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2. Who would you pick first for a hockey game?

Depending on the outcome of a coin flip, either Eric Staal or Nicklas Lidstrom may have to answer the question that dominates hockey: Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin. Now, Crosby's concussion may make it moot, but if he's good to go, who should the All-Star captain who wins the coin flip pick first? PollCenter: Crosby and head injuries.

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With apologies to our Canadians friends (and their compatriots in Minnesota, Michigan and other places where plugging in your car at night doesn't mean you've gone electric), the NHL schedule would usually find itself relegated to the shadows on a night featuring a big NBA game (Spurs at Magic), a mildly compelling college football bowl game (San Diego State vs. Navy) and anything the NFL cares to offer (even Panthers at Steelers).

But the Penguins visiting the Capitals is not your typical NHL game.

Maybe the Capitals are just beginning to emerge from a recent seven-game losing streak, and maybe Alex Ovechkin isn't scoring goals this season, but is the NHL still the best show in town when these two teams meet?

Bernie (DC)

Pierre do you think this down period for the Caps will make them strong by the end of the season? Are do you see this as a symptom of bad things to come? (For Bruce B or GMGM)

Pierre LeBrun
Pierre LeBrun

Bernie, in chatting with GM GM during the worst streth of the skid, that's what he truly believed. That this adversity would really help them down the road. Full transcript

Candy (Washington)

When will Ovechkin score a goal??

Barry Melrose
Barry Melrose

That's the question of the year. I never thought I'd see Ovechkin go into January with under 15 goals. Obviously this has to change for Washington. The good news is the Caps and Ovechkin have played two good games in a row. Maybe Thursday night against Pittsburgh will be the jump start that Ovechkin needs. Full transcript

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The way the last year has gone for Alex Ovechkin, you can pretty much bet the farm that Sidney Crosby is going to hang a hat trick on Canadiens goalie Jaroslav Halak in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

First came last season's playoff series between the Capitals and Penguins, won by Crosby en route to hoisting the Stanley Cup. Then came the Olympics, where Ovechkin's hyped Russian team flamed out early and Crosby cemented his status as a national icon by scoring the gold-clinching goal in overtime. And now the first round, where Crosby totaled five goals and nine assists in six games to help the Penguins fend off the pesky Senators. And where Ovechkin could only watch as the Canadiens knocked off his top-seeded Capitals, leading one SportsNation commenter to put it succinctly.

But how bad was Ovechkin, really? He had five goals and five assists, meaning he played a part in almost half of the team's goals against Montreal. So who really deserves the blame?

shootthem14

I'd take Datsuk, Zetterberg, Malkin or Crosby over Ovie any day. IMHO Datsuk and Malkin were the two best players in the league last year. I'd say so far Datsuk and Crosby are the two best players this season.

-- ShootTheM14
tamaz71

Someone mentioned Ovechkin not having a great supporting cast ... Semin, a 40 goal scorer on the reg, turned into a ghost. Backstrom, before the series widely considered one of the best young centers in the game, disappeared when it counted. Jose Theodore won a lot of games this year. So did Varlamov. Wasn't Mike Green a Norris finalist? Isn't Mike Knuble the veteran locker room presence that every young team needs?

-- tamaz71
dcsteelfan

I don't understand how Crosby vs. Ovechkin was ever an arguement in the first place. I understand they both play different positions and people like big hits and flashy players, but Crosby takes faceoffs and wins a good percentage of the time, and Ovi doesn't. Crosby back-checks and plays defense, Ovi doesn't. And when Crosby decided to focus on his goal scoring last summer it only lead to him scoring the most goals in the NHL. Crosby does everything Ovechkin does plus more.

-- DCSteelFan

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The odds are with us, right? We've already had the lousy Game 7 -- and the Coyotes left no doubt about making sure their debacle at home against the Red Wings would snag that distinction. So surely, tonight's tilt in the (non-Canadian) national capital will provide the drama we've come to know and love from devisive playoff hockey games. Right? Pretty please? Just don't make us watch the Bucks and Hawks, that's all we ask.

In ESPN fantasy leagues this season, Ovechkin was the overall No. 1 pick in traditional drafts and went for an average of $72 (American, we assume) in auction drafts. Halak didn't register, putting him behind the likes of Ondrej Pavelec and Scott Clemmensen. But coming off 90 saves in the last two games, would you trade Halak for Ovechkin tonight?

Brian (Virginia Beach)

Who wins game 7 tonight Capitals or the hot Habs?

E.J. Hradek
E.J. Hradek

I still have to stay with Washington. They did get 54 shots on goal the other night. They will be on home ice. They've lost two games at home in this series, so it might not be that big of an advantage. They need to take the day-to-day with this group and try to catch their breath a little bit. Now is the time for calm and cool leadership. Bruce Boudreau, who's done outstanding with that team over the years, seems too on edge. That kind of stuff on the bench can impact the players in a negative way. I'm looking forward to it. It would be a monumental upset if Montreal can pull it off. In the Ovechkin era of playoff hockey, of their series that have gone seven games, they've won one and lost two. Full transcript

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The Flyers edged out the Rangers Sunday in a game between teams fighting for the final playoff position in the Eastern Conference, the back end of a home-and-home set that marked arguably the first and last instance of regular-season drama in the NHL. But after the marathon of often meaningless games, we're finally to the playoffs, where the handshake lines get long, the beards longer and the overtimes, if we're lucky, longest of all.

So is the NHL setting itself up for a marketing disaster?

The Olympics were great because we got the Canada-USA final everyone on this side of the Atlantic wanted. No matter how good a game it might have been, Finland-Czech Republic wouldn't have generated much buzz. So it is with the potential for a rematch between the Capitals and Penguins in the East.

On paper, Alex Ovechkin's top-seeded Caps and Sidney Crosby's fourth-seeded Penguins should meet in the second round ... except the NHL resets the pairings after each round of the playoffs, meaning even if the Penguins and Caps both win in the first round, they only meet in the second round if there are no other upsets. And at least for casual fans, Ovechkin vs. Crosby might be a bigger draw than even Lord Stanley's Cup. Pick winners.

Sam (State College)

Last year is over, and this pens team is not the same as last year. But am I the only one not freaking out? Obviously I would have loved my pens to beat nj/was, but the playoffs are a whole different story. I not saying the pens don't have concerns, but am I wrong for not jumping off a bridge like many others?

Pierre LeBrun
Pierre LeBrun

They have the knowledge of winning a championship and those Cup rings are very important. They bring calm and confidence to a dressing room come playoff time. But I still think Washington is the team to beat this year. Full transcript

Tim (Guam, Western Pacific Ocean)

Can the Caps actually adopt and play a defensive game come the playoffs? The scoring in buckets theory really isn't playoff hockey for most successful Cup teams.

Scott Burnside
Scott Burnside

Tim: Agreed that it's been a long time since a team played a run and gun style and won a Cup (okay, how about the Oilers anyone?), but I also think the Caps' defensive deficiencies have been a bit overstated. The first round will be a good barometer, I think, as they should cruise through whichever team they face, but it will give a good indication of whether they can tighten up when needed. I suspect they will. Full transcript

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