Capitals vs Penguins: Rivalry of the Ages

Photo courtesy of
‘Ovechkin and Crosby – New Best Friends Forever’
courtesy of ‘clydeorama’

So did you see the big game on NBC yesterday?

You heard me right.

Yesterday’s big game wasn’t played in Miami, aired on CBS, filled with cheesy, stupid commercials. It was right here in DC, in the heart of snowmageddon. It was the Pittsburgh Penguins against the Washington Capitals. And yesterday, that game lived up to every fan’s dream, regardless which side of center ice they were on.

Seriously. Four times a year these two rivals meet – and I wouldn’t be presumptuous at all to claim that both the Pens and the Caps see it as an archrivalry. It’s probably one of the most intense regular-season contest series in all of hockey, and yesterday was no exception. (To drive home the point – I climbed up on my roof to clear it of snow just so my DirecTV dish could receive the game. No AM radio for me!)

Photo courtesy of
‘Rock The Red (Wide) at Verizon Center’
courtesy of ‘clydeorama’

By now, everyone here knows of the result. A 5-4 OT win for the Caps, borne on the shoulders of Ovechkin’s hat trick and Mike Knuble’s OT poke from the crease. It was yet another third period rally by the Caps on their way to an impressive 14 game win streak, the third-best in NHL history.

There were a lot of storylines going into this game yesterday. The blizzard conditions and the massive dig-out that hampered even Caps owner Ted Leonsis; the exhausting travel period for the Penguins from Saturday’s game in Montreal; the concern that fans might endanger themselves going into town for this clash of hockey titans; the ever-present individual rivalries of both team captains. But when you got right down to it, it’s a heated and simmering rivalry between two teams that has continued to boil for over a decade and every game between them is going to be epic.

From start to finish, this game felt not like a regular season game, but a playoff one. The intensity from the players, coaches, and even fans was beyond a normal game. The Penguins came in reeling from a nasty loss to Montreal the night before and needing to prove themselves worthy of their Stanley Cup Champion title; the Caps were ready to prove themselves heirs to that title as well as maintain their impressive streak. While the outcome of the game didn’t result in the handing off of the Cup, it has set the tone for the last two games between them and – if everything falls into place in the postseason – an epic playoff series to come.

Proof? Look at the numbers. Over 70 minutes in penalties, 4 game misconducts, 9 goals – 5 of which by the first and second place goal scorers in the league (Ovechkin leads with 42, Sidney Crosby with 39), 69 shots on goal (35 by Pittsburgh), 49 hits (32 by the Caps), 11 consecutive home wins for the Caps (franchise record), and Caps goalie Jose Theodore’s own personal best of a 10 game winning streak.

Fact is, the Capitals are DC’s best sports franchise now, bar none. Yesterday’s game didn’t prove that – it only substantiated it. They don’t have to prove anything to anyone, not any more.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a diehard Penguins fan. Hard to break 24 years of conditioning, after all. But the Capitals are probably the one rivalry I respect and look forward to every year in hockey now, because frankly, these are two of the best teams on ice these days. And every time they play it’s like Super Bowl Sunday around here. GM George McPhee and Coach Bruce Boudreau have really impressed me with the building and managing of this team; every night they play is entertaining and a showcase of skill and teamwork, you can’t help but walk away rooting for them – even if only a little. Only Flyers fans could be so calloused and cold – but then again, they’re Flyers fans. (Just kidding! Okay, maybe.)

Enjoy the winning feeling, Caps fans. With this team and coaching staff, you’ll get to enjoy it for a long time coming. And I’ve no doubt that soon enough, Lord Stanley’s Cup will make a year-long stopover in the nation’s capital. And I’ll be in line with the rest of you to enjoy it.

Having lived in the DC area for ten years, Ben still loves to wander the city with his wife, shooting lots of photos and exploring all the latest exhibits and galleries. A certified hockey fanatic, he spends some time debating the Washington Capitals club with friends – but everyone knows of his three decade love affair with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

A professional writer, gamer, photographer, and Lego enthusiast, Ben remains captivated by DC and doesn’t plan on leaving any time soon.

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12 thoughts on “Capitals vs Penguins: Rivalry of the Ages

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Capitals vs Penguins: Rivalry of the Ages » We Love DC --

  2. The Penguins are quickly helping to form my new triumvirate of hate.

    Cowboys, Dookies, meet your new friend…

    Man, I hate me some entitled, crybaby, over-hyped teams.

  3. Ben,

    Excellent article. I assumed you were a Caps fan. The fact you wrote this impressive piece as a Penguins fan, distinguishes you from all the “homer” journalism.

    Keep up the great work.

  4. It’s certainly fun to watch … whether the outcome comes out in your team’s favor or not. Game 7 was hard for a Caps fan, but after a couple weeks it was amazing to go back and watch that series over again.

  5. Jonny’s right. After game 7, I didn’t want to watch hockey at all. But when the calendar hit July, I found myself watching highlights of all of those games over and over again. I got really pumped for this season and it’s proving to be great!

    Ben – excellent article all around. Well written and interesting.

  6. Enjoyed the post – you even got a mention from Ted on his blog, which is how I found you. You are similar to most of my friends who are also Pittsburgh fans but overall, very appreciative of other sports teams (aside from Philly).

    However, lately I’ve been under the impression that most Pittsburgh fans were not like my friends, and have surpassed Philly in being the most obnoxious (PHI doesn’t really win anything so they are easy to talk back to except baseball).

    Not sure where I was going with this but enjoyed it nonetheless.

  7. Nice post, also found this via TedsTake. As a Caps fan and a Christian, I strongly dislike all the negativity which appears to permeate the caps/pens rivalry (on both sides). Thank you for rising above that and I look forward to many more years of great hockey between these 2 teams, as I’m sure you do! :)

  8. Good stuff, i have relatives up in Pittsburgh, though i’m a diehard Caps fan. Pittsburgh has amazing sports fans in general, the sheer number of Steelers jerseys at any grocery store, on a wednesday, is proof. Glad to hear an objective view on the Pens/Caps game from a Pens fan – that makes one;-). Jk. Keep up the good work, check out the building museum in DC if you haven’t yet, it’s very cool.

  9. That’s the classiest response from an arch rival, as in the Pens, that I have ever read. It is a shame that NBC has to play such ridiculous favorites with the Pens. Way to go on winning The Cup last year, and here is to many a great games that will be forthcoming between the Pens and Caps. In Washington DC, to have this rivalry now dwarf what used to be regarded as among the greatest rivalries in sports, namely the Skins vs. Cowboys is amazing.

  10. You aren’t a real pens fan if you will enjoy the caps winning the cup. Do you think caps fans enjoyed last June? I think you drank the ovechkin kool aid

  11. @Dave,

    You obviously have no clue who you’re talking about. Ben is a true Penguin’s fan and he’s also a big fan of GREAT HOCKEY where ever it’s played (except in Philly). Like he said, he can enjoy Caps games when they aren’t playing the Pens b/c the Caps play hockey so well (most of the time) and b/c it’s so entertaining.

    I’m sure he wouldn’t mind seeing the Caps lose some more games so they’ll drop some in the standings, but what he enjoys is great hockey. It’s like being able to watch great highlights on SportsCenter or similar shows.