Friday, April 30, 2010

In Defense of OV

I was looking for a picture of AO staying out on the ice after last night's handshake and saluting the crowd for what was a spectacular season by the Caps. It really was an amazing season from this Capitals team; 54 wins, 121 pts, 318 goals scored. But that's not my point, although I thought it was necessary to point out how good the Caps were this year (quick interesting fact: 3 of the past 5 Presidents Trophy winners have lost in the first round, including the 124 point Red Wings of 05-06).

Back to my main point; I'm not even going to point out the absurdity of Capitals fans being saluted for completely failing to give their team any overwhelming support despite being down most of the game (I've never seen a crowd so dull at times in a game 7 in the SCP). Actually, I am going to point out that terrible crowd last night; it got to the point where they were expecting the team to do something in order to get the crowd back in it, which as I've pointed out before in regards to Igloo crowds, sometimes it has to be the other way around, especially when your team is dominating the entire game. Caps fans (and DC fans in general) are an easy target, so I'm not going to hop on there, but the crowd failed that team last night.

Anyways, finally back to my main point. It was a class act by AO to stay out there despite it being one of the lowest moments in his career. He could have sulked off the ice immediately, hung his head in the locker room, and left without talking to reporters. But the part that interested me most was the lack of support he got from his teammates in this noble showing. The Versus guys pointed out the absence of any other team leaders in saluting the crowd for their season long support. Semin, Green, Backstrom? Nowhere to be found.

And that's the problem with this team. It's not Ovechkin, who despite his name aptly providing the letters for c-h-o-k-e, is really anything but a choke artist. He scored 5 goals with 5 assists in the series and has 40 points (20 G, 20 A) in 28 career playoff games. That's a 1.42 Points/Game average, which is actually better than his career regular season average of 1.34 (although he did bump that up to 1.51 this season). AO is a great player in any game, so let's get over that.

But Semin? Green? Talk about not showing up in the playoffs. I'm not one to go overboard when it comes to playoff performances; it's a small sample size compared to regular season play, and the more playoff games someone plays, the more likely their performance will match their regular season output (Alex Rodriguez anyone?). And I don't think Semin wasn't anywhere to be found in the series (he attempted 44 shots, more than even AO), but he pressed his game, trying to force things, when in the playoffs it's important to play within yourself.

Green was an easy scapegoat because he took the penalty in the offensive zone that led to the Habs' first goal, but his pinch in the third period led to the goal that brought the Caps back into the game with just over 2 minutes left. Even so, the guy has just 4 goals in 28 career playoff games (.14 G/GM ratio) in three seasons from 07-10 (during those seasons, he has 68 regular season goals in 225 games; a .30 G/GM ratio). Again, Green is just 24 years old, he has a ton of playoff hockey left to prove his true talent. But the questions will arise nonetheless.

All right, I'm going on way too long about a team I really distaste. For the record, I think Semin is a punk while Mike Green is one of the worst defenders in the league. But the whole point was that although AO plays every game with the intensity necessary, his teammates don't seem to follow suit. If some of these goats played with the heart that AO shows in every Stanley Cup playoff game, the Caps would never lose; there's too much talent on that roster to lose if they had the heart to match.

I think most of the blame can be laid on those individual players (what the hell happened to Tomas Fleischmann?), but some of it can be laid on their captain, who must lead in all facets, which includes bringing his teammates to the appropriate level that he shows game in, game out. Ovechkin's teammates' disappearing act at the end of the game only proved it further. If the rest of the team really followed AO as their fearless leader, they would have stayed out on that ice until #8 decided it was time to hit the showers. But their actions only proved their lack of respect towards their captain, which is not only the Caps problem, but Alex Ovechkin's as well.

Oh yeah, and if you haven't seen the Caps Eulogy on Puck Daddy (written by the PensBlog), you should probably check it out now.

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