For the first time this season, one of hockey’s greatest rivalries will be on full display as Sidney Crosby goes head-to-head with longtime foe Alex Ovechkin.
The Penguins and Capitals face off at 7:30 p.m. ET on Friday, in what is the 66th meeting in the regular season between the two superstars. It’s the first of three meetings in the 2023-24 regular season between the two Metropolitan Division rivals.
Ovechkin and Crosby were selected with the No. 1 picks in the 2004 and 2005 NHL Drafts, respectively, but both came into the league at the same time. It made for an immediate rivalry with the two seen as the future faces of the NHL. It also helped that their teams played in the same division.
Eighteen years later and the rivalry is still burning. Crosby and Ovechkin remain two of the league’s most elite players. Both the Penguins and Capitals come into this season after missing the 2023 playoffs, so there is most certainly some added motivation.
Here’s a closer look at where the debate stands between two of hockey’s greatest players.
(All stats current as of Oct. 10, 2023)
Sidney Crosby vs Alexander Ovechkin: Head-to-head stats
The two No. 1 picks have played against each other 65 times in their career during the regular season.
Crosby has missed seven matchups against the Capitals, while Ovi has been sidelined twice against the Penguins. Looking at the head-to-head records, Crosby and Pittsburgh hold the clear advantage. Not only does Pittsburgh own 12 more wins against the Capitals, Crosby has been the better player by a significant margin.
The Penguins superstar has 23 more points than Ovechkin in career head-to-head matchups, averaging 1.35 points per game in comparison to Ovi’s 0.984. While the Capitals star has three more goals, Crosby has dished out almost twice as many assists as Ovechkin has. Crosby has come clutch in those contests, with three game-winning goals in games against the Capitals.
|1.34||Points Per Game||0.968|
|11||Power Play Goals||16|
|24||Power Play Assists||12|
|35||Power Play Points||28|
Sidney Crosby vs Alexander Ovechkin: Head-to-head playoff stats
Since Crosby and Ovechkin entered the league, the Penguins and Capitals have met four times in the playoffs. The two have played every one of those games except for one. Crosby missed Game 4 of the playoff series in 2017 with a concussion but returned for Game 5.
The first three playoff series (2009, 2016, 2017) all swung the Penguins’ way, creating a narrative that Crosby and the Pens were the Achilles heel of Ovechkin and the Capitals. To rub it in more, Pittsburgh went on to win the Stanley Cup in all three of those postseasons.
However, Washington finally got the better of Pittsburgh in 2018, taking down Pittsburgh in the second round on the way to their Stanley Cup win.
|1.20||Points Per Game||1.32|
|5||Power Play Goals||3|
|4||Power Play Assists||9|
|9||Power Play Points||12|
Sidney Crosby vs Alexander Ovechkin: Regular season stats
Shifting towards the two’s entire career, it’s pretty neck-and-neck. Despite the fact that the two have racked up their points in opposite ways, only 18 points separate the two greats.
As expected, Ovechkin has the lead in goals by a large margin. He’s scored 271 more goals than his counterpart, however, Crosby owns 289 more assists.
What gives Crosby the edge is he’s kept up with Ovechkin despite playing less than 150 games than him. Crosby has dealt with injuries his entire career — he’s only played a full 82-game season twice and at least 80 games six times in 17 seasons. As a result, Crosby has a much higher points-per-game rate, recording 0.16 more points per game than Ovechkin.
|1.26||Points Per Game||1.10|
|162||Power Play Goals||299|
|375||Power Play Assists||254|
|537||Power Play Points||553|
|52.7%||Faceoff Win Percentage||34.4%|
Sidney Crosby vs Alexander Ovechkin: Regular season advanced stats
Let’s get a little nerdy, shall we?
Advanced stats have become a greater part of determining player’s values. Unfortunately, not all of them have been around for the entirety of Crosby and Ovechkin’s careers, so not all of them may be valid.
For example, expected goals for (xGF) and expected goals against (xGA) only began getting tracked in 2014-15, so that statistic is only good for the last eight seasons.
However, we can still use Corsi For and Fenwick For percentages, which are tools used to determine how often a team possesses the puck when that player is on the ice. PDO is used to figure out the team’s shooting percentage and save percentage when that player is on the ice and point shares is a value that is similar to baseball’s win shares, determining how much a player’s individual contributions affect a team’s success.
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There are a number of similarities in the two player’s analytics, but the one that stands out the most is Ovechkin’s point shares. It’s a lot higher than Crosby’s, which is surprising given how close the two are in points.
|59.9%||Corsi For %||60.6%|
|60.2%||Fenwick For %||60.2%|
Sidney Crosby vs Alexander Ovechkin: Playoff stats
Both Crosby and Ovechkin have quite a lot of playoff experience, but it’s the Penguins captain that has more points under his belt thanks to more games played.
After missing the postseason in his rookie season, Crosby and the Penguins have made the playoffs every season since. Crosby has participated in every one except for the 2010-11 postseason as he was sidelined with a concussion. The Penguins’ runs to the Stanley Cup have helped Crosby’s playoff point total, as 77 of Crosby’s 201 playoff points came in the Cup-winning seasons.
The Capitals did not qualify for the postseason in Ovechkin’s first two seasons but have been in every one since, except for 2013-14.
|1.12||Points Per Game||0.96|
|20||Power Play Goals||28|
|55||Power Play Assists||33|
|75||Power Play Points||61|
|51.7%||Faceoff Win Percentage||73.3%|
Sidney Crosby vs Alexander Ovechkin: Playoff advanced stats
Advanced stats haven’t been tracked for all of these two’s careers and may not have been tracked in the postseason. As a result, we’ll just use Corsi For %, Fenwick For % and PDO, which the two are as close as you can get in all three categories.
|60.9%||Corsi For %||62.1%|
|61.1%||Fenwick For %||61.6%|
Sidney Crosby vs Alexander Ovechkin: Accolades and awards
When it comes to the hardware, both sides have plenty of awards in their case.
Each owns multiple Hart Trophies and Ted Lindsay Awards, as well as having at least one Conn Smythe. Ovechkin has a large edge in Rocket Richards, but only Crosby has won the Art Ross. Both have multiple All-Star and NHL First All-Star Team selections. Ovechkin beat out Crosby in 2005-06 for the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year.
But when it comes to the biggest and ultimately most important trophies, Crosby has won three Stanley Cups to Ovechkin’s one, in addition to owning two Olympic gold medals to Ovechkin’s none. It’s hard to argue against championships and that’s something that Crosby has the edge in.
|2||Conn Smythe Trophies||1|
|3||Ted Lindsay Awards||3|
|2||Art Ross Trophies||0|
|2||Rocket Richard Trophies||9|
|4||NHL First All-Star Teams||8|
|2||Olympic gold medals||0|