DETROIT (Reuters) - ‘Alexander the Great’ and the Washington Capitals will face off against ‘Sid the Kid’ and the Pittsburgh Penguins in a Stanley Cup second round clash that is a dream come true for the NHL.
A showdown between Penguins’s Sidney Crosby and Capitals’s Alexander Ovechkin is sure to have left pulses racing at NHL headquarters and fans giddy with anticipation as the league’s two top players and marketing titans go toe-to-toe in a best-of-seven series.
The other Eastern conference semi-final will pit the Boston Bruins against the Carolina Hurricanes while the West conference will have defending champions Detroit Red Wings taking on the Anaheim Ducks and Vancouver Canucks kicking off the second round against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday.
While all four series offer up enticing storylines, none is more intriguing than the mouth-watering matchup featuring the Capitals and Penguins.
Since they joined the league, Ovechkin, the first overall pick in 2004 and Crosby, the number one selection in 2005, the two men have become the face of the new NHL, the down-to-earth all-Canadian boy against the flashy Russian sniper.
Both have multi-million dollar contracts, endorsement deals and trophy cases crammed with individual honours, including a Hart trophy as league MVP. But the one thing missing from both resumes is a Stanley Cup and a semi-final series win will move one player a step closer toward that goal.
“We have to try to keep our emotions and get ready for the next round,” said Ovechkin after the Capitals eliminated the New York Rangers on Tuesday.
Keeping his emotions in check has not always been easy for the fiery Russian.
The league’s leading goal scorer this season with 56, Ovechkin came under intense criticism for his over the top celebrations after each score.
In contrast, Crosby plays with the tough, blue-collar work ethic bred into Canadian hockey players and combines that drive with a magician’s skill.
While the spotlight will be focused on Crosby and Ovechkin, these two teams are far from one man shows.
The Penguins also feature Evgeni Malkin, the NHL’s scoring champion with 113 points while the Capitals counter with defenseman Mike Green, a Norris trophy candidate who led all blueliners with 31 goals.
But for all the marquee names in this semi-final the outcome may well hinge on a relative unknown, Capitals 21-year-old rookie Russian netminder Simeon Varlamov.
Replacing Jose Theodore in Game Two of their first round series with the Rangers, Varlamov notched his first two career shutouts leading the Capitals to their first postseason series win since reaching the Stanley Cup finals in 1998.
Editing by Alison Wildey
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