Since Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin first met against each other in the NHL in October of 2005, the league and the media have been hyping up their on the ice rivalry. Let’s take a look at how that rivalry has gone by the numbers throughout time.
Sidney Crosby, of course, has missed large stretches of time with multiple ailments across his entire body during his 14 seasons. Ovechkin on the other hand has been remarkably healthy enough to play the majority of games in his career and seemingly only misses one game per season via suspension for skipping the All Star Game. Surprisingly, Crosby has only missed seven out of the 59 games that Ovechkin has suited up against the Penguins. Not surprisingly, the Capitals are 5-0-2 in those seven games.
Looking at their head-to-head matchups big picture, Crosby and the Penguins have the advantage in the 52 games they’ve both played in going 31-19-2. The Capitals and Ovechkin have fared 21-25-6 in those games.
Crosby has totaled 26 goals, 48 assists, and 74 points in 52 games against the Capitals. He scored 15 even strength goals and 11 on the power play. Two of his goals were the game winner. He’s only recorded 18 PIM and is a -4 while averaging 21:29 minutes per game and 3.6 shots on goal per game against the Capitals.
Ovechkin has 30 goals, 21 assists, and 51 points in 52 games against Pittsburgh with Crosby in the lineup. He has 15 even strength goals and 14 on the power play, and also one short-handed goal. Surprisingly only one out of his 30 goals against Crosby was the game winner. He’s totaled 42 penalty minutes and is a +10 and averages 18:53 minutes per game and just over five shots on goal per game.
The two teams were similar in talent and expectations when both players began their careers in 2005, but Crosby has the clear advantage in their first 11 meetings in the first three seasons for the two as the Penguins made their surprise run for their first Stanley Cup attempt with Crosby in 2008:
As you can see above, Crosby and the Penguins went 10-1 to begin Crosby’s career against Washington. Crosby had seven goals and 12 assists to Ovechkin’s four goals and eight assists. Ovechkin was still a force and averaged over a point per game, but it was completely one-sided for the first three seasons in the win column.
But things make a drastic change in the 2008-09 season for Ovie as the Capitals begin to reach new heights with an explosive offensive under new head coach Bruce Boudreau.
Here you can see peak-Ovechkin. He potted 121 goals in two season (65+56) from 2007-09. Crosby was more than pulling his own weight in comparison, but Ovechkin and the Capitals got the results:
Both players were unstoppable on the ice during this 10 game stretch that the Capitals won eight of. The numbers they put up are staggering - Crosby had six goals and 10 assists and Ovechkin had 11 goals and five assists. But the Capitals had the Penguins number those few years as both of Crosby’s victories were decided in the shootout.
The date on that last game may have caught your eye. That was the infamous Winter Classic in 2011 when Crosby was blindsided by David Steckel and would miss the better part of two years of action with only a handful of games in between.
But Crosby and the Penguins played their best when Crosby was in the lineup after the 2011 Winter Classic, not losing a regular season game between Crosby and Ovechkin for over three calendar years thanks in large part to a lockout shortened season and Crosby only playing one game from the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day 2011 until February of 2013:
Crosby came back with a vengeance against the Capitals. He went scoreless in their first game since his concussion/neck injury, but then put up 15 points in his next seven games against Washington, including three three-point games. Ovechkin, during the same seven games, had three goals and two assists.
However, the game on December 27, 2014 was a turning point for Crosby and the Pens. Sid was 20-7-2 against Ovie going into that game and had only been held pointless in three of the 29 games he played in. He also recorded 18 multi-point efforts in those games. Crosby had accounted for 17 goals and 33 assists for 50 points in 29 games heading into that night. Since then Crosby has only recorded 24 points in 23 games.
The Penguins lost that game 3-0 and Crosby was -3 in the game. He was held pointless in three straight and only had one goal in the next six games against Washington including that shutout loss. Easily the worst stretch for Crosby statistically against Ovechkin in their rivalry:
The Capitals owned the Penguins during those six games. The Penguins were shut out three times and only scored one goal in the fourth loss. Not surprisingly, five out of those six games were under head coach Mike Johnston and the last game was Mike Sullivan’s first game as head coach of the Penguins on December 14, 2015.
Ovechkin did his usual damage during that time frame and scored four goals during those six games, including his one and only game-winning goal over Crosby in the Capitals 4-0 victory on January 28, 2015.
Of course the Penguins won the Stanley Cup that season in 2016 (and 2017!), and the Penguins and Capitals combined for three straight championships to showcase just how strong both teams were then and still were until the league pressed pause last month.
Since Mike Sullivan took over as head coach, the two teams have been almost identically mirroring each other in wins/losses. The Penguins dropped their first two games against the Capitals under Sullivan but then won their next two, lost the next two and then won the next two after that, etc. The two teams have gone 9-9 since Sullivan was named head coach.
Under Sullivan, Crosby has picked up his production again. Crosby has recorded points in all but four of the 18 games during Sullivan’s tenure. Sid has recorded multiple points in seven of the games and has eight goals and 15 assists since Sullivan has been calling the shots - totaling six goals and five assists in the last seven games:
Ovechkin’s production has slowed dramatically since Mike Sullivan became head coach in December, 2015. Ovie has eight goals and only five assists in the 18 games and hasn’t scored a regular season goal against Pittsburgh since November of 2018. His shots are down noticeably as well, averaging only 3.83 against Sullivan’s Penguins, a shot less than his career 4.81 average per game. What’s most shocking of all is that he was held shot-less in their latest meeting on March 7th for the first time in his career against Pittsburgh and only recorded one shot in the game prior.
Just because his numbers have taken a hit recently doesn’t mean Ovechkin is any less dangerous going forward. He’s still a one-man wrecking crew and the most feared shooter in the NHL. Even though he only had one shot on goal in his last two games against the Penguins, the Capitals won both games.
And that’s where the book has closed until further notice. They say you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. Well, there was never any doubt that these two were going to break records. Hockey fans around the world are all missing the chance to see these two at it once again.
But right now there are bigger concerns across planet Earth and the newest chapter in this saga will write itself before too long. At least we have 15 years to look back on to keep us occupied in the meantime.
There are still many more records and moments for both to achieve. The playoffs are another story. Unfortunately the NHL and the rest of the world are paused right now, possibly depriving us of another playoff matchup between the two. But there’s still plenty of chapters left in this epic story. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for Part III, which will go over the two in the playoffs where the biggest and brightest fireworks have taken place between these two legendary players.