Friday, January 15, 2010

Moby? You Can Get Stomped By Ovi

I like Alexander Ovechkin. I know I just ranted and raved about Sidney Crosby and I’m now about to criticize Ovechkin, but I really do like Ovechkin. He’s the most fun player in the league to watch. His goals are ridiculous and he’s physical. Unfortunately, his physicality is beginning to cross the line in certain instances. This isn’t a Crosby vs. Ovechkin thing. It isn’t a Canada vs. Russia thing. This is something that I find extremely grating about one of the most exciting players in the league. It’s got to the point where I am slowly turning on Ovechkin and I don’t want that.

At this point I’m sure everyone has seen the clip of the Ovechkin-Downie near-fight. Ovechkin should be embarrassed by this.

I understand the rationale of Matt Bradley and the entire Capitals team for not allowing the fight to happen. It’s never a good thing when your best player is off the ice for five minutes and it is especially worse if that player becomes injured fighting. It's also never a good thing to have your best player goaded into a fight with a little rat, but Ovechkin dropped the gloves and at that moment the fight should be between those two players. The fight didn't happen because Ovechkin is the best player in the league and Washington can't lose him.

However, Alexander Ovechkin needs some sort of accountability. The majority of his hits are legal and this is a very valuable part of his game. It makes it much harder to play against Ovechkin when he takes as much pleasure in physically punishing opponents as he does lighting up goalies. But because he plays with so much exuberance and energy he periodically crosses the line and throws dirty hits. This was clear in last year’s knee-on-knee with Sergei Gonchar and again with this season’s knee-on-knee against Tim Gleason. These are not even isolated incidents. He has hit Briere from behind and slew footed Rich Peverley. His hits also border on charging numerous times. The way he runs around the ice unchallenged is wrong.

This is the problem with Ovechkin that became readily apparent Wednesday night. No one can ever challenge Ovechkin. He is free to do as he pleases. Obviously, enforcers have been around forever (although Washington doesn't employ a true enforcer, rather anyone not named Semin would fight for Ovi). I don’t disagree that teams should protect their star players, but this is a glaring example where the star in need of enforcing uses their protection as a free reign of the ice. The players who play the way Ovechkin play are ready to call the bell when they are challenged. You can’t throw the semi-dirty (to the down-right dirty) hits that Ovechkin does without being accountable for yourself. No one else in the league gets away with what Ovechkin does. I’m not talking about Ovechkin’s normal physical game that is well within the rules. You should never have to fight over a legal hit, even if it’s on a star player (but you’ll probably have to anyways). The reckless, dangerous hits that Ovechkin throws are what he needs to answer for.

I can’t comment on the original hit that Ovechkin threw on Downie (can’t really see if it’s a charge in the video clip), although, in all likelihood it was legal and Downie was just pissed he got a smack down. Also, Downie is a rat. He was certainly just trying to goad Ovechkin into a fight to take him off the ice. Regardless, Ovechkin was more than willing to go. I imagine taking a few punches to the face from Downie after the original hit, plus hearing Downie’s chirping all game made Ovechkin pissed (similar in the way Iginla's fights start). Ovechkin looked a little hesitant, but the chance to punch Downie in the face is something the whole league wants, so I'm sure he was a little excited. Also, if you notice, Ovechkin was beginning to take his helmet off because he has a visor! This is a guy that knows what’s up.

The fight should have happened because Ovi wanted it, but the Washington bench clearly didn't. It’s not like Ovechkin was abused all game by Downie and was forced into the fight. Ovechkin threw the hit, Downie got pissed, and Ovechkin was ready to answer the call. Ovechkin wasn’t against someone totally out of his class. Downie is listed at a very liberal 6’0, 200 lbs and while he does fight, is by no means a heavyweight. Ovechkin is 6’2, 233 lbs. To think that Ovechkin couldn’t fight Downie is insulting.

How much cooler would Ovechkin be if he fought? Iginla employs this tactic as a terrifying part of his game. He’s going to hit you hard and if you’re upset about it you can fight him, but you probably won’t be very happy with that decision either.


Jordan said...

ovi's job isn't to fight. It's to score goals and be a rock star

Theodore said...

It'll never happen. The number of European players that actually fight is so little, and Ovechkin isn't an idiot, he'd get his ass handed to him. But I do agree that if he did actually drop the gloves (and actually fight this time) it would probably be a huge step to actually establish him as captain of the Caps. Lots of points, do not a captain make.

Theodore said...

... did I mention actually?

Matt Horner said...

I know he won't ever fight. I just wish he'd tone down the dirty stuff, then I'd have no problem with his reluctance to fight.

Anonymous said...

I love the guy and for those who think he plays dirty at times oh well. The guy is amazing energy and of course there are gonna be people who look for something to say bad about him ( jealousy is a bitch ) but fact is the guy is the complete package and Im a Rangers fan

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