Monday, December 11, 2006

More Than Meets the Eye

To the outsider, tonight’s game is exactly what everyone is hyping – a game between Ovechkin and his Capitals, Crosby and his Penguins. Any conversation about the resurgence of both clubs since last year is still attributed to these two young stars with the occasional mention of the other breakout players on each roster (Malkin, Semin, etc.).

But to the diehard Caps fan and probably some Penguins fans as well, tonight’s game is less about the Ovie vs. Crosby matchup and more about the continuation of a long-standing rivalry.

Sure, we’ll argue with Penguins fans until our faces turn blue as to who has the more talented player (even though the answer, if I’m being honest, is neither, since they’re both phenomenally talented). They’ll throw Crosby’s point totals in our face, we’ll rub the Calder Trophy in theirs.

But it’s just another chapter, another facet of this rivalry that has spanned decades.

For whatever reason, the destiny of these two teams seems to be forever linked. They’ve gone through the highs and lows at roughly the same time; they’ve met in the playoffs over and over...and over; they’ve both done the salary dump; they’ve each drafted the hot young player who everyone is talking about. Even their farm teams are bitter division rivals in the hotly contested Eastern Division of the AHL.

You can talk about the old-time rivalries between all of the Patrick Division teams, which are certainly still strong, but nothing brings more joy to a Caps fan than a win over the hated Penguins...and nothing is more painful than a loss to them. Standings, playoff implications, divisional alignments – none of those things matter. It matters even less that neither team has a roster even closely resembling what they had the last time they met in the postseason.

Tonight, for the first time in a long time, these rivals will meet at a point when both are in the midst of successful seasons, separated by 3 points in an increasingly competitive Eastern Conference. As a lucky ticket-holder to tonight’s game, I’m hoping that all involved – Ovechkin, Semin, Crosby, Malkin, and everyone else – come with their best game and really put on a show. With this much talent between the two teams, this should be a game to remember (and if we're lucky, another notch in the win column for the Caps).

Because this game may not mean anything (yet), but to a Caps fan it means everything.

Glory, glory hallelujah - his truth is marching on...
Sorry. Couldn’t resist the appropriately cheesy ending for a cheesy post :)

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