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Mark Madden

Mark Madden: Projections help clear up Sidney Crosby-Alexander Ovechkin debate

| Tuesday, June 12, 2018, 6:12 p.m.
The Penguins' Sidney Crosby celebrates his goal past the Capitals' Alex Ovechkin in the second period during game 3 of round 2 Stanley Cup Playoffs Tuesday, May 1, 2018 at PPG Paints Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Sidney Crosby celebrates his goal past the Capitals' Alex Ovechkin in the second period during game 3 of round 2 Stanley Cup Playoffs Tuesday, May 1, 2018 at PPG Paints Arena.

Some media are again attempting to put Alex Ovechkin in the same class as Sidney Crosby. That's because Ovechkin is currently very visible as a Stanley Cup champion and playoff MVP after having a great postseason.

Ovechkin knows how to party, too.

But Crosby has two more Cups than Ovechkin and one more playoff MVP. Ovechkin is a better goal-scorer. Crosby is better at everything else, including productive physicality. Ovechkin plays wing. Crosby plays center, a position which carries far more responsibility and significance. Crosby excels at playmaking, defense and working down low. Ovechkin dabbles.

Ovechkin vs. Evgeni Malkin is a more valid comparison. Malkin's body of work gets the nod, for many of the same reasons that Crosby's does.

But Crosby, Malkin and Ovechkin aren't done playing.

If all three maintain some semblance of their usual production for several more seasons, the perception of Ovechkin would certainly surpass Malkin and perhaps even Crosby.

That's because goals are hockey's most valuable currency, even more so in an era when it's tougher than ever to score.

Ovechkin has 607 regular-season goals. It's easy to envision him topping 800. Scoring 802 puts him second all-time to Wayne Gretzky.

Who would argue with 802 goals? It's one heck of a highlight reel.

Statistically, points are Crosby's bread and butter. He's got 1,116. It's easy to envision him topping 1,700, which puts him in the top 10.

At that point, it's Ovechkin's 802 goals (second all-time) against Crosby's 1,700 points (top 10). Like I said, goals are a valuable currency.

Crosby could top 1,800 points. That puts him top five. For the purposes of this debate, that's a recommended insurance policy. Getting 1,851 points would pass Gordie Howe. That's a useful headline.

Perception-wise, Crosby has other things going for him. He's Canadian. He's also not Russian. (I don't make the rules. I just identify them.)

Some push Crosby's points-per-game advantage. Crosby is at 1.292, Malkin 1.186, Ovechkin 1.119.

What means more, raw numbers or per-game averages? Crosby and Ovechkin started their careers in 2005, Malkin in 2006. Ovechkin has played 219 more games than Malkin, 139 more than Crosby.

Does Ovechkin's relative durability diminish the numbers he put on the scoreboard? Isn't that the agenda of the per-game argument?

Crosby's biggest edge is having won two more Cups.

He has also won two Olympic gold medals and one World Cup of Hockey. Ovechkin has none of the above.

If Crosby's edge in Cups remains at 3-1, he will almost certainly be thought of as better than Ovechkin in perpetuity.

If Crosby wins a fourth Cup, his superiority will be further cemented.

If Ovechkin wins another Cup and gets to 802 goals, the issue will be further clouded.

Like Gretzky vs. Mario Lemieux, it will be debated forever.

Why can't Ovechkin just be considered the best scorer and Crosby the best all-around player? Why does one have to be declared better?

Because I do a radio talk show, that's why.

Crosby and Ovechkin will each be recognized as one of the top 10 players ever, perhaps even top five.

Ovechkin will be remembered as being better than Malkin, BTW. As the greatest Russian NHLer. That's a lock. Malkin is the sacrificial lamb in this argument.

Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).

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