NHL: Feuding stars part of three-ring circus
By Alan Robinson
PITTSBURGH ó Alex Ovechkin doesn’t like Sidney Crosby. Neither does Alexander Semin, who calls Crosby an overrated product of the NHL’s hype machine. Ovechkin disliked Evgeni Malkin, too, but now appears to like him again.
Oh, but there’s much for the hockey world to like in this Penguins -Capitals matchup, beginning Saturday when the Eastern Conference semifinal series begins in Washington.
Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau compares it to the circus.
The main attraction is flashy enough ó the NHL’s three biggest names under one big top for up to two weeks ó but the sideshows are intriguing and figure to be entertaining. With the NHL’s last two MVPs and last three scoring champions in the same series, plus a noticeable edginess whenever the teams meet, there should be plenty of subplots and sound bites.
Who will be the ringmaster?
“There’s more to stars meeting here, great hockey players meeting, there’s great personalities, strong personalities, there’s faces of the league that are clashing,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said Wednesday. “That’s great for the league, great for the postseason.”
Clashing is an apt description.
In only four Penguins-Capitals meetings this season (Washington won three), an agitated Ovechkin ó apparently motivated by an off-ice dispute involving an agent ó lined up Malkin several times for hits. Although Ovechkin and Malkin patched up their feud at the All-Star game, apparently with the help of fellow Russian Ilya Kovalchuk of Atlanta, Crosby said Ovechkin went out of his way to target Malkin.
Later in the season, Ovechkin and Crosby went at it, exchanging pushes and yapping at each other Feb. 22 in Washington.
Semin also created a stir by saying there’s nothing special about Crosby and that “if you take any player, even if he’s dead wood, and start promoting him, he’ll be a star.”