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?

Advertisements

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


Rangers Win. Despite Sean Avery

April 23, 2009
King Henrik was the star tonight, but Ovechkin and Avery made it interesting

King Henrik was the star tonight, but Ovechkin and Avery made it interesting

The Rangers beat the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night in one of the better games I’ve seen in a while, in any sport.  The Rangers took a 2-0 lead into the third period, but then Alex Ovechkin turned it on and almost singlehandedly took game 4.  Ovechkin scored 2 minutes into the third, and rang another shot off the crossbar later on.  He played nearly half the game, and had 11 shots on goal.

There were times in this game when one had to wonder how the Rangers were winning.  They were completely dominated, outhustled, and outshot by a margin of 18.  The biggest factor that has made them the winning team in 3 of the series’ first four games is Henrik Lundqvist.  He was brilliant again and survived a few barrages late in the game that would’ve made even the great Martin Brodeur bitch and moan about contact.

The luckiest Ranger tonight, though, is Sean Avery.  Avery had a meager 4 penalty minutes tonight.  He is probably proud.  He restrained himself from acting like a dumbass for a large portion of the game, but waited until the halfway point in the third with the Caps poised to tie the game.  He then pulled an Avery-like move by smacking Milan Jurcina’s schnoz with the butt of his stick and the back of his glove and pretending like he didn’t mean it.

Some might say his reputation got this one called.  I would agree.  He is a douchebag, and he made a douchebag move, the refs called it.  The Rangers survived the powerplay somehow.  Ovechkin hit the crossbar and King Henrik made about 8 saves then Avery came back.  He learned his lesson.  Or did he?

Just 4 minutes after getting his freedom he decides to whack Brian Pothier (who sold this pretty poorly, but it was funny) with a high stick a couple seconds after play had stopped.  He again, tries to sell to the refs that he is innocent, and heads off.  John Tortorella looked like an embarrassed father who lost control of his kid at this point.  Avery sat in the box, and thought about which young celebrity he would go after next (I actually have a lot of respect for him with respect to the top shelf ass he gets).

Luckily, Lundqvist saved him again, and the Rangers got away with a 3-1 advantage in the series.  Maybe there’s a backstory.  Maybe Pothier and Jurcina picked up Avery’s “sloppy seconds” like Dion Phaneuf and Mike Komisarek.  I do not know, but it is difficult to get a penalty called against you in the playoffs, especially late in tight, big games.  Avery managed to pull it off twice with blatant, pussy cheapshots.

Sean showed his true colors tonight.  He is a goon, but not the protect the stars, and fight to pump up you team good goon.  The hit guys behind the play and get a kick out of it goon.  Its a shame, too because up to that point he had done a great job around the net creating chances for New York.  Avery was a liability on the ice by the end of the game, and if the Rangers would have lost, he may have been done there, again.

But don’t worry there’s hope for goons after hockey.  Matthew Barnaby proves it every night on Sportscenter.  The heir apparent to Barry Melrose (whose mullet and salt and pepper facial hair rank him as the most dignified looking gentleman since Robert E. Lee), Barnaby makes it clear that he used to get his head bashed in every time he tries to describe a clip.

No matter how he does on the ice, Sean Avery is doing just fine.

No matter how he does on the ice, Sean Avery is doing just fine.

Avery, who is sort of the David Beckham of hockey (if Beckham went around goosing guys all over the pitch), has got to watch it for the rest of the playoffs.  Everything he does is watched by the refs, and he can no longer get away with his signature cheapshots.  Maybe he doesn’t care about hockey, if you had been linked to Elisha Cuthbert, Mary-Kate Olson, Lake Bell, and Rachel Hunter would you care?  and those are just the celebrities.  Imagine the amount of tail he pulled on random nights throughout Los Angeles, New York, all of Canada.  This man is living the dream.  I would take his sloppy seconds any day.


Which Sport’s Playoff Season is Better, NBA or NHL?

April 20, 2009

nba-v-nhl

Playoff season is upon us, with the NHL and NBA playoffs starting this past weekend.  After spending the entire weekend watching sports, an interesting debate came to mind: which sport’s playoff season is better?

Playoff set-up: Both leagues have 7-game series all the way through the finals.  They’re both set-up as follows (for higher seeded team) 2 home games, 2 away, 1 home, 1 away, and game 7 at home, aka 2-2-1-1-1.  This is a recent change from the 2-3-2 set-up of a few years ago.  The purpose behind this change is to put added pressure on a home game 7, whereas previously, the top team had 2 home games to finish the job.  I understand it, but I’m not crazy about it.  Too much travel means too much time off between games.  Both sports have a minimum of 1 day off between each  game in a series.  This makes the playoffs drawn out and take away some of the momentum built up from the game before.  This is my biggest complaint about the playoffs of either sport.    Verdict – PUSH

Chances of an upset – In the NBA playoffs, upsets are not that common.  There are powerhouse teams at the top of each conference and then there are the rest.  Just look at the lower seeded teams in the NBA playoffs right now and none of them really impress you.  The Eastern Conference, for example, has 3 teams in the playoffs with a .500 record or lower.  That is pathetic.  The Western Conference was more competitive, with the 2nd seed and 8th seed separated by only 6 games, all with a win percentage of .585 or better.  The only “upsets” that seem possible right now are the Mavericks over the Spurs or the Bulls over the Celtics.  But this is not something to brag about when the top-seeded teams are hurt by injury to star players.

The NHL playoffs, on the other hand, often offer upsets.  This year alone, there are 2 underdogs primed to make a run to the second round.  The 8th-seeded Ducks hold a 2-0 lead over top-seeded San Jose, while the 7th-seeded Rangers are up 2-0 over 2nd-seed Washington.  In the NHL, all it takes is a hot goalie to lead his team deep in the playoffs.  In the NBA, over the drawn out schedule, talent usually wins out.   Verdict – NHL

Excitement – The NBA is home to snoozers more often than edge-of-your-seat thrillers.  This weekend, the launch of the first round, saw blowout wins by the Cavs, Hawks, Nuggets, Lakers, and Rockets.  They were over by the third quarter.  Sure, there were 2 games that went down to the wire, but these are not often occurrences for their playoffs.  Add in the fact that if the game even resembles a close one, the trailing team fouls on every possession.  The final 2 minutes of a game can take a half-hour.  It ruins the watching experience beacuse not only are there stoppages in play, its coupled with poor free throw shooting and commercials.

The NHL by nature is a sport that leads to close games.  Even a score of 3-1 is not safe, because all it takes is a powerplay goal and then anything can happen.  Even if there is a blowout, such as the Bruins domination of the Habs in game 2, it’s still exciting because of all the hard hitting.  A fight could break out at anytime, which makes you want to keep watching (see Bruins-Canadiens, game 2, Milan Lucic).    Verdict – NHL

So which has sport has the better playoff season?  It’s easily the NHL.  While both sports drag their playoff season out for way too long, the NHL has what the NBA doesn’t:  excitement.  Every game is close and anything can happen to turn the game in the favor of the other team.  Add in the excitement of a fight breaking out and the NHL wins, hands down!  (check out Lucic starting a fight in a 5-1 victory on Saturday)