The speed—and apparent ease —with which Alexander Ovechkin has placed himself at the top of the NHL pecking order is bewildering. And there can be no argument that he is at the top: When Alex is hitting on all "eight" cylinders, there is no other player in the league who is his equal. It's that simple, really.
Now, there are any number of Penguins fans who are, no doubt, screaming for a penalty as they read this. Fair enough. Keep screaming. The ref has made his call, and Crosby's going to the box.
Simply put, Crosby's devotion to the game—his trademark "attribute," if you will—isn't something which is out of reach for a guy like Ovechkin. Just because Crosby is unusually driven, doesn't mean that he is the only player capable of driving himself to such an extent. Improving on one's game simply requires dedication and discipline. And this is what will likely separate these two players as their careers progress:
Because Crosby, for all of his devotion to the game, can never hope to play Ovechkin's game.
Alex Ovechkin is a revolutionary player; a generational anomaly. Such players come into this league very infrequently. Think Orr. Think Gretzky. Think Lemieux.
And even though Crosby is—obviously —talented, there is nothing about his physical game which is particularly unique: From Patrick Kane to Steven Stamkos, there are any number of young players who possess a comparable level of skill.
Naturally, this skill won't always translate into Crosby-like numbers; but it does puts such numbers within reach. In theory, all that would be required is a dose of Crosby's devotion. And while this is certainly a tall order for most young guys, it isn't out of the question.
Ovechkin, by comparison, is physically in a league of his own. Nobody in the league—in the world , really—plays the game the way he does. His approach to the game is one which is virtually impossible to duplicate.
There is nobody in the NHL whom Ovechkin will take by surprise this year. Everyone has seen his highlight reels. And yet, nobody whom Ovechkin faces will know quite what to expect from him.
Ovechkin forces one to expect the unexpected.
Any number of ridiculously improbable possibilities seem well within Ovechkin's grasp. And attempting to account for all of these possibilities, on-the-fly, in real-time, while Ovechkin bears down on the net, is decidedly a losing proposition.
One which also happens to be very well-documented.
It is no secret that Crosby and Ovechkin are polar opposites. They conduct themselves very differently in their spare time. As noted, Crosby is devoted to the game. He admits to discussing the finer points of the game with none other than Mario Lemieux. Ovechkin, on the other hand, really enjoys his time away from the rink. He is very much a celebrity, and loving every minute of it.
Even so, these two have consistently posted similar numbers over the course of their burgeoning "rivalry." Ovechkin's numbers come primarily by way of physical ability; Crosby finds his at the point where talent and devotion converge. No problems there--different strokes for different folks, right?
But what happens when Ovechkin misses out on the Cup another time, or two? What happens when he decides that it is time for him to get serious ? In short: What happens when Ovechkin begins to apply a measure of Crosby's approach to his own game?
Expletives are all that come to mind. Endless, rowdy strings of the choicest expletives.
Only time will tell, but one gets the feeling that Ovechkin has the ability to transcend the game in a way that Crosby never will. [Expletive Deleted]!!!