PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (29-25-6) vs WASHINGTON CAPITALS (37-17-5)
VERIZON CENTER IN WASHINGTON, D.C. @ 12:30
Penguins/Capitals; it's Evgeni Malkin vs. Alex Ovechkin vs. Sidney Crosby. The NHL's three best and brighest offensive stars, all jockeying for the scoring title and the unofficial designation of being the #1 player in the game.
It's more than just bragging rights, it's a crucial game. For Pittsburgh, 2-0-1 under interim coach Dan Byslma, it's a chance to claw closer still into the playoff picture. For Washington, secure in their positioning at the top of the South-leastern Division, it's a chance to keep a hated rival down. And don't think they don't want to do that.
The Caps have long been the "little brother" to the Penguins. The inferiority complex begins with the playoff history; Pittsburgh's won six of the seven meetings, but continues to this day. Washington has been one year behind the Penguins in the most recent rebuild: Pittsburgh made the playoffs in 2006-07 (Washington in 07-08), the Pens made it to the Cup finals in 07-08 (unknown of course what the Caps can do this year).
Alex Semin caused controversy by saying (or being misinterpreted into saying) that he didn't see what was so special about Sidney Crosby, and that he preferred Patrick Kane as a more skilled player. Semin must be a hard man to impress, after all he's had a front row seat into seeing Crosby's phenomenal numbers against Washington; Sid has 23 points [7 goals, 16 assists] in 13 career games. Semin's petulance just adds to the little brother factor, even if he did privately call Crosby and clear the air with him about the comments.
Of course, hockey is a team sport and Crosby's individual performance won't mean much if the Penguins don't tighten up; in the last meeting in January, the Caps scored six goals (one into an empty net) on 41 shots, and the Pens also paraded six times to the penalty box. They'll have to buckle down and limit opportunities to have their first three game winning streak since November.
Little brother is growing up fast.
So have at it in the thread, my peeps!