Originally posted on Taking Bad Schotz  |  Last updated 11/22/11

Since the locked out season of 2004-05, the NHL has been defined by two superstar players: Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin. This season could be the best the NHL has seen in a long time, especially ratings-wise, with the NBA locked out for the entire season. Yet, it seems like something has been missing in NHL play to date this season. And that something has been star power. Don’t get me wrong, there have been a lot of strong performances in the first 6 weeks of play. Phil Kessel of the Toronto Maple Leafs has already scored 16 goals this season, which puts him on pace for a whopping season total of 62 goals. But is Phil Kessel a superstar? No, absolutely not. If the NHL wants to attract new viewers, especially Americans, it must have star appeal.

A superstar is a player who truly electrifies the fans. When a superstar has the puck, you stare in awe, jaw dropped. Orr, Gretky, Lemieux…those guys were superstars. Since Gretzky and Lemieux left the league, the closest the NHL has had to true superstars have been Ovechkin and Crosby. The first overall draft picks in 2004 and 2005 respectively, they have been competing with each other for glory since their first games in the league. Currently Ovechkin has the edge in personal stats and awards, but Crosby has the advantage where it counts, with one Stanley Cup ring and one Olympic Gold Medal to Ovechkin’s none.

However, last season the Crosby/Ovechkin rivalry took a strange twist. After a torrid start to the season, tallying 66 points in just 41 games, Crosby was sidelined by a concussion in January for the rest of the season. Around the same time, Ovechkin began to look less like a superstar and more like a mortal. 2010-11 saw him record a career low in goals and points and his Washington Capitals once again failed to make it deep into the playoffs.  All of a sudden, both of these superstars had seemed to disappear.

Fast-forward to this season. Ovechkin has continued to lack his usual flair, tallying only 7 goals in his first 19 games. On the other hand, Crosby has still been out with injury. To make sure he rehabilitated completely, Pittsburgh Penguins management prevented Crosby from returning for six weeks into the season. That was until last night.

Last night, Sidney Crosby made his triumphant return to NHL play against the terrible New York Islanders. Sid scored two goals and recorded two assists in the Penguins 5-0 win. Most importantly, he played like Sid the Kid, the check-dodging, playmaking superstar hockey fans know and love. It seems almost as if he was never gone. With the other great star of hockey slumping, it’s great to see the other at his best. And who knows, maybe Crosby’s return can refuel Ovechkin’s return to glory. For the sake of hockey, I certainly hope so.

Here’s some video of Sid’s big night: http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/console?catid=35&id=136808

-Marks

 

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