Magic or Bird? Elvis or the Beatles? Ovechkin or Crosby?

7 Comments

elvisimpersonators.jpgOver the last few years, I’ve tried to find a great comparison for the Sidney Crosby-Alex Ovechkin rivalry.

For quite some time I went to basketball and flip-flopped between Kobe-Lebron and Magic-Bird (personally, I prefer Magic-Bird since both players came in the league at the same time, although Russia doesn’t exactly equate to French Lick, Indiana does it?). You could look back to the old days of Chamberlain vs. Russell or even go way off the map and compare the two players to professional wrestlers which, naturally, I did once before.

“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. “The Hitman” Bret Hart: Not a bad parallel to the Alex Ovechkin vs. Sidney Crosby rivalry when you think about it. Austin/Ovechkin appeal to the simple fan with brashness and aggressiveness; Hart/Crosby are vaguely whiny, undeniably talented Canadians. Crosby might even have a disturbing obsession with baby oil and strange sunglasses for all we know.

Really, though, my favorite analogy comes from Uma Thurman’s “Elvis vs. the Beatles” discussion from “Pulp Fiction.” Just substitute “Beatles” and “Elvis” with “Crosby” and “Ovechkin” and then run through Thurman(aka Mia Vincent)’s dialog and see how it relates to the way people feel about the two stars. (Warning: there might be a little paraphrasing in there, in case people want to yell at me for missing the occasional conjunction.)

Mia Vincent: ” … For instance, there’s only two kinds of people in the world: [Crosby] people and [Ovechkin] people. Now [Crosby] people can like [Ovechkin] and [Ovechkin] people can like [Crosby], but nobody likes them both equally. Somewhere, you have to make a choice and that choice tells you who you are.”

Jump for more Crosby-Ovechkin talk and a chance to vote to declare yourself an Elvis (Ovechkin) or Beatles (Crosby) person …


birdmagic.jpgThe other day, I was discussing the Crosby-Ovechkin feud with a few guys from Defending Big D and I made this point: my feeling is that if you stripped Crosby’s last name from his jersey or did something else to give people the “Pepsi Challenge,” hockey nerds would adore Sid. His game (when you boil down to its core elements) is subtle and nuanced. Although he’s obviously talented (just watch him skate), he is among the elite because of his hockey intelligence. Crosby is among the most driven athletes in all of sports. Just look at the way his faceoff numbers have improved from his abysmal 45.5 percent rookie rate to the league’s tenth best percentage of 56.2 percent.

Ovechkin, on the other hand, is a superhuman (almost video game-like) talent. His skills are slap-you-behind-the-ears simple yet equally unstoppable. I’ve never seen a player who can match his ability to release a horrifying shot from anywhere like him; he’s basically a threat to score the second he crosses the blue line. Obviously, he’s not afraid to clobber an opposing player, either.

So, with tonight’s clash between the Crosby-fueled Penguins and Ovechkin’s Washington Capitals just a few hours away, I cannot help but ask: are you a Crosby person or an Ovechkin person?

Ducks deny rally, end Penguins’ winning streak

1 Comment

When Ondrej Kase cashed in on another breakaway opportunity for the Ducks to make it 4-1 in the second period, it looked like that goal would be icing on the cake for Anaheim. Even if it would be especially pretty frosting.

Instead, that stylish goal ended up being critical, as the Pittsburgh Penguins nearly rallied in the third period to at least send Wednesday’s game to overtime. John Gibson ended up holding down the fort, and with an empty-netter in the dying seconds, the Ducks ended up beating the Penguins 5-3.

You could call it a game of periods and close calls.

The Penguins entered the first intermission thanks to a 1-0 Evgeni Malkin goal, but the Ducks dominated the middle frame with their first four-goal period of 2017-18. The Penguins’ prolific power play helped them stay in the game (2-for-4, with both goals coming during that third-period comeback bid), but the rally fell short. Pittsburgh’s winning streak ended at four victories.

Some bounces went both ways, as Antoine Vermette nearly scored for the Ducks while Carl Hagelin suffered a near-miss. So maybe those missed opportunities cancel each other out?

From the Ducks’ perspective, this is the latest argument in favor of this team being a threat now that key pieces have returned to the lineup. This win begins what they hope is a successful five-game homestand, as Anaheim still needs to battle for its own playoff hopes.

The Penguins can’t ruminate on this loss for very long. They head to Los Angeles to face what must be a frustrated Kings team (four straight defeats, only two wins in their last eight games) on Thursday, with little reason to expect any mercy.

This last stretch of wins improved the Penguins’ outlook, but dropping games in back-to-back nights could make things tense again in a hurry. You can check out that Penguins – Kings game on NBCSN Thursday.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Willie O’Ree celebrates 60th anniversary of debut with Bruins

1 Comment

BOSTON (AP) Hockey pioneer Willie O’Ree was honored in Boston on Wednesday on the 60th anniversary of the Bruins forward breaking the NHL’s color barrier.

At a news conference at the TD Garden before the Bruins game against the Montreal Canadiens, Mayor Marty Walsh declared Jan. 18, 2018 to be “Willie O’Ree Day”. O’Ree made his debut in 1958 during a 3-0 victory against the Canadiens at the Forum in Montreal.

Walsh called O’Ree a Boston legend who changed the city for the better and thanked him for his courage. As part of the celebration, the city dedicated a new street hockey rink in the Allston-Brighton neighborhood to be known as Willie O’Ree Rink.

A native of Canada, O’Ree, 82, had four goals and 10 assists in 45 games over parts of two NHL seasons. He spent a total of 21 years in pro hockey.

For the past two decades, O’Ree has served as the NHL’s Diversity Ambassador, spreading the message that hockey is for everyone.

More AP NHL hockey at https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

Bruins cruise vs. Canadiens in Julien’s return to Boston

2 Comments

Don’t blame Claude Julien if Wednesday made him think of better times, and not just because it was his welcome back night in Boston.

Coming into this one, it was a tale of two teams going in opposite directions, and the teams stuck to their scripts. The Boston Bruins remain red-hot with a 4-1 win, while the Montreal Canadiens are mired in mediocrity .. or worse?

When you’re as disappointing as the Canadiens have been, plenty of things are going wrong. It was a weak start even with a 1-0 lead and 1-1 first period in mind, and it obviously didn’t get any better.

Nights like these have to sting for Julien, a coach known for his sophisticated systems and eye for defensive detail.

There are questions about Max Pacioretty possibly being trade bait. People wonder if Jonathan Drouin or Alex Galchenyuk fit as centers, or if neither work that way. Yet, these performances make you realize that as exasperated as management must be, they may also appreciate more specific distractions.

Because, frankly, this was a team … non-effort.

Then again, the Bruins are a red-hot squad, so maybe they shine an especially harsh light on the Habs’ haplessness?

Boston generated a 32-22 shots on goal advantage in this one, with multiple contributors stepping up. Big guns came through (Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak were among the goal scorers, Patrice Bergeron collected two assists), while David Backes and others added to the fun.

It was the kind of effort Julien would have been very happy with, if it didn’t come at his expense.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH LIVE: Pittsburgh Penguins at Anaheim Ducks

Getty
Leave a comment

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

PROJECTED LINEUPS

Pittsburgh Penguins

Dominik SimonSidney Crosby — Daniel Sprong

Carl HagelinEvgeni MalkinPatric Hornqvist

Conor ShearyJake GuentzelPhil Kessel

Tom KuhnhacklRiley SheahanRyan Reaves

Brian DumoulinKris Letang

Olli MaattaJustin Schultz

Matt HunwickJamie Oleksiak

Starting goalie: Tristan Jarry

[NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Canadiens vs. Bruins; Penguins vs. Ducks]

Ducks

Rickard RakellRyan GetzlafCorey Perry

Derek GrantRyan KeslerJakob Silfverberg

Nick RitchieAdam HenriqueOndrej Kase

Chris WagnerAntoine VermetteJ.T. Brown

Cam FowlerKevin Bieksa

Hampus LindholmJosh Manson

Francois BeaucheminBrandon Montour

Starting goalie: John Gibson