NHL on NBC: Crosby and Ovechkin – in the present, and future

NBC’s coverage of the 2020-21 NHL season continues with Sunday’s matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals. Coverage begins at 3 p.m. ET on NBC. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Boiling down the Penguins – Capitals rivalry to Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin has always been a little unfair.

It’s always been a bit unfair to Crosby and Ovechkin. Most importantly, the Crosby – Ovechkin fixation dims the spotlight on other brilliant Capitals and Penguins, particularly Evgeni Malkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Part of what makes Penguins – Capitals so fun is that both teams boast more than just those two superstars.

That said, there’s a reason that the two dominate headlines, including for this post.

Crosby and Ovechkin have justified the hype

For all the eye-rolling about how much attention they receive, Crosby and Ovechkin have justified the hype during their 16 seasons in the NHL. Consider their dominance:

  • Since Ovechkin and Crosby entered the league, they’ve scored more points than any other players. Ovechkin tops them all with 1,290; Crosby’s second with 1,273. Considering Crosby’s 1.28 points-per-game, it’s fair to wonder where he’d be if Crosby (996 games played) could match Ovechkin’s incredible durability (1,160 GP).
  • Of course, Ovechkin tops all goal-scorers during that span with a ridiculous 711. Considering Crosby’s preference toward playmaking, some might be surprised that his 466 goals rank second since 2005-06.
  • Both Crosby and Ovechkin have been fixtures when the games matter the most, too. Each sit comfortably over 100 playoff points for their careers (Crosby: 189 playoff points; Ovechkin: 131). Crosby’s won three Stanley Cups, while Ovechkin and the Capitals nabbed that memorable one.

Those bullet points drive home what should be obvious: these two earned their attention. As you can see from these via NBC’s research team, Crosby and Ovechkin don’t let the spotlight of head-to-head matchups bother them, either.

Crosby Ovechkin head-to-head statsvia NBC Sports

Us hockey and sports fans are greedy, though. Even with Ovechkin at age 35 and Crosby at 33, we want more. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what we can expect from these two in the near future, and ponder what else might be ahead as their careers wind down.

A look at how Crosby and Ovechkin are performing this season

Heading into Sunday’s game, there’s no denying that Crosby’s Penguins are in a less stable situation that Ovechkin’s Capitals.

After Ron Hextall and Brian Burke surprisingly replaced Jim Rutherford as top Penguins executives, it’s fair to wonder about the team’s future. Whether you look at Hextall’s potential impact or the waves Burke could make, the team around number 87 could change. Maybe even drastically.


Yet, as the Penguins struggle around him, Crosby’s been great, as usual. Actually, if anything, he stabilized his game. According to underlying stats like RAPM at Evolving Hockey, Crosby’s defensive impact sagged a bit in 2019-20.

Crosby RAPM 2019-20via Evolving Hockey

So far this season, Crosby’s back to being the all-around gem he’s become as his game matured.

Crosby RAPM 2020-21via Evolving Hockey

With 10 points in 12 games, the simpler stats argue the same points that the fancier ones imply. For all of the ups and downs of the Penguins (6-5-1 for 12 points in 13 games), Crosby keeps giving them a chance to win.

[2020-21 NHL on NBC TV SCHEDULE]

Through his time with the Capitals, Ovechkin’s experienced more turmoil behind the bench than in the front office (just two GMs during Ovechkin’s career, and just two Capitals GMs since 1997).

Early on in the Peter Laviolette era, the Capitals are mixed bag. They survived COVID disruptions for Ovechkin and others, thus maintaining a hot start. Even so, they’ve dropped three straight games to slip to 6-3-3, just two points ahead of the Penguins (15 to 13) with both teams at 12 games played.

Like Crosby, Ovechkin’s delivered more or less what people expect. Sure, Ovechkin’s not going to land on many Selke ballots, but he’s off to a hot offensive start with five goals and 12 points in eight games.

He even turned back the clock with these vintage moves in setting up Tom Wilson:

So, don’t be surprised if we see some magic from both Crosby and Ovechkin on Sunday. Clearly, the two can still conjure it.

But for how long, and with both as Stanley Cup champions, what goals lie ahead?

Milestones, and key decisions

One way or another, we’re going to find out the direction of the Penguins soon enough.

Really, though, both Crosby and Ovechkin face situations to watch, whether key decisions are in their hands or not.

For Ovechkin, a big decision hinges on what he wants. After this season, Ovechkin’s $9.538 million cap hit expires, ending a whopping 13-year pact. What kind of money and term might Ovechkin want next? The Capitals kept much of the band together with extensions to the likes of Backstrom and John Carlson, so might that be enough to make that process smooth?

Beyond team and monetary goals, Ovechkin continues to eye Wayne Gretzky’s NHL record of 894 goals. Here’s where he currently stands:

• Gretzky: 894 goals
• Gordie Howe: 801
• Jaromir Jagr: 766
• Brett Hull: 741
• Marcel Dionne: 731
• Phil Esposito: 717
• Alex Ovechkin: 711

(Crosby’s at 56th with his 466, two behind Pat LaFontaine’s 468.)

On the other hand, Crosby’s own contract situation is set. He’ll carry his trademark $8.7M cap hit through the 2024-25 season.

But supporting cast questions abound. Evgeni Malkin’s $9.5M cap hit expires after 2021-22. Kris Letang also only has two more years on his $7.25M, and his name pops up in plenty of trade rumors these days.

What kind of stomach might Crosby and others have for a possible rebuild?

That question bubbled up in a big way amid these recent changes, and they’re not going away.

Luckily for hockey fans, Crosby and Ovechkin haven’t shown many signs of going away yet, either.

NBC Sports will premiere Doc Emrick – The Voice of Hockey, Presented by Discover – detailing the illustrious career of U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame member and eight-time Sports Emmy Award winner Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick – on Sunday, February 21 at 2 p.m. ET on NBC, leading into coverage of the NHL outdoor game at Lake Tahoe featuring the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers.

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.

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    Sharks goalie James Reimer declines to wear Pride jersey

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    San Jose Sharks goalie James Reimer won’t take part in pregame warmups Saturday night, saying the team’s decision to wear Pride-themed jerseys in support of the LGBTQ community runs counter to his religious beliefs.

    Reimer said in a statement Saturday that he made the decision based on his Christian beliefs, adding that he “always strived to treat everyone with respect” and that members of the LGBTQ community should be welcome in hockey.

    “In this specific instance, I am choosing not to endorse something that is counter to my personal convictions, which are based on the Bible, the highest authority in life,” Reimer said.

    Reimer is the second NHL player this season to refuse to take part in warmups with Pride-themed jerseys, with Philadelphia’s Ivan Provorov declining to in January. Reimer was not slated to start in Saturday night’s home game against the New York Islanders, which is Pride night.

    Additionally, the New York Rangers opted not to wear Pride jerseys or use Pride stick tape as part of their night in January despite previously advertising that plan.

    The Sharks said in a statement that they are proud to host Pride Night, saying the event reinforces the team’s commitment to inclusiveness.

    “As we promote these standards, we also acknowledge and accept the rights of individuals to express themselves, including how or whether they choose to express their beliefs, regardless of the cause or topic,” the team said in a statement. “As an organization, we will not waver in our support of the LGBTQIA+ community and continue to encourage others to engage in active allyship.”

    The You Can Play Project, which works to promote inclusiveness in sports, said the organization was disappointed in Reimer’s actions.

    “Religion and respect are not in conflict with each other, and we are certainly disappointed when religion is used as a reason to not support our community,” the organization said. “Wearing pride jerseys, like any celebration jersey worn, is not about the personal feelings of an athlete; rather the communication from the team that a community is welcome in the arena and the sport.”

    AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

    Panarin, Shesterkin lead Rangers to 6-0 rout of Penguins

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    NEW YORK (AP) Mika Zibanejad had a goal and two assists, Artemi Panarin scored twice and Igor Shesterkin made 33 saves as the New York Rangers routed Pittsburgh 6-0 on Saturday night for their second win over the Penguins in three days.

    Vladimir Tarasenko, Chris Kreider and Jacob Trouba also scored for the surging Rangers, who have won nine of their last 11 home games and are 12-4-0 in their past 16 at Madison Square Garden.

    Shesterkin won his fifth straight and posted his second shutout this season. He nimbly denied Pittsburgh forward Mikael Granland with a sprawling save five minutes into the third period to preserve the shutout, the 10th of his career. His other one this season was a 1-0 home win over Philadelphia on Nov. 1.

    “When you put in hard and honest work, miracles happen,” Shesterkin said through a translator. ”We played wonderfully today – scored many, many goals. Honestly, I hope the fans loved it. We’re playing for them.”

    The Penguins lost their third straight and trail the Rangers by 12 points for third place in the Metropolitan Division. Pittsburgh, still in wild-card position, is trying to reach the playoffs for the 17th straight time.

    “Tonight was a humbling experience for all of us,” coach Mike Sullivan said. ”At this time of year, you have to have a short memory. We still have control of our destiny.”

    Patrick Kane and defenseman K’Andre Miller also had two assists apiece as New York improved to 7-1-1 in its last nine home games against Pittsburgh. The Rangers are five points behind the second-place New Jersey Devils, who lost at Florida on Saturday.

    “This was a big game for our goalie and our team,” Panarin said. “If you work at playing the right way, you have opportunities for goals.”

    Since Dec. 5, when they turned around their season with a 6-4 comeback win at home over St. Louis, the Rangers are 29-9-5.

    As he did on Thursday when the Rangers beat the Penguins 4-2, Zibanejad opened the scoring. He got his team-leading 36th goal at 5:10 of the first, beating Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry. Trouba and Miller assisted.

    Panarin made it 2-0 at 19:49 on the power play, whipping the puck past Jarry from the left circle off a pass from Adam Fox.

    Tarasenko increased the lead at 3:54 of the second with his fifth goal since joining the Rangers in a trade with St. Louis on Feb. 9. Tarasenko has points in 10 of his first 18 games with the Rangers.

    Kreider made it 4-0 at 6:43 with his 31st goal and third in two games against the Penguins. Kane and Vincent Trocheck assisted on Kreider’s 260th career goal, which moved the Rangers forward within two of Vic Hadfield for fifth place on the franchise list.

    New York won Thursday when Kreider scored the go-ahead goal in the third and added an empty-netter.

    After Casey DeSmith replaced Jarry in net following Kreider’s goal, Trouba beat the replacement with a sharp-angle shot at 8:39 for his eighth to increase the margin to 5-0. Trouba has points in six of his last eight games.

    Panarin scored again at 16:38 of the second – his 22nd goal of the season – to make it 6-0, with assists to Kane and Filip Chytil.

    “We’re building chemistry, building every day and every game,” Kane said.

    Panarin has points in eight of his last 10 games and leads the Rangers with 77 points overall, while Kane has seven points in his last six games.

    “It’s nice to see that many great players on your team,” added Panarin, whose first two NHL seasons were played alongside Kane with the Chicago Blackhawks. “We’re happy tonight.”

    Zibanejad assisted on goals by Tarasenko and Trouba and has 25 points – including 14 goals – over his last 20 games.

    “It was just one of those nights when the puck goes in for us,” Zibanejad said. “And obviously Igor gives us a boost making all those saves.”

    NOTES: The Penguins were missing defenseman Jeff Petry after he was hit with an unpenalized elbow from Rangers forward Tyler Motte on Thursday. … Pittsburgh also scratched defenseman Jan Rutta and forward Dalton Heinen and played defenseman Mark Friedman for the first time since Feb. 11. … The Rangers were without injured defenseman Ryan Lindgren for the 10th straight game.


    Penguins: Host the Ottawa Senators on Monday.

    Rangers: Host the Nashville Predators on Sunday night.

    AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

    Coyotes sign Shane Doan’s son to entry-level contract

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    TEMPE, Ariz. — Josh Doan is following his father’s footsteps into professional hockey.

    The Arizona Coyotes signed the 21-year-old forward to a three-year entry-level contract, beginning with the 2023-24 NHL season. He will report to the Tucson Roadrunners of the AHL and play his first game against the Calgary Wranglers.

    Doan’s father, Shane, played 21 seasons with the franchise, many of those as captain, and followed it from Winnipeg to the desert in 1996. Shane Doan now serves as Arizona’s chief hockey development officer.

    The Coyotes drafted Josh Doan in the second round of the 2021, but he opted to play for the hometown Arizona State Sun Devils.

    Josh Doan set school records for goals (12) and assists (25) as a freshman last season. He had 16 goals and 22 assists in 39 games with Arizona State this season.

    The 6-foot-1, 183-pounder also played two seasons for the Chicago Steel of the USHL.

    Blackhawks forward Cole Guttman has shoulder surgery

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    CHICAGO — Chicago Blackhawks forward Cole Guttman had surgery on his right shoulder.

    The team said the operation was performed in Los Angeles. Team physician Michael Terry said the 23-year-old Guttman is expected “to be out of hockey activities for approximately four months.”

    Guttman had been a pleasant surprise for rebuilding Chicago. He made his NHL debut last month and finished the season with four goals and two assists in 14 games.

    Guttman was selected by Tampa Bay in the 2017 draft. He agreed to a two-year contract with Chicago in August 2022 that had a $950,000 salary cap hit.