Friday, March 20, 2009

A TWO-point night: Caps 5 - Lightning 2

Somewhere, Don Cherry is getting CPR.

Alex Ovechkin scored his 50th goal of the season last night in the Capitals’ 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, joining Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy as players to score 50 or more in three of their first four seasons. But it will be the aftermath that folks will be talking about. After stepping around Matt Pettinger at the Tampa Bay blue line and shooting around Lukas Krajicek and over goalie Mike McKenna’s glove to notch the 50th, Ovechkin laid his stick down in the corner and pantomimed warming himself from the heat of his hot stick.

It was not Ovechkin’s finest moment.

The one thing about Ovechkin’s goal celebrations – those resulting from his own and from teammates’ goals – has been their air of spontaneity. It is what sets his apart from those of touchdown-scorers and sack-masters in the NFL, where everything looks choreographed. They are even different from those in the soccer celebrations Don Cherry famously compared Ovechkin to in that the soccer celebrations have more than their own whiff of shirt discarding choreography to them.

That’s what makes this so disappointing. Ovechkin had been – to this moment – unique, despite Cherry’s rantings. But even Mike Green, who was invited to participate in this theater, declined – “He told me he was going to do it. He wanted me to join in, but there was no way I'd join in on that. I just kind of stood back and let him do what he does."

If one wants to chalk this up to a certain exuberance on the part of a 23-year old setting the bar a little higher on his career achievement track, fine. We can see giving the guy a pass (there are a lot of folks this morning, though, who won’t). But frankly, this one crossed the line. We’re hoping we don’t see anything like it again.

Other stuff…

While Ovechkin was blistering his fingers from the heat of his stick, Mike Green was inching in on a milestone of his own. His two goals gave him 27 for the year. Having reached this mark in 59 games, you’d have to like his chances to get to 30. If he does, he would become the eighth defenseman in league history to reach that mark. It hasn’t been done since the 1992-1993 season, when Capitals’ defenseman Kevin Hatcher netted 34.

It was the first time this season that the Caps failed to score three goals on the Lightning in the first period. They scored two.

Perhaps lost in this was Viktor Kozlov’s getting three assists. It was his first three-point game since December 18th (St. Louis).

And Shaone Morrisonn had a couple of assists. It was his first multi-point game of the year and his first since March 10, 2007 (New York Islanders).

18:43…that was Brian Pothier’s ice time. Any other considerations of statistics in his game are irrelevant.

Nicklas Backstrom won 10 of 13 draws. The 76.9 percent winning percentage was his second-highest of the year (January 27th, 7-of-9 – 77.8% -- against Boston).

With Boyd Gordon out, the other guys did pretty well in the dot…Backstrom, Sergei Fedorov, and David Steckel were a combined 26 up and 12 down (68.4%).

Mike Green led the Caps in hit in this one (four).

Matt Smaby had a tough game for the Lightning. He was on the ice for each of the Caps’ even strength goals.

Once more, every Cap got at least ten minutes of ice time; only three had more than 20.

Marty St. Louis gets the score sheet splatterage award…a goal, three shots, a shot blocked, a shot missed, a hit, a giveaway, a takeaway, a blocked shot, and he lost a faceoff. That’s the Sampler Platter at Red Lobster.

Rick Tocchet made good on his promise to Matt Lashoff, and Lashoff fulfilled it. Lashoff led the Lightning in ice time and in power play ice time. The Lightning did get a power play goal (Steven Stamkos) and Lashoff had a pair of assists.

If Evgeni Artyukhin and Paul Szczechura are going to have more shots on goal (two and three, respectively) than Ryan Malone (one), the Lightning are going to have trouble getting offense…like last night.

3-0, 1.74, .939. Steve who?

Since the Caps lost in regulation at Ottawa on January 20th, they are 8-1-2 on the road.

Boston is 3-5-1 in March. Two of their next three are against New Jersey and at Philadelphia. Maybe catching them isn’t impossible after all.

Jersey has the gauntlet of playing Minnesota, at Boston, at Philadelphia, at Chicago, Carolina, and at the Rangers (where Sean Avery can torment “Fatso”) in their next half dozen. Maybe holding them off isn’t impossible either.

With only nine games left, and only one of those against a team in the top-eight in the East, the struggle now is to stave off boredom. But now, the Capitals have some incentive to push through – they can finish at the head of the class in the East. It doesn’t have the same urgency as last year’s finish, but it could be interesting nonetheless.

In the meantime, this was pretty good, guys…except for that stick thing.


Mikey said...

Hey Peerless,

I know where you are coming from with Ovi's hot stick routine last night, but here is my take on it. I'm of the opinion that the reason the celebration was not a "typical" Ovi celebration was because of the abuse he has been taking from Don Cherry. I feel if Cherry had kept his big mouth shut about the celebrations, Ovi would have celebrated it like any other goal; but since Cherry opened his pie hole, Ovi (perhaps subconsciously) said, "Well, let me give him something to talk about."

I loved the first line, though, about Cherry getting CPR.



Anonymous said...

It was a classic example of the power of humor to backfire. Poor Ovie! He is still a fun-loving guy, and when he expresses himself it is so entertaining. He loves the attention. Today he's learning (or remembering, if he always knew and just forgot) that it's very important to temper one's feelings with empathy for others'. Thankfully we are in a time when it's OK to Win, unlike a couple decades ago when Everyone was a so-called winner (or whiner), and I hope he continues to have fun and to celebrate. As for Cherry, his xenophobic saliva-spraying attacks have no place in hockey or anywhere else, and I don't care what he says or thinks.

Oleg said...

What is wrong with pre-planned celebrations? They show creativity, personality and add further excitement to the game. Didn't the West make fun of the Soviet robot players for their lack of emotion? Now someone is displaying emotion, creativity and excitement and people complain? As for it being seen as disrespectful? Well, if you don't want to be disrespected, don't let him score. What is disrespectful and despicable is jumping a guy off a faceoff or punching another one from behind in the nuts- where was the outrage there? Finally, hockey is a GAME, it's supposed to be about FUN, Ovechkin realizes that more than anyone.

The Peerless said...


I agree as to the likely cause of the premeditation -- that if Cherry hadn't made such a fuss about Ovechkin's goal antics, there would be no reason to do this. But this also strikes me as over the line. Nothing and no one is bigger than the game, any game. If Ovechkin is choosing to engage in a battle of wills with Cherry, that has nothing to do with the task at hand. It is the same sort of selfishness that a player who takes a retaliatory penalty could be accused of. It's a moment of self-gratification that takes away from the object of the exercise -- to win games.

The Peerless said...

@ IvanP...

I'm not peeved over the spontaneous celebrations for which Ovechkin became famous (or infamous, if you're Don Cherry), it's the predemidation. That should be left to the Terrell Owens', Chad Johnsons, and such of the world (who are the object of considerable disdain).

There has been a quaint, almost childlike quality to Ovechkin's celebrations to date that has been charming in their expression of sheer joy. Watching something staged like this doesn't -- for me at least -- inspire the same feeling or bring the same smile to my face.

Devoted_Caps_Fan said...

The Caps actually scored three goals in the first. Alexander Semin's goal should not have been washed out. The TB defender held Semin's stick, then once he freed it Semin legitimately lifted the guy's stick and snared the puck away. It was an exceptionally poor call and resulted in a 3-0 game becoming 2-1.

Mikey said...

I agree, Devoted Caps Fan! That was a blown call all the way.

Unknown said...

Geez, I read your blog all the time and feel your take on things is spot-on, especially when the Caps deserve a kick in the butt for their lack of effort for those stinkers they've had.

I have to say though, where's the loyalty here? Ovi has set a record that TWO other people in the history of our precious sport have accomplished. Whether he was stickin' it to that walking sofa cover or he wanted to do something childish (which it was) to celebrate a tremendous achievement, what' the harm in it?

Has this been a repeat offense or the last 4 years? No, not even close. Does he routinely make comments to the media about ex-girlfriends, cheat on his wife with his sister-in-law, sucker punch another player in the crotch, kill a teammate while driving drunk or been charged in a gambling ring? Not even close. He's a guy that puts some life and character into a game that holds a little too tightly to the old ways. Not to mention the fact that he celebrates his teammates personal victories more than his own, which not surprisingly, has been overlooked amongst all of this noise.

I think a little tolerance, perspective and slack is due considering the otherwise substantial and positive attention he's brought to this franchise, its' fans, and this city - not only through his personal accomplishments but through his excitement and passion for the sport we are all obsessed with.

This has to pass because there's so many more important things to focus on.

The Peerless said...

John, I don't want to leave the impression that this the worst thing that happened in the NHL this year. It's more (a lot more) disappointing than it is an outrage. It's like the tennager next door, the one I know to be a good kid, who does something as a Hallowe'en prank. I thought he was better than that. I know he is, but it is disappointing.