Thursday, April 28, 2016

Mercer's double in 12th lifts Pirates over Rockies 9-8

By Michael Kelly
April 28, 2016
Mercer's double in 12th lifts Pirates over Rockies 9-8
Pittsburgh Pirates' Andrew McCutchen, front, hits a double on a pitch from Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Jon Gray during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, April 27, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

DENVER (AP) -- Jordy Mercer's defense helped get the game to extra innings and his offense put Pittsburgh over the top.

Pitching Details

Mercer hit a tiebreaking RBI double in the 12th inning, and the Pirates continued their mastery of the Colorado Rockies with a 9-8 marathon win Wednesday night.
It was the second time in four games the Pirates won in extra innings after blowing a late lead. They rallied to beat Arizona on Sunday before pulling out Wednesday's game for their fourth straight win.
''We keep playing,'' manager Clint Hurdle said. ''We play with emotion, not emotionally.''
Kyle Lobstein (2-0) tossed three scoreless innings and Mark Melancon pitched the bottom of the 12th for his fifth save for Pittsburgh, which has won eight straight in Denver.
The Pirates last lost at Coors Field on July 27, 2014.
They were able to keep the streak going with some key plays from Mercer. After the Rockies loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth, he threw out Nick Hundley at third when Cristhian Adames' grounder up the middle went off second baseman Josh Harrison.
''I did see Nick take a step back at second so I knew we had a shot at third,'' Mercer said. ''I just picked up the ball and threw to third. It worked out.''
He followed that with his winning hit in the 12th.
Gregory Polanco homered in the seventh inning and also drew an eight-pitch walk off Carlos Estevez (0-1) before Mercer's double. Mercer ripped his drive to right-center to plate the winning run in a game that took 4 hours, 58 minutes.
''A lot of times you get into extra innings you want to pop one out of the park or do something crazy, I just wanted to get something to drive and I was able to hit it up the middle,'' Mercer said.
Trevor Story and Nolan Arenado each hit their ninth homers of the season as part of Colorado's four-homer night. Mark Reynolds and Gerardo Parra also went deep for the Rockies, who have lost five straight.
''We've lost some tough ones. But sometimes that's the price you pay for fighting your way back into games, and you end up getting your heart broken because you keep competing,'' Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. ''That was one of those nights.''
Rockies starter Jon Gray allowed six runs on nine hits in his second start since coming off the 15-day disabled list.
Pittsburgh starter Jonathon Niese cruised through the first three innings before Colorado rallied. Story and Arenado hit solo home runs in the four-run fourth, and Niese left after loading the bases with no outs in the sixth.
Polanco's deep drive to left gave the Pirates an 8-5 lead.
Pirates: INF Jung Ho Kang (left knee) was in the lineup for Triple-A Indianapolis on Wednesday. It is the second time Kang has played in back-to-back games since starting his rehab assignment April 17. He is expected to be out until at least early May.
Rockies: LHP Jorge De La Rosa was placed on the 15-day DL with a left groin strain, and Colorado recalled RHP Eddie Butler from Triple-A. The move comes a day after De La Rosa allowed four runs in three innings against the Pirates. ... OF Charlie Blackmon (turf toe) went 1 for 4 in a rehab assignment for Class A Modesto on Wednesday.
Mercer's double in the 12th meant that every starting position player in the game had at least one hit.
Gray's quick exit was due in part to his high pitch count. The rookie needed 96 pitches to get through 3 2/3 innings, and 23 of those were foul balls. The Pirates were locked in with two strikes, fouling off 12 of those offerings.
''I feel like attacked everything I was supposed to tonight,'' Gray said. ''That was the game plan, I feel like I did it. But the results didn't match up.''
The Colorado Rockies postponed Thursday's scheduled Weather and Science Day at Coors Field due to ... weather. The interactive event - put on by the Rockies, Colorado State University and the local NBC affiliate - will now be held May 11.
Pirates: RHP Juan Nicasio (2-2) will make his second start against his former team. Nicasio, who was with the Rockies from 2011-14, is 0-0 with a 2.70 ERA in six appearances against Colorado
Rockies: RHP Tyler Chatwood (2-2) lasted just four innings in his last outing, a loss to the Dodgers on Saturday.

Beating Penguins would purge many of Capitals’ playoff demons

By Thom Loverro
April 26, 2016

There is a lot more at stake here for everyone in the Eastern Conference semifinal between the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins than just a second-round Stanley Cup Playoffs series.

The culture of the Capitals is at stake here. The culture of sports in the city of Washington is at stake.

That’s all.
If history is a word that Capitals players hate to hear, they couldn’t have drawn a worse opponent in this series than the Penguins — the rival that most defines the pain of postseason failure that haunts the franchise. Washington has faced Pittsburgh eight times in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and has lost seven of them — mostly painful, gut-wrenching losses.
It began in 1991, when the Capitals lost in five games to the Penguins in the Patrick Division Finals on the way to Pittsburgh’s first of three Stanley Cup championships. Then came the 3-1 series lead the Capitalsblew against the Penguins in the following year. Two years later, Washington would win its only playoff series against Pittsburgh, 4-2, in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
After that, it has been a series of either beatdowns or heartbreaks at the hands of the Penguins: Letting another 3-1 series lead fade in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals in 1995; a 2-0 lead blown in 1996; defeats in 2000 and 2001; and, in 2009, losing in seven games after taking a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals — the only chapter in this hockey tragedy that Alex Ovechkin has been part of.
There have been other playoff collapses that are part of the history of the Capitals, but none represents agonizing history of postseason failure than the Penguins. They are the New York Yankees to the Boston Red Sox — not as long a list of tormenting losses, but still representing the same symbol of frustration for this franchise, its fans and the city.
That’s why winning this series would mean so much to so many people — far more than simply an Eastern Conference semifinal series win.
“You can change the whole culture by beating these guys,” said Kevin Millar, co-host of “International Talk” on MLB Network and a first baseman for the Red Sox in 2004, when they rallied from a 3-0 deficit in the American League Championship Series to defeat the Yankees, win the World Series and end 86 years of pain for a franchise, its fans, and its city.
“As a player, you can’t let the history affect you,” Millar said. “You can’t let what has happened in the past affect your perspective as a player.
“Now the city, the people who have been there in the organization for a long time, that’s different. They are going to be affected that what has happened before. But, you have a chance to change that. You can change the whole culture by beating these guys. The pressure comes off you.”
Now, part of that culture change in Boston included going on to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals in four games to finally win the World Series. Still, the weight had been lifted by burying the Yankees, who beat the Red Sox in Game 7 of the ALCS the year before on Aaron Boone’s walk-off home run.
A Stanley Cup would obviously change everything for the Capitals, but winning this series — and burying the Penguins — would lift the weight on the shoulders of the organization, its fans and the city.
It would go a long way to changing the culture of the expectation of loss.
Fans have been beaten down to expect the worst. The Flyers, a team that shouldn’t even wear the same skates as the Capitals, put the city on edge after winning two games once Washington took a 3-0 lead in the series.
The Flyers would have had to have beaten the Capitals — the best team in the NHL this year, winners of the Presidents’ Trophy — in four consecutive games to have won that series. Yet, the fear was there.
It’s what we have come to expect. We see the Redskins sign Josh Norman and we see Albert Haynesworth. We see a closer enter a Nationals postseason game and we expect a blown save.
The Wizards? Name your expectation of failure.
A win over Pittsburgh would represent a different outcome. It wouldn’t be a Stanley Cup, but for a team that hasn’t reached the Eastern Conference Final since 1998 — never in the Ovechkin era — and a coach in Barry Trotz who in has never made it there as well in nine playoff runs, a series win over the Penguins would change something.
It would change expectations.
SEE ALSO: Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik stabilize Capitals defense after years of turnover

Second round breakdown: Penguins vs. Capitals

  • By Brian Metzer Times NHL Correspondent

April 28, 2016
The news spread like an electric current throughout the NHL on Sunday afternoon when it became clear that he Washington Capitals would beat the Philadelphia Flyers. That victory secured a berth in the second round and a matchup with the Penguins.
That in and of itself would have been exciting for all involved, but it became even more so after considering all of the individual matchups or more specifically, the matchup — Sidney Crosby versus Alex Ovechkin.
Two of the NHL’s brightest stars locking horns in a Stanley Cup Playoff series for just the second time in their storied careers is exciting stuff. NBC is probably salivating as it devises a plan for marketing and spinning the entire thing.
It is the perfect way to reinvigorate a rivalry that had grown a bit cold in recent years. You could say it reached a fever pitch when they met in 2009, the Penguins won that one en route to winning the Stanley Cup that season, and it hasn’t been the same since.
The storylines never faded, but the heat between the duo seemed to. There were ups and downs on both sides since then, including injuries, coaching changes and plenty of playoff failures. Stir in the fact that the Penguins and Capitals hadn’t met in a game that carried anything heavier than the weight of two points in seven years and the matchup started to lack sizzle.
The interesting thing about this series is that it is so much more than Crosby and Ovechkin. There are a number of dynamic talents on each side, strong goaltenders and dangerous special teams units.
All of it makes for what might be the crown jewel of the second round. Here is a look at Crosby, Ovechkin and some other specifics ahead of Game 1.
2015-16 Head-to-Head Record:
Penguins won season series 3-2-0.
All-Time Head-to-Head Record – Playoffs
The teams have met eight times in the postseason, with the Penguins going 7-1 over that span. That includes an epic battle in 2009.
The Penguins won in seven games, saw six of them decided by one goal and three that needed overtime. Ovechkin had 14 points in the series and Crosby 13 and each player picked up eight goals. They each scored hat tricks during Game 2, and the series still is lauded as one of the best over the last decade.
Key Injuries:
Penguins: Kevin Porter – Injured Reserve – Ankle Surgery, Scott Wilson – Injured Reserve – Lower-body-injury, Marc-Andre Fleury – day-to-day – Concussion, Beau Bennett – day-to-day – Undisclosed.
Capitals: Brooks Orpik – Upper-body injury – Day-to-day
The Penguins’ depth may be their best asset in the series. They used it to dispatch the Rangers far easier than anyone might have expected, and it will play a huge role if they end up beating the Washington Capitals.
That depth was no more evident than in the fact that they got significant contributions from all four lines. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin led the way, combining for five goals and 20 points against the Rangers, which helped them average a league-high 4.2 goals per game.
They got goals from 11 different players and points from 16. The third line of Nick Bonino, Phil Kessel and Carl Hagelin rolled up four goals and 12 points, while the fourth line featuring Matt Cullen, Bryan Rust and Tom Kuhnhackl combined for four goals and nine points.
These Penguins also have thrived on special teams, scoring at least one power-play goal in all five of their opening round games against the Rangers, while their penalty kill allowed just two goals against. That unit also scored one short-handed goal.
Their speed also is a significant factor and it seemed to give the Capitals fits during their final two regular season meetings, both Penguins victories.
Goaltender Braden Holtby is capable of single-handedly winning a game for his team, and he showed that by posting a 0.84 goals-against average and .968 save percentage in Round 1. He's the kind of masked man who can bail his team out of a jam if they're getting outplayed and make them look even better when their at their best.
Then there are the Capitals’ special teams, which shined during their first-round victory over the Flyers.
They scored eight power-play goals against the Flyers, but got zero over the final three games of the series. That doesn’t make it any less dangerous. It is capable of changing the dynamic of any game, as it did in Game 3 against the Flyers, where it scored on 5 of 9 chances.
Their penalty kill limited the Flyers to just one goal on 23 opportunities, including a big kill on a 1:55 minutes long two-man-advantage during the clinching game on Sunday.
The Capitals also have something they didn’t have in 2009, a deep stable of blue liners to mesh with Alex Ovechkin and company. Even with former Penguin Brooks Orpik, who has shouldered a large leadership role, out dealing with an injury, they still have former Penguin Matt Niskanen and John Carlson who are capable of logging big minutes. Youngsters Dmitry Orlov and Nate Schmidt will have to show they can handle the tenacious forecheck of the Penguins, but they have fared well through one round.
The Penguins are relying on a number of young players. Forward Bryan Rust, Conor Sheary, Tom Kuhnhackl and goaltender Matt Murray shined down the stretch and through the first round, but could they falter?
It could happen. The bright lights of the Stanley Cup Playoffs get even brighter the further along you go in the bracket, and everything ramps up. The hitting, the speed, and the media attention increase exponentially and so does the pressure.
Can the kids continue to pull their weight? Time will tell. A fall off would allow the Capitals to focus on Crosby and Malkin, limiting their offensive output. If they break Matt Murray, the Penguins would be forced to turn back to Jeff Zatkoff, whose lateral ability could be exploited.
The Capitals scored just twice over their final three games against the Flyers. A key strength for them, the power play, also was held without a goal over that span. Though they were the highest scoring team in the league, it wouldn’t be unprecedented to see a team’s offense dry up at the absolute worst time of the season.
It has happened to them before. They, like the Penguins, were beaten by a hot goaltender named Jaroslav Halak in 2010.
Also, the Capitals' ability to score at even strength could be an issue. They scored just six 5-on-5 goals during the first round, second only to the Flyers, who scored three. That is tough to fathom, considering that they scored the second most regular season even strength goals (166). That could be their undoing if the Penguins penalty kill limits their power play production.
This space was occupied by Matt Cullen heading into Round 1, and he proved to be just that, scoring two game-winning goals. That is the kind of thing players like Cullen do. Even at 39 years old, he again is the Penguins’ wild card heading into this series with the Capitals. He uncharacteristically won just 48.4 percent of his faceoffs against the Rangers but was still effective in limiting chances against. He’ll likely spend time matched up against one of Nick Backstrom or Evgeni Kuznetsov and how he fares will key winning or losing.
Kuznetsov broke out during his second full NHL season and finished ninth in the leagues’ scoring race with 20 goals, 57 assists and 77 points. He picked up 18 points on the power play and ranked among the Capitals most valuable players. Those numbers had many raising and eyebrow when he scored just once in the first round and failed to register an assist after rolling up the most at even-strength (44) and fourth most overall. He’s a very talented offensive player and will have to shine if the Capitals are to get by the Penguins.
The Penguins depth and speed proved to be too much for the Capitals in their final two regular season meetings. That will be the case here and the Penguins again will keep the Capitals (last appearance 1998) from advancing to the Eastern Conference Final, winning the series in six games.

Sullivan just what Penguins needed

April 27, 2016

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan instructs his players during practice Wednesday, April 20, 2016, at Madison Square Garden.
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan instructs his players during practice Wednesday, April 20, 2016, at Madison Square Garden.

A couple of weeks ago, Mike Sullivan sensed something was bothering the Penguins' most gifted player.
“It was a tough time,” Evgeni Malkin said of the days leading to his return from an elbow injury that sidelined him for about a month. “The team was winning, and some media (said), ‘They can win without Malkin.' ”
From inside his office at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, Sullivan delivered a direct message to Malkin. It was, as Malkin described, “good to hear.”
“He said, ‘You're an important player,' ” Malkin said. “ ‘Don't listen to the media.' ”
Don't look into the spotlight's glow during a second-round Stanley Cup showdown between the Penguins and Washington Capitals. You'll find the likes of Malkin and the teams' respective captains, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin.
You won't find the man who has had the most impressive four months of anybody anywhere in the hockey world.
That man is Sullivan.
And, man, was he the right guy to coach the Penguins.
It didn't look that way after Game 2 of the first round. Sullivan mangled Malkin's return to the lineup, mixing up the Penguins by making a mess of the lines.
In Game 3, however, Sullivan was masterful and gutsy. He handed an even best-of-seven series to a rookie goalie on the road. He flipped his franchise centers' left wingers. He adjusted against the New York Rangers' two-man forecheck by having Penguins defensemen chip pucks into the neutral zone.
He also benched Malkin for the final five minutes.
A day later, during a video review session, Sullivan brought Malkin's defensive mistakes in Game 3 to every player's attention. Later in the day, he publicly suggested some Penguins players did not need to try to do so much and instead play more responsibly.
Earlier this week, Malkin confessed Sullivan had delivered that same message to him after the video session. My guess was that the conversation hadn't gone as well as the one between Sullivan and Malkin before Game 2.
“No, it was good, too,” Malkin said. “Mike was nice. He always is.
“He never pressures you. It's never: ‘You're a bad player.' It's always support.
“In video, he shows you mistakes. But everyone sees mistakes. Me, Sid ... Mike shows everyone you can be better.”
Malkin scored two goals and recorded three assists in the Penguins' dominating victories in Games 4 and 5 that closed out the Rangers. After Game 5, Sullivan approached Malkin in the dressing room at Consol Energy Center.
“ ‘You played good,' ” Malkin said Sullivan told him. “ ‘You played your game good. And you see? You played, and we won.' ”
In ousting the Rangers, the Penguins proved they aren't what they've too often been in the postseason.
They're confident, not cocky. They're poised, not a pendulum. They're fast, not slow. They're a deep team, not overly reliant on a few superstars.
And those superstars are all in.
The Penguins coach has made sure of that.
“Everybody has the same choice,” defenseman Kris Letang said. “Your choice is to be part of the team.
“Mike is what he is. He's intense. He's passionate. What he brings to the table are those things. What he wants is for us to make the right decisions.”
The right decisions are not always easy for a coach to make, and Sullivan speaks from experience. As coach of his home-state Boston Bruins, he cut former college roommate (and best friend) Shawn McEachern a dozen years ago.
McEachern never again played in the NHL. Fired a few months later, Sullivan would wait a long time to get another shot behind an NHL bench.
When he was tabbed to replace Mike Johnston in December, Sullivan anticipated needing to win over the Penguins' nucleus of high-profile players. To that group, which already included Malkin, Crosby and Letang, general manager Jim Rutherford had added winger Phil Kessel over the summer.
It would not have been a surprise if Sullivan and Kessel had clashed early on. I was convinced Kessel lacked the physicality (if not willingness to play in the hard areas) to be a “Sully guy.” One had to wonder if Sullivan had been sending a message the many times he noted Kessel as being “effective when playing near the dots” in the offensive zone.
After Round 1, during which Kessel scored three goals and recorded as many assists, it was no surprise Sullivan supported his resurgent star winger. Coaches say nice things after series victories.
What was shocking was that Sullivan sympathized with Kessel.
“I don't think Phil gets enough credit for the adjustment process he's been through,” Sullivan said. “He's in a new setting. His role is different. There are expectations. He's played with several center men. It's not been easy for him.
“It's also not something he allowed to get the better of him. And he's worked to become an important guy for our team.”
There have been no shortage of important guys for the Penguins this postseason. However, nobody has been more important than Sullivan.
He's much more than an impressive tactician. He's a master orator, a skilled communicator who can connect with the Face of the Franchise as easily as he does a faceless member of the Black Aces practice squad. He pulls no punches, keeps sentences short and has developed a sense of “buy-in,” as defenseman Ian Cole described it, from stars to role players.
There was a time — like four months ago — when it appeared the Penguins wouldn't win again because their best players were uncoachable. The franchise looked lost in a fog of marketing, messaging and mismanagement.
I didn't count on Mike Sullivan, underestimating that his “open communication” could transform the Penguins.
It turned them back into a hockey team. Not just any hockey team, either.
With Sullivan, the Penguins are the hockey team that can upset the best team from the NHL's regular season.
Rob Rossi is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter@RobRossi_Trib.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Battle of Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby will be about winning, not individual stats

Scott BurnsideESPN Senior Writer 27, 2016
Surely, after all this time, we're past describing this as a schoolyard battle over which kid is toughest or coolest or best.
Surely, after all of the hardware and all of the successes and, yes, disappointments and nagging doubts, this second-round Stanley Cup playoffs series between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins -- which starts at 8 p.m. ET Thursday at the Verizon Center in Washington -- is far richer than the simple narrative of who's better, Alex Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby.
"This is a big deal for the fans and media, but at this point in their careers it's not about who's better. It's about who wins," one NHL scout and former player told me.
Back in the day -- say, in 2009 when the two superstars met for the first and, until now, only time in the playoffs -- it might have been more about them, about their place on their teams, about their place in the pantheon of the game.
Maybe it might have mattered to the two faces of the league in that kind of comic book, mano a mano fashion.
But that was seven years ago, an eternity in the NHL. If an NHL career for a good-to-great player is 15 years, that was half a career ago. And as often as their careers have intersected, crossed and sometimes collided, in many ways Ovechkin and Crosby, apart from being very different players, have traveled very different paths.
In the aftermath of that seven-game victory by the Penguins in 2009, Crosby would a few weeks later hoist the Stanley Cup after the Penguins defeated theDetroit Red Wings in another seven-game set. He would win a gold medal at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver the following winter, scoring the overtime winner in the gold-medal game. Another gold medal would follow four years later in Sochi, Russia.
Crosby would also suffer a concussion against Ovechkin's Capitals on New Year's Day 2011 and miss months of hockey.
Starting in the spring of 2010, Crosby's Penguins would lose five straight playoff series to teams that finished lower in the standings before squeaking into the playoffs last year as an eighth seed -- and then exiting after five games.
This season, started slowly and people speculated that Sidney Crosby was done.
In the aftermath of that '09 series that saw Ovechkin and Crosby combine for an incredible 27 points, Ovechkin would win his second of three Hart Trophies as league MVP. His Russian team would be dumped by Crosby's Canadian team in the quarterfinals at the 2010 Olympics. Four years later, the Ovechkin-led Russians would lose in yet another quarterfinal to Finland in front of a disappointed home crowd in Sochi.
Ovechkin would win four straight Rocket Richard Trophies, including this season, making for six goal-scoring titles in all. He would, after that 2009 series, say goodbye to coaches Bruce Boudreau and Dale Hunter and say hello to his current head coach, Barry Trotz.
He would be called a coach killer and then, when people were lining up to heap dirt on him, Ovechkin would suddenly be lauded for not being a coach killer and a great leader of men.
Such different players, such similar expectations.
Crosby, a center, told reporters in Pittsburgh this week that he'll never shoot like Ovechkin, a winger, and he's not going to start trying to. The Pittsburgh captain professed admiration for Ovechkin's consistency in finding the back of the net.
"It's pretty amazing what he's been able to do over the years," Crosby, 28, told reporters Monday.
Ovechkin for his part told reporters in Washington that he isn't interested in dissecting that long-ago series. "What was the past, it's over," said Ovechkin, 30.
If you'd guessed how many Stanley Cups the two stars and their teammates might have collected after that 2009 playoff year would you have guessed zero? Not a chance.
But that's part of what makes this series so intriguing.
Nothing is guaranteed. Nothing.
And through it all, through the injuries and disappointments and second-guessing, we arrive at this second-round playoff series with both players at the peak of their powers. Ovechkin won the goal-scoring title on yet another second-half surge, hitting the 50-mark in the waning moments of the regular season. He was instrumental in the team's first-round victory, pounding thePhiladelphia Flyers at every turn and then setting up the series-clinching goal in Game 6.
Crosby? After a five-point opening month of the season, he led all scorers from Dec. 12 on. He was a dynamo in the first round as the Penguins continued their torrid play, crushing the New York Rangers in five games. Crosby's eight points, five on the power play, led all Penguins.
"Ovechkin has established himself as the best goal-scoring power forward of this era, while Sid is one of the best two-way centers to ever play," the scout said. "To me, Ovi is hungry and Sid is focused. It's more about wanting to win a Cup for both guys. Sid can't keep Ovi from scoring and Ovi can't keep Sid from doing his thing. It's all about the support cast and results."
Driven? Ha. No one who has watched either player for more than a minute wonders about what drives them or that they are indeed driven, that both teams take their cues from the captains, regardless of how deep and diverse their lineups might be.
"I think it'll be an epic battle," another longtime NHL player and scout said.
He predicted any on-ice nastiness might instead involve countrymen Ovechkin and Penguins forward and fellow Russian Evgeni Malkin, something history suggests is accurate. Malkin told reporters in Pittsburgh Tuesday that the 2009 series was the hardest series in which he's ever played but also the most fun he's ever had in a series.
"It's Sid against Ovi, lots of commercials," Malkin said, proving the point that even though it's difficult if not impossible to adequately compare Ovechkin and Crosby given their many dissimilarities, we are still drawn back to those two singular players.
"I do think both Ovi and Sid have things that they want to prove," the scout added. "Sid has been showing he is still the world's best in second half of season and now. So he's hungry and to prove some critics wrong, no doubt. Still lots left in his tank. Ovie is trying to answer his own critics that he can lead a team to victory in playoffs."
So, make no mistake. Much time has passed -- too much for hockey fans, one would opine -- between a matchup on this stage. But it doesn't mean time has mellowed either player nor diminished the stakes that are on the line here.
Bragging rights? Sure. But the better prize for the one who emerges victorious? Getting up to play another round of playoff hockey.
As it always will be when the best play each other.