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A new NHL great

Matthew Robison | Thursday, October 14, 2010

It’s an argument that should not even be an issue. It’s like arguing about the weather or the solution to a simple mathematical problem. Some things are just obvious. In this case: who is the best player in the National Hockey League?

Alexander Ovechkin has proven himself far away and away the greatest man on ice since the Great One, Wayne Gretzky. I know Sidney Crosby fans are fuming right now, but I will make my case.

First, there is the obvious. He is the reigning MVP. Then, there are the statistics. You’re right, Penguins fans, Crosby did have more goals than Ovechkin last year. He also played in nine more games. Give Ovechkin nine games to make up to score two goals, I bet my left arm that he does so. In fact, I bet a reasonable amount that he goes for 60 goals instead of 50.

Why, you ask, did Ovechkin play nine less games last year? Was he bruised up and decide to sit out? Did Capitals bench boss Bruce Boudreau have an argument with him and bench him? None of those are the correct answer. In effect, the “Great 8” was robbed of the points and goals crowns by the NHL because he plays too hard. He hits hard, he chases down opponents and his wide frame is too much for defenders to handle sometimes. He was slapped with several suspensions last year, all of which were heavily disputed for their triviality.

Essentially, this argument is between Ovechkin and Crosby. But, I would argue that Crosby’s not even the best player on his team. Evgeni Malkin impresses me much more with his dekes, hits and goals. I just do not get excited when Crosby stands in front of the net and slaps at the puck until it squirts between the netminder’s legs.

On the other hand, every time Ovechkin touches the puck, the entire crowd sits on the edge of its seat. Defenders and goalies anticipate shots from impossible angles. Even if it’s one-on-two, he finds a way to weave, dodge, fake, lift his skate and get a shot off. If it does not go in, it whizzes over the stick-side shoulder of the goaltender.

There is one key difference that I will grant to the Ovi-haters and the Crosby-lovers. Sid did raise the Stanley Cup two years ago and the Capitals were knocked out of the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the first found last year.

But, the way Ovechkin has taken the Capitals from cellar dwellers to perennial powerhouse is something of note. It is yet to be seen if he can break through and win a title. With the way he plays night in and night out, the electricity he has created in D.C. and the players that have gathered around him, it is only a matter of time before he hoists the trophy.

 

The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Matthew Robison at mrobison@nd.edu