In this age of the 24/7 news cycle, three Canadian all-sports channels, expert panels on four major Canadian networks, newspapers, blogging, Twitter and on and on, rarely does it happen that an event that falls so easily into the jaws of hype live up to expectations.
Crosby v. Ovechkin, Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins, hockey’s collection of Young Guns assembled in one do-or-die series: this event was Gary Bettman’s wet dream. Not to mention every sports editor in Canada. Heck, even Americans are taking notice.
With such hype usually comes much letdown. Not so here. It’s quite evident that Crosby and Ovechkin have jumped at this opportunity to bury one another. They both realize that this series, and it’s result and their performance in it, will go a long way to define their careers for the next few years. The Madison Avenue crown is up for grabs, and neither of them want the other to have it. Both want to be the NHL poster boy, the focus of hockey fans’ attention, the face that pops into mind when one thinks: Hockey Greatness. This is our Kobe/Lebron, Gretzky/Lemieux, our Bird and Magic. Alex and Syd get this, and they’ve brought their A+ game to prove it.
If anyone doubted that the series could live up to its hype, then yesterday should have put that to rest. Each of them had a hat-trick, and Ovechkin absolutely terrorized the Pens when he was on the ice. Crosby plays a much more subdued style, but you could see how intense he was about the occasion. Unfortunately, it also brought out a Crosby trait that feeds many of his detractors: his tendency to whine about every single thing that happens on the ice. Nothing illustrated this clearer than when he complained to the referee about people throwing hats on the ice following Ovie’s third goal. As I watched, it occurred to me that’s what he must be complaining about, but I dismissed it immediately, giving him the benefit of the doubt. No one would complain about such a long-lasting tradition, right? Then this morning, this:
“People kept throwing hats,” Crosby said. “And I was just asking if he could make an announcement to ask them to stop.”
You know, it’s possible that he was simply performing his duty as the team’s captain, relaying a message to the officials from his coach. I doubt it. Deep down it bugged him so much that Ovechkin had scored a hat-trick against him, against his Penguins, in the PLAYOFFS , that the rage, the poison, the bile had to come out some way. And the method used is the one Sydney usually reverts to, and that’s complaining to the officials.
To his credit, though, that’s not all he did. Shortly after, he went out and got his own third goal, his own hat-trick. Too bad there were no hats left in the stands to honour his feat. Yes, I am picking on Crosby, a guy who’s done nothing but elevate his game in these playoffs, scoring eight goals and garnering four assists, and boy am I going to have to change my tune next year at the Olympics. He’s a hard player to love, though. Unlike his nemesis.
Tomorrow night can’t come soon enough. How can they top this? Here’s how: Pittsburgh needs to win a couple of games to make a series out of this. We all want overtime in Game 7. Is that too much to ask?