Tonight begins the first game between the Caps and the Penguins in the 2011-2012 season. It’s a big deal because these two teams have one of the most heated rivalries in the sport. Today’s post is for those of you who want a refresher course on why the Capitals and the Penguins have such a rivalry.
Now, I’m not the most knowledgeable when it come to the history of hockey (my expertise is more about the individual players’ lives), but when it comes to my Caps, I can still properly inform you of the important basics. I’ll start with an early example of the Alex Ovechkin/Sidney Crosby rivalry from this is fantastic commercial that aired a few years ago:
This rivalry between these two star players is important because it is ultimately what created the team rivalry. Brief history lesson time! Alex Ovechkin joined the Capitals in 2005, one year after the rather disappointing year-long NHL lockout. This is the same year that Sidney Crosby entered the NHL with the Penguins. Both players were contenders for Rookie of the Year, and their close ages (Ovie is two years older) also helped to fuel the competition. Plus, to add on the pressure, Ovechkin has more trophies and awards than Crosby, yet Crosby has earned the coveted Stanley Cup whereas Ovechkin has not… yet.
Best quote? “Crosby is known for doing some whining, Ovechkin’s known for showboating.” – Eric Fehr.
Of course, these two players aren’t the only thing fueling the teams’ rivalry. There are some more “secondary characters” in this thickened plot of battling teams. For example, take the “youngsters,” Evgeni Malkin of the Pens versus Nicklas Backstrom of the Caps. Sure, Backstrom might be the odd man out of the Russian rivalry of the three others, but his amazing gameplay keeps him as an additional teammate to look out for. Also, the Penguins have had a number of former Capitals on their roster (Sergei Gonchar, Brent Johnson, Matt Cooke), so the heat just keeps getting intensified.
Another reason why the two teams are in cahoots? Pretty much what seems to be the rule in hockey, is that if your team has recently played another team in the post-season playoffs, then those teams become rivals. The Capitals and the Penguins have indeed seen each other in the post-season a number of times within the last few years. Add in the last Winter classic between the two teams, and you can imagine the intensity.
Below are a few more video examples of the crazy rivalry:
The hanging penguin is a nice touch.
So with that being said, may the best team win. And as for tonight? The game just won’t be the same without Malkin and Crosby who are expected to miss the game for separate reasons. We’ll be waiting for you next time…