Daniel Alfredsson of the Ottawa Senators has, for the most part, achieved Beloved Player status in the National Hockey League: a veteran whose work ethic, results and dedication to the only franchise he’s played for makes him exempt from most criticism.
So imagine, if you will, if Alex Ovechkin or Joe Thornton or Henrik Sedin or another captain who carries less respect than Alfredsson uttered the following when asked if it was feasible his team could win three in a row against the Pittsburgh Penguins after Wednesday's 7-3 Game 4 thumping:
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The full quote, via Erin Nicks of NHL.com, after Alfredsson was asked if it was feasible his team could win three in a row:
"Probably not," Alfredsson said. "[Pittsburgh's] depth and our play right now … it doesn't look too good.
"When you look at what we did, it wasn't good enough. Does that mean [Pittsburgh] was good? Did we make them good? Who really cares? From our point of view, we didn't manage the puck [well], we didn't execute our passes, and subsequently, we got punished in the neutral zone. We turned way too many pucks over and gave them some freebies. It would have been nice to have the lead for a little bit longer, but now we're back on our heels again. We didn't shut them down when it matters."
From the ‘Alfie Does No Wrong’ crowd, the defense of his statement goes like this (in summary of everything I’ve seen since Wednesday night):
“Daniel Alfredsson was speaking from frustration because his team was embarrassed in Game 4. He’s also staring into the abyss of his career’s end – he retrieved the puck at the end of Game 4, claiming it was for his kids. He’s speaking from the heart and, frankly, speaking the truth, and isn’t that what we want from all athletes? His candor is refreshing!”
It’s not really a surprise to see Alfredsson get a pass in many places for these comments. Alfredsson has banked enough goodwill that he could strangle a kitten in a postgame press scrum and the media would laud him for inventing a new form of “extreme petting.”
But they're comments that indicate the Senators are an inferior team to the Penguins.
Comments that effectively raise the white flag on the season after four semifinal games.
Comments that would seem like the antithesis of what you’d want out of a captain.
Again: Had Alex Ovechkin said the Capitals would “probably not” rally to win a series, he would have been called everything from selfish to a cancer of negativity infecting the Washington locker room.
Not Alfie, despite one of the most defeatist quotes ever uttered by an NHL captain in the playoffs.
It’s May 23. Nineteen years ago today, Mark Messier and the New York Rangers were down 3-2 to the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference Final. He was asked if the team could win Game 6. He said the following.
“I know we're going to go in and win Game 6 and bring it back here (to the Garden) for Game 7 ... We have enough talent and experience to turn the tide. That's exactly what we're going to do in Game 6.... I've put my five Stanley Cup rings, my reputation and my neck on the chopping block, boys. Now save me."
Imagine how history would remember the Rangers and Messier had he answered “Probably Not.”
As Scott Dobby writes: