Is Alexander Ovie-rated?

April 30, 2010

After netting only 1 of 24 shots in the deciding three games against the Habs, Ovechkin has to hear from his critics.

After watching the 8th seeded Montreal Canadiens bounce the NHL’s top team in the first round,  the Washington Capitals are stuck home watching the rest of the survivors vie for Lord Stanley’s Cup.  Not only did the Caps have more wins and more points than any other team in the regular season, they were also the most prolific goal scoring team in the league, yet this still wasn’t enough to beat a team who scored six less goals than they allowed this year.  After another playoff let down, we are left to ponder; is Alexander Ovechkin overrated?

While this may seem a preposterous question to ask of someone with so many individual awards, he wouldn’t be the first elite athlete forced to defend himself against a reputation as a playoff letdown.  His personal accolades are well known (NHL ROY, 2 Hart Trophies, 3-time all-star), but he can’t avoid the reality of his team’s playoff finishes.  The past three seasons, Ovechkin has led the Capitals to third, second, and first place finishes in the Eastern Conference regular season.  Yet, they’ve been upset each year, twice in the first round.  While this is a team effort, doesn’t the NHL’s best player bear the brunt of the responsibility?

Take the never-ending comparison of Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, the superstar matchup the NHL loves, for example.  Statistically, Ovie is “better” if you simply look at goals scored and points totals.  But look deeper at their points/game averages, and Sid the Kid is better (he did miss 20+ games in 07-08).  Sid’s been in 2 Cups, winning last year.  Crosby doesn’t have to defend himself because he’s won in the playoffs.  Ovechkin hasn’t. Sure, one could argue that Crosby’s had a great supporting cast, citing Marian Hossa, Jordan Staal and Evgeni Malkin, not to mention solid goal play by Marc-Andre Fleury.  But that argument loses all merit when looking at what Ovechkin had to work with this year.  Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom were very good this year, and while their goalie play wasn’t fantastic in the playoffs, teams don’t win 54 games by accident.

All of this brings us back to Alexander the Great.  Everyone expects more from their superstar players in the playoffs.  When he showed up to play, the Caps won three games.  But the four losses?  Try one goal and one assist.  That’s not acceptable when the games mean the most.  Washington had a 3-1 series lead, yet let the 8th-seeded Canadiens storm back and take the series, limiting Ovie to 2 pts.  Should he be blamed?

A-Rod's just one superstar who had to face his critics, until he won a championship.

Let’s look at other sports for a comparison.  Alex Rodriguez is one of this generation’s best baseball players.  Before the ’09 playoffs, he had 553 HR and a career .306 average.  Yet he was labeled a choke and overrated by many around the league (Yankee fans included) for his epic playoff failures which included 2 series wins and no pennants in his career.  When he finally performed in the 2009 playoffs, his team won a World Series and the monkey was off his back.  Kobe Bryant ran Shaquille O’Neal from the Lakers following a fruitful pairing that produced three titles in their time together.  Once O’Neal was gone, the pressure was on Bryant to show that he could win on his own.  On his first four years alone, he missed the playoffs, then two first-round losses, and a Finals loss, all while piling up individual awards and achievements.  Still, those didn’t matter until Kobe was able to conquer the Orlando Magic in 2009, to win his first championship as the leader of his team.  Finally, consider Peyton Manning’s reputation before winning Super Bowl XLI.  Two MVP awards, unbelievable statistics, superb regular season finishes, yet in nine career playoff games, Manning only had three wins to show for it.  It wasn’t until his Super Bowl win in 2006 that his status as the best could be cemented.  Those are three superstars who had to endure years of questioning whether they were only fantasy superstars and not playoff heroes, until they finally won big in the postseason.  Why should Ovechkin be immune?

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The Ghosts have Crossed the Street

October 10, 2009

On Friday night, the Yankees came back from two runs down in the ninth, and then overcame a bases loaded, nobody out jam in the eleventh en route to a Mark Teixiera homer, and a 2-0 lead in the series against the Twins.  The victory makes one wonder if the mystique of old Yankee Stadium has jumped the short distance into the Bronx Bomber’s new stomping grounds.

The Yankees caught a few big breaks in this one.  Terrible umpiring was prevalent from the first pitch, but in the eleventh, Joe Mauer hit what appeared to be a leadoff ground rule double.  The umpire called the ball foul, though replays proved it to be fair by at least a foot (Words cannot describe how bad this call was.  The umpire was standing on top of it, and staring right at it.  Melky Cabrera touched it in fair territory.  Bad call).  Mauer would later single, but was forced out at the plate in an epic escape by Yankee’s reliever David Robertson.

Earlier on in the game, with the game still tied at zip, Matt Tolbert singled with two outs and Delmon Young at second.  Carlos Gomez took a wide turn rounding second, and Nick Swisher quickly got the ball into Derek Jeter.  Jeter who is seemingly, always in the right place at the right time in the month of October, applied the tag to Gomez just before Delmon Young reached homeplate.  Inning over, game still tied.

A more blatant example of pimping a homerun. At Least Mannys went out.

A more blatant example of pimping a homerun. At Least Manny's went out.

Also, a moment no one touched on during the coverage.  Brendan Harris hit a key rbi triple for the Twins.  While watching, the first thing I thought when Johnny Damon whiffed on it was, “that will be an inside the park homer,” but replays show Harris pimping it (definition: verb. admiring a batted ball that you think will reach the stands.) and getting off to a slow start.  He had a stand up triple and slowed down into third.  If he busts it out of the box, Harris may have had a rare homerun without leaving the yard.

A third break for the Yankees is that in his last two outings, Joe Nathan has looked pathetic.  Tuesday, against the Tigers, he pulled a Houdini on a ball smoked at Orlando Cabrera that caught Curtis Granderson napping at first, and tonight, he came in and could not throw a strike.  Nathan looked shook on the mound.  He was sweating like a pig.  When Nathan did find the zone, he found a bit too much of it, and paid the price.  Teixiera got a hard single off of Joe, and Alex Rodriguez followed with an absolute blast that made New York fans forget about the past, until tomorrow.

Jose Mijares dodged a bullet in the tenth, a runner inherited from Joe Nathan, Brett Gardner took off from third on a line drive to Orlando Cabrera and was doubled off to end a very promising threat.  (In Gardner’s defense, if he froze and got back to third, Derek Jeter was halfway to second base, and would have been thrown out anyways.)

Francisco Cervelli was the last person that thought Francisco Cervelli would play tonight.

Francisco Cervelli was the last person that thought Francisco Cervelli would play tonight.

This whole situation led to the very surprising use of Francsico Cervelli in the game.  When Posada was pulled for a pinch runner Francisco was actually at the bar in centerfield with his spikes on.  Cervelli came in and handled David Robertson effectively to get out of a huge jam.

After the first two games of the series the Steinbrenner Plan is working to perfection.  C.C. got a win, AJ Burnett pitched wildly effective, and Mark Teixiera collected the walkoff “wallscraper.”  Yankees fans are just hoping the Plan works in the House that Kirby Built.