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Vulgar Statistics: Crosby vs. Ovechkin

08/29/10
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Now if you’re any self-respecting Sabres fan, or you’ve watched the Versus network for more than thirty seconds in your life, the answer is obvious.  Ovechkin may literally be the toothless son of god himself, and Crosby is a giant sack of male body parts.  We’ll go with…vas deferens.

Now the cop-out, easy answer is that they have different styles of play at different positions and thus are somewhat incomparable.  Which is true.  Can I end the column here?  That wouldn’t be fun now, would it?

This debate came up on Sabres Junkie not long ago, and the responses were what you’d expect.  That Ovechkin is far superior to Crosby in terms of skill, playing ability, humanitarian efforts, and being a child under whatever deity you pray to when your favorite sports teams are losing.  Which, even if you don’t know much about hockey, is kind of ridiculous.  I mean Crosby has already been to the cup finals twice and gotten his name on the only piece of hardware that matters and he can’t even sprout legitimate facial hair yet.  (Seriously, it looks like someone naired a monkey).  Whether or not you think one is better and the other, it’s kind of foolish to say either is far superior.

Wait, what is the point of this column again?  Oh, right…

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There really isn’t a whole lot of difference.  In fact, it’s pretty much what you’d expect.  Ovechkin scores more goals because he takes more shots (because he’s that type of player), and Crosby tallies more assists because he passes more (because he’s that type of player), and the points just about even themselves out.

It’s probably also no surprise that while Ovechkin hits more and is seen as the more physical player, Crosby will block more shots which is more of a ‘team-friendly’ stat.  It’s no secret that Crosby’s team, though it isn’t evident in the regular season comparison, has enjoyed more overall success.  Make sure to take a look at that final column, giveaway to takeaway ratio.  What the number means is that for every one time they take the puck away from that opponent, they also give it away that many times, thus a lower number is better.

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So here’s what everyone really cares about, thus making the previous comentary irrelevant (but you read it anyways…yay!).  You have to take this a little bit with a grain of salt.  I think most people would agree that the majority of the times they’ve been in the playoffs, the Penguins have been the superior team (regardless of seeding) and thus have experienced more success regardless of Crosby’s contribution.

But it’s that last column that I thought was really illuminating.  Whereas Crosby’s decision making with the puck improves in the post-season, Ovechkin’s gets that much worse.  What does that mean?  (Warning Speculation Ahead!)  I think if you really want to oversimply things, Crosby is a Passer and Ovechkin is a Goal Scorer.  One of those lends itself to a certain selfishness and the other does not.  It would seem that heading into the playoffs, Crosby is more comfortable with and more trusting of his teammates and distributes the puck accordingly.  Meanwhile, Ovechkin is and always has been all about Alexander Ovechkin.  It shows in his demeanor on the ice, his extravagant celebrations and his behavior at the All-Star game a few years back.  And I’m not trying to paint this in a terribly negative light, every team needs selfish guys, but in the playoffs, Ovechkin seems to think the only way the Capitals can have success is through constant re-airings of The Alexander Ovechkin Show, and it’s evident in his elevated point totals, and at the same time, elevated giveaway totals.  I think if the Capitals should find themselves in a long playoff run, it will be when Ovechkin is having a “down” playoff season.

So, what’s the verdict?

If you asked me personally to name one above the other, I’d be taking Crosby.  Like I said, they’re both different animals, and both very talented hockey players.  I just think that in terms of all that each player can bring to the ice in a given season, Crosby can bring just a little bit more.  But they don’t play in Buffalo so I hate them both.

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