The year was 2009 and NHL fans were treated to one of the most anticipated playoff matchups in league history. Penguins vs. Capitals. Sid vs. Ovie. This was huge. You have the two best players in the league, each with unbelievable talent around them going head to head for the first time. The league had constantly marketed the Crosby, Ovechkin rivalry and here it was, about to live out. The series lived up to the hype and more. It went the distance all the way to 7 games with the winner moving on to the conference finals. 5 games were decided by only a single goal, 3 games had to go to overtime. Game 2 was a hockey fans dream come true, Crosby and Ovechkin traded hat tricks in a game the Caps ultimately won. So often we want to see superstars duel and a lot of the time it fails to reach what we have created in our imagination. This exceeded it.
As amazing as that series was the dream of these two great franchises battling for years to come seemed to fade away to the dominance of teams like the Blackhawks and Kings. That is, until now. The Capitals have completed a regular season for the ages, one of the best in league history. Ovechkin hit 50 goals yet again to lead the league, a young Egengy Kuznetsov has taken the NHL by storm and the Caps have that one piece that always eluded them, a goaltender. And they have a good one… maybe even the best in Braden Hotly who tied the record for the most wins in a single season.
Meanwhile the Penguins put together a special season of their own. What started out dismally turned around after a mid-season coaching change. Crosby became his old self, and started scoring at a league leading pace, Letang reclaimed his magic as arguably the best offensive D-man in the game and the Penguins just steam rolled teams on their way to the playoffs.
Each team won their first round matchup and that leaves us here. Game 1 of the series was met with high anticipation. After seven years and another almost unfair level of hype to live up to, the game was spectacular. Skill on the highest level of display and of course in classic fashion, the game ended up going to overtime. This time it was TJ Oshie’s turn to play hero as he scored his third goal of the game to give the Capitals a 1-0 series edge. He was just a rookie with St. Louis the first time the Penguins and the Capitals met in the playoffs. But this time around he’s looking to play a big role in this series and put the Capitals on the winning side of history.
This series is shaping up to be special yet again. Here’s hoping we get to 6 more games of this.