Great 8 vs. Big Zee marquee matchup

Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin (above) might have to adjust his idea of

Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin (above) might have to adjust his idea of "fun" when he faces Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara Thursday in Game 1 of their playoff series (MOLLY RILEY/Reuters file photo)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:41 PM ET

When Alex Ovechkin claims he "loves" playing against behemoth Boston Bruins blueliner Zdeno Chara, you have to admire his courage.

Or question his sanity.

We're leaning towards the latter, thanks.

What else do you "love" to do, Alex?

Wear Dallas Cowboys jerseys to Washington Redskins home games?

Put on goalie equipment and face slap shots without a mask, a la Johnny Bower?

Tell coach Dale Hunter that, in your opinion, brother Mark Hunter was a far better player?

Talk about being a glutton for punishment.

Here's an idea: If you sincerely enjoy bringing such misery upon yourself, how about parading in front of the TD Garden prior to Game 1 of the first-round series between your Washington Capitals and Chara's defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins while wearing a hated Vancouver Canucks jersey on Thursday evening. It shouldn't take more than a couple of minutes before that shaggy mop of yours is coated with a beer shampoo.

Of course, if Ovechkin thinks he's going to get rude treatment from the Boston fans, just wait until he gets a taste of what Chara has in store for him.

"It's a great battle between me and him," Ovechkin claimed to reporters in Washington. "I think he's top D in the league.

"I love playing against him, especially when it's going to be playoffs. It's going to be fun."

Fun?

Really?

Let's see how "fun" it is with a 6-foot-9, bearded, bruising shadow suction-cupped to you all over the ice.

Or how "fun" it is when the Bruins are facing a raw rookie in Braden Holtby while you are shooting against the defending playoff MVP, Tim Thomas.

Are we having "fun" yet, Alex?

It didn't seem like you were having a lot of "fun" this season when you managed just three points in three games against the Bruins.

But let's not be too sarcastic here. Not before the series has even started, anyway.

Besides, if we get to see the Alexander Ovechkin of yesteryear -- that fun-loving, electrifying player who skated like the wind and hit anything in sight (even Chara) -- this matchup between the second-seeded Bruins and seventh-seeded Caps is going to be oozing with entertaining, juicy storylines.

None more spicy than The Great Eight versus The Big Zee.

"It's something that motivates me," Chara told reporters in Boston when asked about facing Ovechkin. "It's something that I enjoy, competing against the best players.

"Obviously, they have a few great players on their team. Sometimes the matchups are hard to get, especially on the road. When you do get them, you want to make the best out of them."

Of note: Ovechkin has not scored against the Bruins since Nov. 5, 2010.

"I think over the years they've been playing against each other, so I think they know each other," Dale Hunter said earlier this week. "And it's just that you have to work as a line. It's not Ovi against Chara; it's the line against the Boston Bruins. Not just Chara, either."

While watching Ovechkin and Chara butt heads will be the focus of most of the black-and-gold clad patrons shoehorned into the "Gah-den" on Thursday, the Thomas-Holtby sidebar likely will have more of an impact in this series when all is said and done.

Holtby, 22, has played 21 NHL games in his young career. That's less than Thomas played in the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs.

But with Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth banged up, it appears the Caps' hopes will rest with a rookie between the pipes, at least to start the series anyway.

"I'm not really trying to focus on the playoffs, I'm focusing on making saves," Holtby said.

He had best make a lot of them.

Otherwise, Alex Ovechkin and his teammates won't "love" anything about facing the defending champs.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/zeisberger


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