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What We Learned: Squashing an Alex Ovechkin steroid accusation

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.

A lot of time this season has been devoted to figuring out what, exactly, is keeping Alex Ovechkin(notes) from scoring by the truckload, as he used to in the halcyon days in which 50 goals was his annual expectation.

Have defenses figured him out? Was it a problem with the coach? Is he playing without his old edge?

No, says John Steigerwald, columnist for Washington, Pennsylvania, Observer-Reporter and brother of loathsome homer Pens broadcaster Paul. It's none of those things. The problem is that Ovie's off all the steroids he was taking!

Yes, really.

Steigerwald, clearly not content with having said the San Francisco Giants fan who was beaten into a coma earlier this year by opposing fans brought the attack on himself, published a column on Sunday that did not simply wonder whether Ovechkin's decline in production was the result of his ceasing to use performance-enhancing drugs, as the question mark in the headline implied. He outright said that without definitive proof that Ovechkin did not use performance-enhancing drugs, then clearly he must be presumed to have used them.

"I've taken the position that if you're performing at a near super-human level and your doctor is arrested for selling steroids, you are guilty until proven innocent," Steigerwald wrote.

That's how the law works, right?

(Coming Up: Jordin Tootoo(notes) runs Ryan Miller(notes); the rats return to Florida; the Stars can't win in Dallas; the glory of Sidney Crosby's(notes) backhand; the Kings' bad investment; Bruce Boudreau on Flyers' diving; Muller's tough start; Kovalchuk trolls Winnipeg; the benefits of realignment; celebrating David Perron(notes); Matt Moulson(notes) and Evander Kane(notes) are on fire; the Devils' defense stinks; and a Luongo trade proposal.)

Steigerwald's delineation point here is the 2010 Vancouver Olympics — because Georges Laraque's(notes) book said the IOC has more stringent testing than the NHL. And indeed, Ovechkin had a whole lot of points in the run-up to those Winter Games: 42 goals and 47 assists in 58 games. A crazy amount. In fact, it's an amount one would almost have to consider unsustainable. One also has to wonder at what point Ovechkin had to quit these steroids of his to pass Olympic testing.

And what of Ovechkin's 2-2-4 in four games at the Olympics and 8-12-20 in the 18 NHL games following them and 5-5-10 in the seven postseason games the Capitals played that year? Also the product of PED use. At least, we have to assume so, Steigerwald argues, because "his doctor" was charged with bringing PEDs across the Canadian border.

Which doctor would that be? Well, Steigerwald doesn't say. But he does say that the doctor also treated Tiger Woods. And so just a bit of searching will turn up that the physician in question is Dr. Anthony Galea, who counted Woods, Alex Rodriguez and Santana Moss among his patients. His 23 pro athlete clients were listed by investigators only as letters (Athlete A, Athlete B, etc.) and two of them were from Washington, but neither was named, and both were believed to have been Redskins.

In fact, any number of variations on searches for "Alex Ovechkin Anthony Galea" turn up a whopping zero stories connecting the two by name -- only message board gossip. In fact, this Newsday article specifically lists only Jason Spezza(notes) and Adam Foote(notes) as NHLers treated by Galea, though neither apparently received any PEDs.

And you'd think if such a story had come out, every hockey media outlet big and small would have swarmed all over it. But that's neither here nor there. Steigerwald must know something we don't.

The columnist further backs up his case by pointing out that a chiropractor, whom the Capitals admit treated some of its players for various chiropractic reasons, was busted after bragging about selling steroids to Caps players. And while both team and league were reportedly not especially cooperative in dealing with investigators, we still haven't heard a word about anyone on the Caps, let alone Ovechkin, testing positive.

All of that ignores that Ovechkin, who regularly participates in IIHF events like the World Championships, would have to be tested more regularly as a result. In fact, he missed a practice taking one in 2010. He had five goals and an assist in that tournament, and if he was on PEDs, he probably wouldn't be allowed to play.

This evidence, flimsy though it may be, is proof enough for Steigerwald — who by the way is as much a Pens homer as his brother — and probably a bunch of other "You gotta ask the question" idiots who believe any sudden drop-off or increase in an athlete's performance is in some way related to performance-enhancing drugs. And of course, that point ignores that Ovechkin, having completed his Olympic participation nearly two years ago, could have gotten back on his apparently-needed steroids any old time he wanted since then.

It would be stunningly naïve to think professional athletes do not have access to and make use of performance-enhancing drugs these days. You can probably say the same thing about their abilities to mask its use to some extent.

But to draw this kind of line just because of dropping shot totals is wildly irresponsible.

It's amusing that Steigerwald's personal (and awful) blog is called "Just Watch the Game," because anyone who did that with Ovechkin these days would see that it's in-your-face defense, a drop in power play time per game over the last two seasons, and career-low shooting percentages, that's making the league's former Sniper Supreme look less than himself. Not a lack of PEDs.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: Bruce Boudreau wastes no time in re-endearing himself to NHL fans by accusing the Flyers of diving. "I knew exactly what Philly was going to do," he said. "I knew the guys that were going to dive and they did. They got away with it. The only one that didn't get away with it was Simmonds. It looked like he got shot. And he went down until he start peeking and no one was calling it and then he had to get back up. Hartnell looked like he'd gotten shot by a bazooka. He didn't miss a shift and then he comes in and scores the tying goal." Boudreau owns.

Boston Bruins: Saturday's 4-1 win over the Maple Leafs was the Bruins' 100th consecutive sellout. It also allowed the Boston media to pat itself on the back for having The Best Fans in Sports and pontificate about how good the Bruins will likely be in perpetuity. They've never seen a cart they didn't want to put a horse in front of.

Buffalo Sabres: Jordin Tootoo ran Ryan Miller on Saturday night, Miller's first game back since Milan Lucic(notes) trucked him and he made a big stink about it. Said the previously-concussed netminder, "He is going to come hard to the net every time," Miller told The Associated Press. "I got in the mix right after that. I can't sit back and let other guys take advantage of me." Please note here that Miller "got in the mix" with Tootoo (5-foot-9 and199 pounds, not 6-foot-4 and 220) only after the forward was lying on the ice. Real tough stuff outta the baddest and most honorable team in the league.

What We Learned: Squashing an Alex Ovechkin steroid accusationCalgary Flames: Did an Oilers employee purposely try to ruin Brent Sutter's postgame presser after the Flames scored three unanswered goals in the third to win in Edmonton?

Carolina Hurricanes: Kirk Muller is now 0-3 with the Hurricanes, but at least they kept it close against the best team in the East. That's progress at least. So too is playing Eric Staal(notes) 26:57. At least I think that's what that means.

Chicago Blackhawks: Imagine if someone had told you in September that at the beginning of October, the Blackhawks would have the worst penalty kill in the league, tied with San Jose? It's almost unbelievable that this is the case.

Colorado Avalanche: Erik Johnson(notes) returned to the Avs lineup after missing five games with a groin injury. But that wasn't as notable as Joe Sacco's decision to keep Stefan Elliot — the player called up to replace Johnson — in the lineup over poor Matt Hunwick(notes).

Columbus Blue Jackets: Derek MacKenzie(notes) finished Friday's game (a 6-3 loss) at plus-2, bumping his career total to plus-20. Pretty decent accomplishment all things considered. He's somehow only three short of Jan Hejda's(notes) all-time franchise record of plus-23.

Dallas Stars: Glen Gulutzan says his team doesn't play with enough urgency at home, which is probably true. They've scored the first goal in just five of their home games this season, not that it seems to hurt them too much. They're 9-4-1 in Dallas this season.

Detroit Red Wings Presented by Amway: Hey just because the Red Wings have kicked up a big stink about how they deserve to be in the Eastern Conference doesn't mean they're going to be unreasonable. "If we had a division where we're basically in our own time zone it would be huge," Henrik Zetterberg(notes) said. "Then, come playoffs, when you don't have to go to the West Coast (multiple) times, it's going to help us a lot." That's why the league exists, right? To accommodate the desires of a team that doesn't need any help being competitive?

Edmonton Oilers: Ales Hemsky(notes) says he's still a little hesitant to shoot because his shoulder is still bothering him, but when you can do stuff like this you don't have to uncork wristers all day.

Florida Panthers: God help us all they're throwing rats on the ice after Panthers wins.

Los Angeles Kings: The Kings invested nearly $250,500 in one of those "performance bracelet" companies, which recently went bankrupt, but at least they didn't trade Colten Teubert(notes) and a first for this bad investment.

Minnesota Wild: The reason the Wild are doing so well is that Mike Yeo is really good at communicating what he wants from them. And what he wants from them is a terrible power play. "More! MORE!" he cackles as the Wild go 0 for 4 with three shots every night but still somehow win.

Montreal Canadiens: With Max Pacioretty(notes) coming back from his three-game suspension, someone had to go down to Hamilton. Would it be Aaron Palushaj(notes) or Louis LeBlanc(notes)? Take a wild guess.

Nashville Predators: I could watch this all day.

New Jersey Devils: Ilya Kovalchuk(notes), who was booed every time he touched the puck in Winnipeg Saturday, on how Jets fans should feel about him: "They should support me. Maybe I'm one of the reasons why they moved here, right?" What a genius.

New York Islanders: Matt Moulson has seven goals in his last four games, including a Texas hat trick in Dallas on Saturday. Meanwhile, he has just six assists all season. Try passing, Matt!

New York Rangers: Just a really wonderful story about Derek Boogaard(notes) in the New York Times, part one of three. Absolutely take the time to read this one.

Ottawa Senators: The Senators are promoting a blood drive in Ottawa to get 1,200 units donated between today and Saturday. Eastern Ontario hospitals will need closer to 5,000 this month alone, so go give the Senators all your blood.

Philadelphia Flyers: Hahahahahaha holy hell, Flyers fans, really?

Phoenix Coyotes: Not that I'm usually one to complain about the way home teams in the NHL give out hits and takeaways and things like that, but did Shane Doan(notes) really have 14 hits Saturday night in the 4-2 loss to Philadelphia? I doubt it.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Here's an article breaking down both the physical and metaphysical reasons for Sid Crosby having such a dominant backhand, with input from a bunch of different players. Pretty interesting.

San Jose Sharks: Doug Wilson spits some truth about the benefits of realignment including mandatory home-and-homes with everyone in the league: "We think our fans would really appreciate the home-and-home series — even if it meant a little more travel to us, if that was taken into consideration on how you build those trips."

St. Louis Blues: After we all celebrated Sidmas a few weeks ago, the other lengthy concussion case in the NHL made sure we had a happy Perronzaa with a beauty goal just 6:21 into his first game back.

That had to feel great. Too bad they lost 5-2 to Chicago.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Mattias Ohlund(notes) apparently suffered a setback in trying to return from having arthroscopic surgeries on both knees before the season. He hasn't played a game all year, but was skating. Now he's not, and Guy Boucher says, "I don't know where we are." Ohlund says there's no timetable for his return.

Toronto Maple Leafs: On Friday, Ron Wilson told the Leafs media that the team would start Jonas Gustavsson(notes) in Boston on Friday. Instead, James Reimer(notes) got the go. Some media types were upset. Real-life Ron Wilson tweet from the morning after: " Favorite movies: Liar, Liar; The Invention of Lying; Big Fat Liar. HaHa!" Awesome.

Vancouver Canucks: How about Dan Hamhuis(notes) dialing up his offensive game lately? After starting the season with one assist in 10 games, he now has 2-11-13 in his last 15 (not including last night against the Flames).

Washington Capitals: Good game-winner just 12 seconds into overtime by Brooks Laich(notes). Bad defense by Erik Karlsson(notes) to let it happen.

Winnipeg Jets: Evander Kane scored two more goals on Saturday, running his season total to 14, but he has nine the last nine games too. So that's pretty good.

Gold Star Award

What We Learned: Squashing an Alex Ovechkin steroid accusation

Yeah any time a guy scores four in one game I guess you have to give this to him.

Minus of the Weekend

What We Learned: Squashing an Alex Ovechkin steroid accusation

Not a good weekend at the office for the Devils goaltending and defense. Four goals allowed on just 16 shots Friday, then another three on 19 (plus an empty netter) the next night. Eight goals against on 36 shots. Yes.

Play of the Weekend

Pretty decent shift outta Johnny Boychuk(notes) here.

Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week

User "waitin425" wants to offload Luongo by any means necessary.

To Tampa Bay - Roberto Luongo(notes) and Max Lapierre

To Vancouver - Brett Connolly(notes), Teddy Purcell(notes), Mathieu Garon(notes), 2012 1st

Signoff

Oh, excuse me, gentlemen. Excuse him, gentlemen.

Ryan Lambert publishes hockey awesomeness rather infrequently over at The Two-Line Pass. Check it out, why don't you? Or you can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter if you so desire.

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