Which player will ultimately have the better season: Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin?
Emily Kaplan: All signs pointed to Alex Ovechkin experiencing a decline this season. His ice time was shaved to a career-low average of 18:22 last season, which led to one of his lowest career totals for shots (313). He was demoted to the third line by the playoffs (while battling injuries), and management had hinted the 32-year-old needed to change with the times. (As GM Brian MacLellan said in May: Ovechkin is “going to need to think of ways he can evolve into a player that still has a major impact on the game.”) So consider me surprised when Ovechkin shows up this season with disregard to all of that, looking like it’s 2015 all over again, and leading the league in goal scoring with eight in four games. The question, to me, now becomes: Can Ovechkin maintain this pace? Sure, he looks fabulous in October, but what about when we’re slogging through January? He’s more of a boom-or-bust guy, while Sidney Crosby, as long as he’s healthy, is consistent. In the end, I think Crosby has the better cast around him and he’s a safer bet. But let Ovechkin make me feel dumb and score 20 hat tricks this season. At this point, nothing would surprise me with him.
Ben Arledge: I think the answer to this question depends on how we define “the better season.” Ovechkin is probably going to outscore Crosby. I mean, he’s scoring at a pace of two goals per game through four games, and he has seven seasons in which he has scored at least 0.6 goals per game. It might sound crazy, but 60-65 isn’t out of the question for him this season, a mark he hasn’t reached in 10 years and has been reached only once since (Steven Stamkos, 60 in 2011-12). It has been incredible to see Ovechkin’s production through the Capitals’ opening four games, and I think he will outscore Crosby and post a better statistical season. However, Crosby is still the better all-around player, and if you look at the season as a whole, he will have a bigger impact on his team’s success. Despite Ovi’s eight goals, he hasn’t registered a single assist. Crosby has five already and simply makes his linemates better, similar to what we have seen Connor McDavid do with the Edmonton Oilers. Oh, and Crosby is no scoring slouch, either. He scored 44 goals last season, and could break the 35-goal mark again this season. It will just come down to whether he can stay healthy.