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19 Years Later: The Sid-Ovi rivalry lives on, but not for long

A graphic features Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin on each side. Both players have their team logo and colours, as well as an image of them at a younger age, behind them. There is an Intermission Sports logo in the bottom right corner
Graphic by Reid Nyenhuis

BY: ADAM FLOUJEH


The rivalry between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins—of Sid and Ovi—is one of the premium storylines of the last 19 years for the NHL. It is a story that has written itself time and time again with impressive regular season performances, superstar playoff moments, duels on the ice and debates off of it. But now, it’s on the verge of its final chapter.

 

With both of their seasons finished now that the Capitals lost to the New York Rangers in the first round of the playoffs, Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin’s reign at the top of the league is all but over. As their teams falter to avoid a rebuild with each of their outstanding careers in their twilight, it’s worth looking at where the story stands. 


Both phenoms entered the NHL for the 2005-06 season and recorded over 100 points each, instantly solidifying themselves as superstars in a league rebounding from a tumultuous lockout. Ovechkin edged Crosby out to win the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year, one of the few times he has bested the Canadian in their nearly 20-year rivalry. 


The rivalry itself began for real on November 22, 2005, when the two newest NHL stars squared off for the first time. “Sid the Kid” contributed a goal and an assist in a 5-4 Pittsburgh win, while “the Great Eight” produced a single assist. 


The 2009 NHL season was a revenge tour for the Penguins after losing to the Detroit Red Wings in the previous season's Cup Finals. In their way were none other than Ovechkin and the Capitals. The result would be a series for the ages, highlighted by the famous duelling hat tricks game. Crosby’s two-goal and three-point performance led the Penguins to a 6-2 game seven win, catapulting them to the Stanley Cup Final once again. Pittsburgh got their revenge in seven games versus Detroit in the finals where the Cole Harbour product won his first Stanley Cup. 


Crosby continued his dominance over the rivalry on the international stage. In the quarterfinals of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, Ovechkin failed to register a point in a 7-3 Canada win over Russia. The entire country knows what Crosby ended up doing at the end of that tournament… 


Over half a decade later, he kept it going on NHL ice. 2016 and 2017 saw the Penguins win back-to-back Stanley Cups, knocking the Capitals out along the way on both occasions. Crosby was named playoff MVP both times. 


While Crosby enjoyed success, oftentimes at the expense of Ovechkin, the Russian was no stranger to individual trophies in his prime. Ovechkin’s three Hart trophies outnumber Sid’s two MVP awards. Not to mention Ovi’s nine Maurice “Rocket” Richard trophies to Crosby’s two. Every other year brought another goal-scoring milestone for the first overall pick in the 2004 NHL draft but in 2018, the dragon was finally slain. 


The second round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs was most likely the final time we’ll ever see Sid vs Ovi in the NHL postseason. After years of second-round exits and humiliation at the hands of the Penguins, the Caps finally did it. Evgeny Kuznetsov scored the most famous goal in franchise history, moving them on to the Eastern Conference final. After defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning and Vegas Golden Knights, Ovechkin would win his first and to date only Stanley Cup and pick up the Conn Smythe trophy for good measure. 


For the first time, he had the last laugh over Crosby. 


Fast forward a few years to this season and both veteran stars continue to perform at a high level despite entering the twilights of their careers.


Crosby scored 94 points at 36 years old in 2023-24, recording his 1000th assist 

to move into the top ten of all-time NHL scoring. This was weeks after clinching his 19th straight point per game season, tying Gretzky for the most in NHL history.


Ovechkin, on the other hand, netted 31 goals at 37 years old. A slow start turned into a record 18th 30-goal campaign from the Russian, who now sits 41 tallies from tying Gretzky’s record of 894 career goals.


Sid the Kid and The Great Eight. They are so different, yet so similar over their careers. Two totally different personalities, and two different archetypes of players who somehow exceeded every expectation set on them.


Both have more than 1500 career points. Both have brought the Stanley Cup to the teams who drafted them and have become icons to the cities they’ve played their entire careers in. Both have won countless individual awards.


19 years of must-watch hockey whenever those two special talents faced off.  

 

Even with the Penguins missing the postseason for a second-straight year and the Capitals flaming out in four games to the New York Rangers, magic still surrounds 87 and 8.  


With Crosby’s current contract expiring in 2025, that summer could see him sign his final NHL deal. Ovechkin, meanwhile, has two years remaining on his $47.5 million extension—if he scores the 42 goals required to pass the career goals record in that span, 2026 could see the Great Eight hang up his skates. 


As fans of the game, we need to treasure the time we have left with Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. It's just a matter of time until they’re gone and we can’t imagine what it’s like to not have such a synonymous pair at the top of the league. 


It's a rivalry we’ll probably never see again. Let’s hope it ends in all the glory it deserves. 


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