In This Corner: Caps, Pens rivarly goes beyond the superstars
From the race for the Calder Cup to their playoff and Olympic performances, every inch of the two players’ styles has been compared.
Every time the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins faceoff against each other, the focus is on Crosby vs. Ovechkin. But there’s so much more to that rivalry.
Before Crosby or Ovechkin were even considered to be drafted, these two teams have hated each other.
The hatred started all the way back in 1981 when the Penguins joined the Capitals in the old Patrick Division.
The two teams squared off often in the regular season and had multiple playoff quarrels.
Washington has only been able to win one of its series against Pittsburgh, but that hasn’t deterred the fueling of hatred between the clubs.
In Game 4 of the ’96 playoffs, the two clubs battled in one of the longest games in National Hockey League history.
Four overtimes later, the Pens were on a power play and netted the game-winner. They’d go on to win the series.
This is a rivalry that stretches from the heart of the organization to the highest seats in the stands.
Before the media could really sink its teeth into this hatred, the fans have been egging each other on.
Penguins’ fans mock Caps’ fans, reminding them of playoffs disappointment, while Caps fans battle back with their teams’ own successes.
Yes, all of the recent, and arguably some of the more exciting moments between these two clubs, have come recently with Crosby and Ovechkin in the lineup, but many of these great moments haven’t directly involved the two star players.
In that epic 2009 series, three of the four games went to overtime. The Penguins took two of those overtimes, with Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin scoring to save their team’s season.
In Game 6, it was fourth-liner David Steckel who scored to send the series to a decisive Game 7.
And of course, there was the Winter Classic. Crosby’s first of two concussions aside, this was an epic game for both franchises. Few sporting events can compare to the Classic: two teams going back to the original “pond hockey” roots and duking it out in a game that really needs no build-up.
Leading up to the Winter Classic, both teams were the highlight of HBO’s “24/7: Road to the Winter Classic” series. This was the most recent look at what these two teams are about. “24/7” focused on both teams, not just the superstars that the league and media have been so centered around.
When the Caps face the Pens Thursday night in the first battle of the season between these two teams, there won’t be any shortage in hatred.
This is one of the strongest, deepest and most vicious rivalries in hockey and sports history. Without Crosby in the lineup, finally the focus will move away from the Ovechkin-Crosby comparison and back to the fact that these organizations just flat out hate each other.