Tag Archives: Ovechkin

Pen is Mightier: Crosby > Ovechkin

On the night before the Men’s Olympic hockey tournament began, the NHL Network premiered Sid the Kid vs. Alexander the Great. The show was filmed documentary-style and featured surprisingly personal footage of both superstars as they prepared for their inevitable (or as it turned out, inevitabLOL) Olympic showdown.

Ovy took time out from his busy modeling career to film the TV special.

As expected, there were the usual PR-lacquered platitudes and completely non-threatening jibes that Pittsburgh sports fans have become so accustomed to that the words barely even register anymore—ala elevator music. Titillating sound bites like, “He’s a great competitor” and “I won’t think twice about running him over.”

The real action was in the B-roll footage. While Sid the Kid’s idea of a good time seems to alternate seamlessly between playing hockey, talking about hockey and meticulously taping his hockey stick, Ovechkin is like Rasputin on Ice.

At various times in the show, Alexander the Great steals an equipment cart and drives it around the arena like a stuntman, sings in a rock band with Something About Mary hair, poses dourly for fashion shoots with similarly surly models, and acts out pretty much every single fantasy ever conceived by middle schoolers in the midst of a Mountain Dew binge.

What are the odds this kid grew up to be that guy in the Ed Hardy t-shirt that tried to pick a fight with you on the South Side last weekend? A whole generation of jagoffs were weaned on Jolt.

In one clip, Ovechkin is on his way to the premier of his clothing line in a stretch Hummer limo accompanied by a crew of what can only be assumed are either American used car salesmen or Russian sports agents, as well as a bullpen of stunning, evenly-spaced blonde and brunette models. After witnessing the revelry, a Russian sports journalist asked Ovechkin which type he preferred.

“Redheads,” Ovechkin grinned.

The panache of this guy! Sometimes I half expect him to take the ice with a Winston dangling out of his mouth and a ditch-digger shovel for a stick like Cool Hand Luke. Then I remember that that’s exactly the way I’ve been manipulated to feel.

You see, it’s all part of the NHL’s narrative. The producers of the show even included a segment featuring a real, live Canadian Mountie endorsing Crosby as a wonderful role model for the youth of the country, like Sid was running for Mayor. Hell, the tag-line of the program, snarled ominously by a throaty, pack-a-day disembodied narrator was – “Pick a side: Who’s better? Who’s cooler? Who has the best shot at Olympic gold?”

It was all a big set up for the biggest heavyweight title fight since Hulk Hogan vs. The Macho Man at WrestleMania V.

Kids, consider this a lesson about picking the right role models.
When you spend your youth idolizing the man above, you grow up to be a blogger.

Now all the hype seems kind of silly. Let’s review the fortunes of Alex Ovechkin and Sydney Crosby in the past two weeks: Ovechkin’s week peaked when he hit Jaromir Jagr so hard he made him sprout his old mullet, then the Russians flamed out in spectacular fashion to the Canadians 7-3, which culminated in Ovechkin smacking a video camera out of a female fan’s hands on his way out of Vancouver.

Crosby, just eight months removed from becoming a Pittsburgh legend, became a national hero by scoring an overtime Gold-medal-winning goal that will be recreated daily, around the clock, by every Canadian kid firing pucks at a net, garage door, or dryer from Vancouver to Newfoundland.

Despite Ovechkin’s awe-inspiring raw talent and unparalleled shooting power, the two superstars seem miles apart after this Olympiad. Even the Washington Capitals’ internet message board patrons are having an identity crisis, conceding that “Crosby is better than Ovechkin” (right now). How did this happen?

Pressure. During the Olympics, the sports media could barely get through a sentence without mentioning the word. How can Crosby be so unfathomably good in the face of it? How could such a powerful Russian team be so thoroughly dismantled? How could Ovechkin—seemingly the most fun-loving guy in sports—knock a fan to the ground in frustration without even a word?

It’s easy to just shrug and chalk it all up to the intangible nature of “pressure.” Some relish it; thrive off of it. Others grip their sticks a little tighter.

Just don’t go reveling in Ovechkin’s misery too heartily. There are two sides to every story. Just as Sid is often painted as a one-dimensional workaholic—which of course is largely fiction—we don’t always get to see the other side of his great rival either. Or perhaps in Pittsburgh, we choose not to see it.

This person, for instance, will probably always see Ovechkin as a villain.

Last summer, Ovechkin explained to Sovetsky Sport’s Pavel Lysenkov how much the Olympics meant to him by means of a simple story. According to Ovechkin, he was preparing to go sailing on teammate Alexander Semin’s yacht along the coast of Siberia when they made a quick stop for supplies in the middle of nowhere:

“So we stopped at this small village to go to the local store. And imagine that—we’re in the heart of Siberia in an ordinary store. There was this woman behind the counter cutting some fish. I came in and asked for water, chocolates and sandwiches. And she looked at me kind of strange and asked me: ‘Is it you or not?’ I replied: ‘Of course it’s me.’ She said: ‘Give me a smile.’”

The woman recognized Ovechkin by his trademark missing front tooth and freaked out. Ovechkin, too, was blown away by the power of the moment.

“But I couldn’t catch my breath there [in that store]. I just felt what Russia is about, how dear and big it is and how we—hockey players and the national team—are loved here. When you think of people like those you want to win the Olympics twice as much.”

Heavy stuff. Which is why Crosby’s coup de grâce in Sunday’s heart-stopping Gold medal game was so fascinating. It wasn’t very cerebral at all. It was automatic. Cold.

While those watching from the sofa could hardly compose themselves enough to keep the remote in their sweaty palms, Crosby was surgical.

With the Gold medal, not to mention four years of anguish or euphoria on his stick, no. 87 buried the puck behind the sensational Ryan Miller without even thinking. He didn’t even look up at the net. Didn’t need to. He had already made the shot millions of times. Sunday was just the culmination of years of hard work in a cold, empty basement in Cole Harbor when the only one cheering the game winner was Crosby himself.

Would you even be surprised if Sid still goes home after real games and shoots pucks at Mario’s guest house garage? I wouldn’t.

Until Ovechkin learns to harness his off-ice swagger and bravado in the big moments, he will always be the one that kids imitate during breakaway contests, while Crosby’s name will be the one that rings through the streets and the basements and the empty arenas whenever kids across the world imagine that the game is on their sticks.

At just 22, Crosby casts an awfully big shadow over any NHL superstar.


Hockey Update: Mainstream Media Still Loves to Hate Sidney Crosby

A little more than a week ago, self-professed hockey nerd Tom Awad wrote an article on ESPN.com titled—and I’m not making this up—“Strange But True, Crosby Hurting Penguins.” [ESPN]

Awad tried to make the case that Crosby is not “pulling his weight” this season because he takes “dumb penalties” and is less-than-stellar in a convoluted, made-up statistic called Goals Created that gives goals more weight than assists.

No, you are not hallucinating. No, your morning Sunny Delight was not spiked with Quaaludes. Awad really did make up a statistic called “Goals Created” that diminishes the importance of, literally, creating goals.

There are so many ways to discredit Awad’s petty, contrarian argument that I feel like a kid with an unlimited gift card at Toys R’ Us. I’m about to pass out from choice anxiety. First of all, Crosby’s set-ups are often so scintillating that Mike Lange could jump down from his perch at Mellon Arena, slide the puck into the gaping net, and then call his own goal.

Me-eee-eeee shoots and scores!”

Case in point: Crosby’s ridiculous game-winning slap-pass to Bill Guerin that froze Avalanche goalie Peter Budaj like a Slovakian snow cone (click here to watch).

If you look up “Goal Creation” in the dictionary, there’s a picture of this goal right next to a picture of Mr. Awad gently weeping underneath the dull flicker of his Alex Ovechkin night light.

But more importantly, this little factoid: Despite playing alongside a myriad of marginally talented wingers this season, Crosby has performed like your unstable ex-girlfriend after your break-up. He scores no matter who he’s with.

“But she seemed so normal at the beginning….”

In Crosby’s last 10 games, he has racked up 9 goals and 9 assists. Plug those numbers into your Goal Creation flux capacitor, Mr. Awad. Crosby is now third in the league in points (36), six points ahead of hockey media heartthrob Ovechkin.

“But my golly, the big Russian just knows how to score goals,” they swoon. “Look how much fun he’s having out there!”

Be careful not show the mainstream hockey media any real numbers, or we’ll have a tragedy on our hands.

“Oh, what’s that? Crosby has more goals? Ahhhhh my precious worldview! It burns!”

By the way, you know you’re in for an entertaining time when a sports journalist begins an argument with the line, “It’s true that his traditional stats are pretty good, BUT [let’s take a look at some made-up numbers I scribbled with a pretty purple Crayon].”

I think President Obama should use a similar line of logic to deal with our nation’s ongoing economic crisis.

“Yes, Secretary Geithner, I know the GDP numbers look good, but let’s dig a little deeper. How many chickens are we exporting versus Skittles consumed?!”

Ray Shero is Still a Genius

In the off-season, Penguins General Manager Ray Shero brought in this little-known, veteran fourth liner named Mike Rupp. Rupp is 6”5. He is versatile – capable of playing both wing and center. Shero signed him for $800,000 per season. For comparison, the departed Petr Sykora makes $2.5 million to season.

Rupp was supposed to be a reliable fourth liner who didn’t make mistakes, who didn’t hurt the team. Instead, the former New Jersey Devil has scored 8 goals already this season, two more than his previous career high, and proven that he has the pace to play alongside Crosby and Malkin when necessary.

Oh, and he’s a good chemistry guy, too. In fact, he’s hit it off so well with the guys in the locker room that he would consider going out on a date with Bill Guerin (click here to see what I mean).

 Love is in the air.

Defense? No worries, Shero’s Got It Covered

Even better, Shero let workhorse defenseman Rob Scuderi go in the offseason and replaced him with 6”4, 201 lbs Jay McKee. Both are known for their ability to block shots.

This season, Scuderi makes $3.4 million and has blocked 33 shots. McKee makes less than $1 million and has blocked 75 shots, third-best in the NHL.

Scuderi’s play in the Stanley Cup Finals earned him the coveted, repetitive title of “world’s best defensive defenseman.” But this season McKee’s plus-minus rating is +6, while Scuderi’s is even.

On second thought, maybe the President should solicit the advice of Mr. Shero.

NHL Salivates as Penguins-Capitals Playoff Rematch is Inevitable

If you’ve slept through the first 29 games of the NHL season, you really haven’t missed much. You can pick back up right where you left off with these cliff notes:

  • The Penguins are awesome (40 points, top of Atlantic).
  • The Capitals are awesome (40 points, top of Southeast).
  • The Flyers are not awesome, but think they have a right to be.
  • The Devils, like their city, are just as boring as you remember. Their games at Mellon Arena this season have been a hot, crowded physics lecture.
  • Out west, the Red Wings are hung-over and currently out of the playoffs.
  • The Sharks, as always, are tearing up the regular season schedule with the best record in the NHL, and feature the dynamite one-two combo of perennial jerk-off Danny Heatley and tepid, pass-first center Joe Thornton – who is always afraid to hurt the other team’s feelings once the playoffs roll around.
  • The Blackhawks look a lot like the Penguins – young, extremely talented at both ends of the ice and with good chemistry. But they looked like that before Hossa returned from injury recently. Will Hossa alter that chemistry? Did they really even need to add him, or should they have spent that money on a proven goalie?

 I think we all know the answer to that question.