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?


Blue Duck Mock Draft 2010 (part III)

April 22, 2010

For picks 1-10, click here.
For picks 11-21, click here.

22. Jared Odrick – DE – NE
Let’s be honest, if the draft falls this way, New England trades down with a team who wants Earl Thomas (that’s you Philly).  But as is, the Patriots have a lot to consider here.  They can fill a pass rush need with Sergio Kindle or add another RB to their stable with Ryan Matthews.  But these are the Patriots, who build from the lines out.  The only choices here are Maurkice Pouncy, who could be groomed to take over for Dan Koppen or Stephen Neal, or Jared Odrick, the mammoth DT at Penn State.  He could set the edge opposite Ty Warren, allowing whoever plays LB to make plays on the ball.

23.  Sergio Kindle – LB – GB
Green Bay began the transition to a 3-4 defense last year and adding Kindle to rush the passer will make the transition complete.  With elite pass rushing skills and above average coverage ability, having Kindle opposite Clay Matthews makes the Packers LB needs non-existent for the next 10 years.

24.  Earl Thomas – S – Phi
This is a dream scenario for Philadelphia, which struggled to fill the void left by Brian Dawkins surprise departure last offseason.  A playmaker in the defensive backfield, Thomas will take advantage of all the pressure that Philly’s front seven creates.

25.  Demaryius Thomas – WR – Balt
Sure, trading for Anquan Boldin and resigning Derrick Mason would seem to have the Ravens set at receiver.  But neither one is a burner who can stretch the field and allow Joe Flacco to showcase his big-time arm.  Thomas is a true deep threat that will allow Boldin and Mason to work the underneath.

26.  Jerry Hughes – LB – Ari
Head coach Ken Whisenhunt knows how to shuffle linebackers to keep them pressuring the quarterback, from his time in Pittsburgh.  Joey Porter is nothing more than a stop-gap solution for the Cards and Hughes is considered a hybrid DE/LB, similar to Lamar Woodley in Pittsburgh.

27.  Charles Brown – OT – Dal
Releasing Flozell Adams created a massive hole on Tony Romo’s blindside.  The Cowboys need to draft the best tackle on the board, to compete with incumbent Doug Free.  Worst case scenario and the Cowboys have quality depth along the offensive line.

28.  Ryan Mathews – RB – SD
Best available talent meet biggest need for a Super Bowl hopeful.  Tomlinson is gone and this is Phillip River’s team now, but they still need to grind out some tough yards on the ground.  Mathews can take over one first and second down, while Darren Sproles can continue on third down and special teams.

29.  Carlos Dunlap – DE – NYJ
The biggest need for loaded Jets team is to get younger along the front seven.  Dunlap is immensely talented, but off-field concerns have many teams shying away.  Nobody has ever lumped the word “shy” with Rex Ryan before, as all off-season they’ve been acquiring character issues.  Dunlap can begin with sub-packages, rushing the passer; then he can grow into taking over Shaun Ellis’ starting spot.

30.  Maurkice Pouncey – OG – Min
When your bread and butter is running the ball with the most devastating RB the league has seen in years, you want to make sure you continue to open holes for him.  At worst, Pouncey starts at center this year.  He could be the eventual successor to Steve Hutchinson at LG.

31.  Rodger Saffold – OT – Indy
Protecting Peyton Manning is priority number one in Indianapolis.  With a questionable running game, keeping Peyton healthy is all the more important considering all the responsibility heaped on his shoulders.  Bringing the hometown kid in to compete with Charlie Johnson and Tony Ugoh should be the goal here.

32.  Sean Weatherspoon – LB – NO
Scott Fujita left in free agency, so filling his position is most important to the defending champs.  Weatherspoon is a a well-rounded athlete who, combined with Jonathan Vilma and Scott Shanle, will give Gregg Williams the mobile unit he desires.


Blue Duck Must Watch List: The 2nd Week

September 19, 2009

See if you can pick em like Peyton.

See if you can pick 'em like Peyton.

Before I get to the important stuff, I just wanted to spread the word about the Blue Duck Pick ‘Em league on Yahoo fantasy.  Its just a normal office-pool type pick ’em league, and its free.  Beat the “experts” and embarrass us week in and week out.  League starts up week 3, but sign up now.  At the end of the season the winner will get an official Blue Duck T shirt.  Anyone can join.  The more the merrier.

The Group ID is: 64754, and the password is: bigblueduck.  Good Luck.

On to business:

Carebear’s Game you should watch week 2 is:

New York Giants @ Dallas Cowboys.

Literally built by aliens, just like the pyramids

Literally built by aliens, just like the pyramids

This is pretty much a no brainer as the game of the week.  Giants/Cowboys is always a big game, but now that the ‘boys are opening up the giant spaceship that Jerry Jones has parked out by the Ballpark at Arlington, this matchup gets even better.

I just moved to Dallas, and the city has been abuzz for a long time over this one.  The Big D is ecstatic that they got rid of T.O., and even more excited that they get to christen the new Mecca of pro sports on Sunday.  But Dallas probably feels like a high school team that scheduled a tough opponent for homecoming.

The NFC East is probably the strongest division in football.  On any given Sunday, any one team in the east can take out any other team so this game can really go either way.  Here are a few keys.

The Giants are pretty banged up.  DT Chris Canty has been ruled out, but the Giants have some depth on the D-line, Hakeem Nicks is out, and a couple key guys in the secondary are questionable.

The secondary being shorthanded may be an issue here as Tony Romo lit up the Bucs last week for 353 yards on only 16 completions, and always seems to play well against the G-men.  Patrick Crayton, Miles Austin, and Roy Williams all had long receptions.  If the Giants can keep the passing game in check, they should take this game.

These two are friendly postgame, but Sunday should be a battle.

These two are friendly postgame, but Sunday should be a battle.

The Giant’s offense will have to rely again on that no-name receiving corps we saw last week. Eli hit 7 different targets en route to their “not as close as the score made it look” win against Washington.  The Post-Plaxico Catching Team looked good, and who knows, maybe the lack of egos from receivers makes Eli more comfortable.

Ahmad Bradshaw led the Giants in rushing with 60 yards, and look for a big game out of him.  Teams prepare for big Brandon Jacobs, and the quick and nimble Bradshaw is a huge change of pace, but quick and nimble does not necessarily mean soft, as Bradshaw’s runs more often end in refs blowing them dead, than with Bradshaw being brought to the turf.

My Prediction: Giants get lit up a few times on big passes, but control the run.  Eli has a mediocre, but effective game, and the Giants open up the 8th Wonder of the world with a 31-27 victory.

And oh yeah, what we all can’t wait for:
Seeing the look on Jerry Jones face when Jeff Feagles peppers the scoreboard throughout the billion dollar cathedral’s opening act.

Alex’s Must Watch Game of the Week:

New Orleans Saints @ Philadelphia Eagles

Drew Brees and New Orleans cruise into the City of Brotherly Love, riding high after a 45-27 victory over the Lions.  The Eagles were no slouch last week, beating Carolina 38-10, most likely losing QB Donovan McNabb for this week’s tilt in the process.  While we may not have McNabb under center for a big NFC matchup, this game is still must watch TV.

Drew Brees looked like he was playing a game of Madden out there last week, tossing 6 touchdowns.  This week is important, because we’ll see how he fares against one of the best passing defenses in football.  The Eagles secondary added another nail to the Jake Delhomme coffin last week, and didn’t just seize the opportunity against a bad quarterback.  Asante Samuel is a premier cornerback and Sheldon Brown is solid as well.  Another advantage for the Eagles is that they are extremely deep in the secondary (Hobbs, Hanson, Harris, Jones, and Demps).  This is the perfect test to see how unstoppable the Brees-led aerial assault really is.

With McNabb, the Eagles are a playoff team (a successful playoff team? God no).  All signs are pointing towards a Kevin Kolb-led Philadelphia offense.  My magic eight ball says “outlook not so good”, even considering the Saints D allowed 27 points to the Lions last week.

Kolb has been absolutely miserable in limited relief of McNabb.  In 45 career attempts, he has thrown ZERO touchdowns, four interceptions, fumbled three times and taken four sacks.  Newly signed Jeff Garcia knows the offense and should be available as insurance, but he can’t be expected to have his timing down with the receivers.  The Eagles need to be counting on Brian Westbrook to be Mr. Everything out there on Sunday, or else they are going to be praying that Kolb gives them something.  And I wouldn’t count on much, even with the weapons he has at his disposal.

Expect a heavy dose of Brian Westbrook against the Saints on Sunday.  Kevin Kolb doesnt offer much promise if McNabb cant play.

Expect a heavy dose of Brian Westbrook against the Saints on Sunday. Kevin Kolb doesn't offer much promise if McNabb can't play.

Bottom line:  This game is more about seeing the Drew Brees Show versus the Mighty Eagles Secondary than anything else.  I don’t care who wins or loses, or about the final score for that matter.  I just want to see the battle between an unstoppable force (Brees) versus an immovable object (Asante Samuel and Co.).

For me, I’d love to see Garcia come in and light things up, just to add more pressure to McNabb’s shoulders.  He’s got the inevitable Michael Vick threat one week away already, and I think it would be all the more amusing to see Garcia throw his hat into the ring of possible QB contenders.  He was already a fan favorite in 2006, and McNabb has never seemed to have the fans behind him in Philly.  I want to see how the three-headed quarterback headache turns out if Garcia has a good game.  Maybe the stress will cause Andy Reid to stop eating, something the rest of the starving world will appreciate, as well as his cardiologist.

My prediction is that the Eagles defense will give Brees his toughest test he will see all year, but it won’t be enough to overcome the Kevin Kolb doom that is sure to ensue.  Brees will toss a couple touchdowns and Brian Westbrook will put on a show, but the Saints will pull it out, 24-17.

At Press Time, Andy was seen sitting at Gung Ho, yelling at Jimmy about how the Pats are “a better version of the unstoppable 2007 team.”  Maybe he’ll get a must watch up before the games Sunday.  We shall see.