- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 2, 2009

Saturday’s Best Bet on Television

It has been 4,003 days since the Capitals last hosted a second-round playoff game. 1 p.m., Chs. 4, 11

Is the Great Wait Over for the Great 8?

In his fourth season, Alex Ovechkin has finally made it out of the first round of the playoffs. For an all-world player, it was long overdue… or maybe not.

Among some of the greatest players in NHL history, there’s a trend: It took a while for many of them to lead a team deep in the playoffs.

Wayne Gretzky’s Oilers bowed out in the first round three straight seasons before they reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 1983, and even then they got swept by the dynastic Islanders.

Meanwhile, the second-greatest player in the past 30 years, Mario Lemieux, didn’t even skate onto playoff ice until his fifth season, 1988-89. He then sat out the next postseason before the Penguins won two straight Cups.

And then there’s Joe Sakic, whose miserable Nordiques dwelled in the Adams Division basement for four years before they made the playoffs, and then it was another three years before the team — which by then had moved to Colorado — hoisted the silver chalice.

One star who has bucked the trend, strangely enough, is Sidney Crosby, who had to wait only one season for a taste of the playoffs and reached the finals in his third year. But even then, his name isn’t on the Cup.

So if Ovechkin and the Caps don’t reach the finals this year, don’t be surprised. In the NHL, the greats almost always have to wait.

TWT Five Preview matchups for Penguins-Capitals series

1. Most famous product — Pittsburgh: steel. D.C.: red tape. Edge: Penguins

2. Owners’ achievements — Pittsburgh: Two Stanley Cups, spat with New York Post. Caps: Survived airplane crash landing. Edge: Caps

3. Nicknames — Pittsburgh: “Steel City.” D.C.: “NatsTown”? Edge: Penguins

4. Slogan of arena sponsor — Mellon Arena: “Who’s helping you?” Verizon Center: “Don’t be afraid of dead zones.” Edge: Caps. Don’t be afraid of the neutral zone.

5. Notable celebrity — Pittsburgh: Mister Rogers. D.C.: Samuel L. Jackson. Edge: Caps (barely)

So there you have it — the Pens take an early lead, but the Caps pull out a narrow victory.

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