The Ovechkin-Malkin Cold War

Later today, Adam Gretz and I will be posting a dialog about tonight's game between the Capitals and Penguins in Pittsburgh. It's a match that's been hotly anticipated for some time, fueled in large part by an interview that Washington's Alexander Semin gave to Puck Daddy where he had some choice observations about Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and his place in the promotion of the NHL.

Starting when Crosby and Ovechkin broke into the league a couple of years ago, these meetings have always been cast as a clash between the two, but the facts on the ground, or should I say the ice, have changed. If anything, it seems as if Ovechkin and Crosby respect each other as worthy opponents. But if you want real bad blood, look no further than the smoldering rivalry between Ovechkin and his countryman, Pittsburgh center Evgeni Malkin.

That was the topic of a story that was helpfully moved on the AP wire yesterday evening. While it went over a lot of old news, including reports that Ovechkin went after Malkin's agent a couple of years back, it was hard not to chuckle at the tone of the article. After all, rivalries are what we want to see in the NHL, and if Crosby and Ovechkin is turning out to be something of a disappointment, then I am more than happy to see the enmity between Ovechkin and Malkin take center stage.

Best of all, this rivalry wasn't manufactured by the league like Crosby/Ovechkin. Instead, it's born out of the fact that on the ice Ovechkin is all business and doesn't care who he runs down on his way to winning a Stanley Cup -- even if that happens to be his former roommate from the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino.

As for Malkin, who is only making his own case as the league's most valuable player from atop the league-wide points standings, at first he seemed genuinely taken aback by Ovechkin's physicality. But in subsequent clashes, it's become clear that Malkin has broken the code, and is more than capable of standing up for himself if and when push comes to shove with Ovechkin.

Given the current trajectory of both teams, I wouldn't be surprised to see things boil over tonight in Pittsburgh. With a win, the Penguins could get themselves back into playoff contention as they try to win back to back games for the first time in two months. Meanwhile, the Capitals arrive in Pittsburgh in the midst of a three-game losing streak. Given the stakes, I wouldn't be surprised to see things boil over between the two teams. If you're a hockey fan, tonight's game is the one match this week you don't want to miss.

The Ovechkin-Malkin Cold War originally appeared on NHL FanHouse on Wed, 14 Jan 2009 07:25:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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