scoring.
And while you can applaud Pittsburgh sparkplug Chris Kunitz for trying to physically thwart Ovechkin, why did he choose to do it with a high cross-check near center ice when Ovie really wasn’t involved in the play?
Penalties by nature are rarely sensible, but they’re extremely tough to swallow – and kill – when they’re superfluous.
THE SID-OVIE DEBATE
THN.com editor Edward Fraser sits down with THN.com bloggers Ryan Dixon and Rory Boylen to discuss last night's thrilling performances and the disappearance of Evgeni Malkin.
PRODUCER: Ted Cooper
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Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears Fridays.
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