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?


3 Months. Blue Duck

May 7, 2009

I don’t know if its been three months. I was bored.


Can Pens Caps Series Save Hockey?

May 7, 2009
never a dull moment when these two are on the ice

Never a dull moment when these two are on the ice

The Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals battled it out again tonight with the Pens coming out on top after an OT winner by Kris Letang.  Washington is up in the series now 2-1, but game 3 saw the resurgence of Evgeni Malkin, who scored his first goal in six games which could spell disaster for the Caps as the series goes on.

No matter the result of the series, this was the matchup Gary Bettman dreamed of.  These aren’t necessarily the best teams in the league, but the NHL’s three brightest young stars are all under one roof.

Malkin, Sidney Crosby, and Alexander Ovechkin really represent how hockey has to right the ship.  Three young great players poised to be the faces of their franchises for years to come.  For a while now, the average NHL fan has been wary of buying jerseys or even of becoming loyal to teams as their favorite players are shipped from one team to another.  Malkin and Crosby are signed to five year deals with Pittsburgh and Ovechkin has a contract that expires somewhere in the distant future (13 year deal).

They have shown loyalty to their cities, and the fan bases in Washington and Pittsburgh have grown exponentially with the emergence of these stars.  Ovechkin and Crosby are the reigning MVP’s from the last two seasons and Malkin may win this year’s.

This is not even mentioning that the hockey in this series thus far has been great.  Game two saw both Ovechkin and Crosby record their first playoff hat tricks.  The NHL playoffs have been unbelievably good this year.  Anyone who contends that hockey is boring doesn’t watch the game, and everyone who says “I can’t see the puck,” can go eat shit.  Turn it on, pick a team, and enjoy yourself.

The fact that the games are on Versus has not helped ratings, but Versus doesn’t get any credit for their coverage, and they do a pretty good job.  All the games are available in HD, and only contractual obligations can get in the way of good coverage.  Unfortunately they don’t make Brian Engblom cut his hair.  Engblom apparently has Wayne and Garth use the Suck-Cut to get his desired look.

No words can describe that mop

No words can describe that mop

If ESPN had the coverage these games would get respectable ratings, but Versus is starting to pick up a larger and larger audience.

The NHL has to be  hoping one of these teams makes it through to the Stanley Cup Finals just to get their big stars faces more in the limelight.  NBC will carry the coverage for those games, and only Ovechkin or Crosby can guarantee decent ratings.

Its sad that hockey has gotten so beat up in this country, but it is a result of bad business.  Teams that haven’t really considered fans for a while, and a lack of American talent has led to a dwindling American interest.  Though Crosby and Ovechkin are both non-Americans they have shown loyalty to their cities, and the fans and ownership have shown loyalty to them.

This has given the other teams a formula they can follow to get hockey back as one of the four major sports (Is Nascar the fourth now?  We should be ashamed of ourselves).

Though not every team has the opportunity to sign an Ovechkin or a Crosby, there are players that teams can build around (Richards and Carter in Philly, Lundqvist sp? in NY, etc).  Let the fans get to know and love their players instead of having new rosters every offseason.  The fan bases will grow and the quality of hockey will improve.

Figure out what channel Versus is, and turn on the playoffs.  Gary Bettman, who i doubt can skate but knows his salary caps, will thank you.

The Monty Burns of hockey

The Monty Burns of hockey