Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
I think he's the best player in the world, and I think he has all the talent and skill to become one of the best players ever by the time he retires. He not only scores unbelievable goals with frightening consistency, he also sets up goals with the threat of his shot and plays with a physical edge not often seen in players of his caliber.
In the past I've defended Ovechkin's numerous questionable plays. The guy is legitimately a freight train (he's 6-2, 233!) on the ice and I think much of what he does to put his opponents in a bad position is incidental. Certainly, given his immediate reaction to the hit on Brian Campbell(notes), I don't think he meant to knock the guy out of the game or put him into the boards like that -- and yet here we are.
The puck was clearly away from Campbell when Ovechkin engaged him, and the hit gave Campbell no way to protect himself crashing into the end-boards. Textbook boarding call in a very dangerous part of the ice. Of course it deserved a match penalty, it was an exceptionally stupid play on Ovie's part.
This will likely result in his second suspension this season. He could have gotten one for that hit on Briere a few years ago and the one on Kaleta in November. He blind-sided Dustin Brown away from the play a few years back. Jamie Heward got stretchered off the ice after Ovie hit him from behind. He slew-footed Rich Peverley in October. He's hit Wideman (no video, but here's an article), Gonchar and Gleason knee-to-knee. He shot a puck at Rob Scuderi after the whistle.
Any one, two or even three of those incidents could have been dismissed as Ovechkin's ability to play dominant physical hockey getting a little out of control or maybe emotion getting the best of him. But add up all those incidents. There are nine of them in just a few years, with the majority happening either this season or last.
There's a clear pattern developing.
(Coming Up: Sean Avery's(notes) meds are wearing off; delusions in Minnesota; pity on the Oilers; Client Jaroslav Halak's(notes) MVP performances; Craig Anderson(notes) earns his money; Lambert pats himself on the back for Coyotes pick; Malkin's injury; Matt Martin's(notes) dirty hit on Phaneuf; and a rather insane Shea Weber(notes) trade idea.)
So imagine all these penalties were committed by, I dunno, let's say, just to pick a few players completely at random, Matt Cooke(notes) or Steve Ott(notes) or Jarkko Ruutu(notes). The criticisms would all have to be the same: dirty plays, several resulting in injuries, and he never actually fights to back up any of his questionable hits.
But none of those guys are ever gonna pop in 65 in a season, so it's a-okay to vilify them. I'm just as guilty as anyone.
There's going to be pressure from the League and the networks not to suspend Ovechkin and rightly so. He's one of the few players I'd actually shell out money to see live, and if I feel that way, think how a person with only passing interest in hockey feels.
But really, a play like this, and subsequent defense of it from Caps fans (hint: when you're on Mike Milbury's side of an argument, you're on the wrong side) is unconscionable. Someone's going to get seriously hurt one of these days, and it's going to put everyone -- especially Colin Campbell -- in a tough spot.
What should the league do about it? It should suspend him for a couple more games.
But what will it do? Hell, what can it do? Nothing beyond the requisite one-gamer, at most. For entirely business reasons, the League will never suspend Ovechkin for any portion of the season larger than a game or, in extreme cases, two, and it can't fine him an amount significant enough to make him think twice about his play.
The real question is at what point does, "Alex Ovechkin plays with an edge," turn into "Alex Ovechkin plays with a reckless disregard for his opponents' safety?" And when does that become, "Alex Ovechkin plays a dangerous, cheap game?"
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: On Feb. 10, the Ducks won their 11th straight home game, a club record. But last night's 4-2 win over the Sharks at Honda Center was the first for the Ducks since the end of the Olympic break. They went 0-3-1 against Colorado, Montreal, Columbus and Nashville before the 'W' against San Jose.
Atlanta Thrashers: The Thrashers have lost six straight, including yesterday's shootout loss to Phoenix. Ron Hainsey(notes), can we get your thoughts on the season slip-sliding away for the 11th-place and dropping Thrashers? "One point is better than zero, but we needed two." That's just brilliant.
Buffalo Sabres: Ryan Miller(notes) played in Detroit last night, and his team helped out the East Lansing native with numerous friends and family at the game by allowing Detroit to win in overtime, 3-2. Miller made 34 saves but earned a point, which sounds just about right behind that defense.
Calgary Flames: The Flames traded Dustin Boyd(notes) to Nashville at the deadline, ostensibly to find a lineup spot for Mikael Backlund(notes). Oddly, Backlund has been a healthy scratch since March 5 in favor of Craig Conroy(notes). Darryl Sutter is team-managing his ass off this season.
Carolina Hurricanes: The question on the mind of Canes fans' right now: Do they go with Justin Peters(notes) (2.35/.923) or Manny Legace(notes) (2.72/.908) for the backup job next year? Real tough one there.
Chicago Blackhawks: Chicago's goaltending: playoff-ready.
That was on a 6-on-4 inside a minute to go.
Columbus Blue Jackets: From Puck Rakers: "[Coach] Noel expects to start Steve Mason(notes) in goal. He wants to get the goaltender feeling good about his game again." And one sentence later: "Meanwhile, the Oilers are here and about to hold a full practice in the Ice Haus." Steve, I've got some good news for ya...
Detroit Red Wings: Drew Miller(notes) might almost be as awesome as his brother. He tried to convince Jimmy Howard(notes) to start a scrap with Ryan Miller. Didn't happen, but apparently Drew's team has never lost to Ryan's in regulation; his teams now have five points against the Sabres in three games. So he's got that goin' for him.
Edmonton Oilers: I feel for Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers. I really do. Can't be easy backstopping the Oil these days. But a word of advice: don't try to take your frustrations out on Colton Orr(notes) and Dion Phaneuf(notes). You'll literally get killed.
Los Angeles Kings: Jon Quick has been back from paternity leave for one day and already he's criticizing officials? But for real, they called Ryan Smyth(notes) for goaltender interference on a play that didn't warrant it and then let Quick get interfered with on a later play that stood up as a goal. I'd be pissed too.
Minnesota Wild: If Minnesota wants to maintain its delusions that it can charge into the playoffs (it'll never happen, by the way), beating a red-hot team like the Blues, who've won seven of their last nine, is a good way to do it.
Montreal Canadiens: Where oh where would this team be without Jaroslav Halak holding down the fort behind a comically bad defense like Montreal's? Look at this save on Marco Sturm(notes) from Saturday.
Nashville Predators: Sorry, Nashville residents, you have to put up with a sport that is not college basketball for at least two more years.
New York Islanders: As if to symbolize the way in which the franchise has been slowly falling apart for years, the front of Nassau Coliseum was pummeled by hurricane-force winds and had a bunch of aluminum siding come off the building. But the county's right, they don't need a new rink or anything.
New York Rangers: Perfect Sean Avery game from Sean Avery. Two goals, turtled when Scott Hartnell(notes) wanted to fight him, questionable hit on Matt Carle(notes), and my personal favorite play, falling on Braydon Coburn's(notes) stick and not giving it back.
Avery is the greatest troll in the NHL and I really appreciate everything he does.
Ottawa Senators: Troubling trip out west for the Sens. Three games, five goals (four of those against the Oilers), and one win, also against the Oilers, which for some reason counts just as much as a normal win. Not a good way to make your case for the Northeast Division title.
Philadelphia Flyers: As you may have surmised from the Rangers update, the Flyers lost pretty much entirely because they let Sean Avery get in their kitchen and rearrange some of the spices. He drew a pair of penalties, scored twice and finished plus-2 on just 19 shifts. Avery singlehandedly made the Flyers lose.
Phoenix Coyotes: The Coyotes' MVP of their latest run of success? Lee Stempniak(notes). Since being traded from Toronto, he has six goals and an assist in five games. Phoenix has won all five, and 13 of their last 17. Who picked them to make the playoffs? Oh that's right it was me.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Sidney Crosby(notes) dodged a bullet on what could have been a horrifying injury (more on that in a second) but Evgeni Malkin(notes) wasn't so lucky. He took a shot off the foot or ankle and missed the entire third period. No word on his condition after the game, which typically isn't a good thing.
St. Louis Blues: Did you know Alex Steen(notes) is a free agent at the end of the year? He sure does. That's why he's playing every game like his shirt's on fire and has four goals and nine points in six games since the Olympic break. The Blues have won four of those.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Hey remember when I said that thing about Sid Crosby almost getting horribly injured. Yeah, it was on a cheap shot play by ... no, wait I'll let you guess. Hint: He's one of the cheapest players in the NHL and he plays for Tampa. Yup, it's Steve Downie(notes). This should earn him a nice, long suspension. Not even an attempt at a hockey play here. Sweet drop toe-hold, though. The Sandman would be proud.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Speaking of dirty plays, here's a hit from behind on Dion Phaneuf by Matt Martin. Keep in mind that Phaneuf demolished Kyle Okposo(notes) in a preseason game back in September and Islander fans booed him yesterday, so it's not like anyone forgot.
Play of the Weekend
Really freakin' nice game-winner from Nicky Backstrom. Just beautiful.
Gold Star Award
This, too, goes to Nicklas Backstrom(notes). Three points including the above overtime game-winner, and he was by far the best player on the ice for either team on Sunday. And when the players on the ice include Seabrook, Keith, Ovechkin, Semin, Toews, Kane and Green, that's pretty good.
Minus of the Weekend
As detailed above, Sharks didn't have such a good weekend. They went 0-1-1 against the Panthers and Ducks. Know who had the worst of it though? Joey Pavelski. He finished the weekend a minus-5. He was a plus-11 for the season before Saturday's game.
Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week
"Here's a crazy idea," writes user sammyp. The proposal lives up to the hype.
Philadelphia's 2010 1st
Anaheim's 2011 1st
Ol' sammyp was promptly torn apart, but I think maybe all the other posters didn't see that the Ducks were including the rights to James Wisniewski.
It wasn't really the pronunciation that bothered me.
- Alex Ovechkin