Update: From Canes Country, Mar. 28, 2008: The rest of the NHL seems to be rooting for the Capitals to be Southeast Division champs so that Ovechkin will make the playoffs. Injuries or not, the Canes can’t afford any let up.
From slapshot.blogs.nytimes.com, Mar. 27, 2008 "Forgive me for rooting..."
But wouldn’t a Montreal-Washington first-round playoff matchup be a blast to watch?I am... :-)
For one, the games just might all be 6-5. If you love defensive hockey, you could flip to whatever series the Devils are playing and get (more than) your fill, but this could be a highlight reel series.
It only seems fair that the most spectacular player in the game be in the playoffs, so a wider audience could watch Alex Ovechkin.
And the goalie matchup of Carey Price, Montreal’s youngster, against Cristobal Huet, the player Montreal cast off at the trading deadline to anoint Price, would be terrific.
This will require Washington to grab the last playoff spot and Montreal to win the conference, both of which are possible.
Anyone with me on this?
By Kevin Dupont NBCSports.com, March. 25, 2008
With less than two weeks remaining in the NHL's 2007-'08 regular season, the Caps were in all-too-familiar territory, shut out of the Stanley Cup playoffs, looking like the best and most entertainting also-rans that hockey had to offer.
All D.C.-related also-ran jokes aside, folks, this was not a good thing.
The Caps have the single most exciting player in today's game in Alexander Ovechkin, who scored his league-high 61st goal against Carolina on Tuesday. We repeat: 61 goals. No one has done that in 12 years, back in the days when Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr were pacing the Penguins and lulling us all into the misguided belief that, like, you know, scoring 50 or 60 or even 70 goals was no big deal. Hey, it happens every year.
Or so we thought.
Here in the extended (did someone say torturous?) dead puck era, it seems almost surreal that someone has scored 61 times. Scoring in the NHL has become a little like the American space program. We grew accustomed, even a little bored, by seeing astronauts land on the moon, stake flags, drive crazy dune buggies, even drive golf balls.
But in a flash, the whole glorious space adventure went from fore! to forget it. Did we really get guys to the moon and back? Round trip, 500,000 miles, with no need to pull over for a bathroom break? The box scores say we did. Just like they say 100-point scorers once grew on trees (usually planted in Canada) in the NHL.
The '08 playoffs without A.O. would not be O.K.
Just as big-time scoring has dried up around the league, so has the sport's big-time entertainment factor. Ovechkin not only knows how to score (and there is an intelligence to getting those four ounces of rubber in that 24-square-foot net), but he knows how to entertain, too. His trademark, stamped on nearly every goal, is that running leap he takes into the glass that rings the boards, which sometimes leaves fans in the lower loges thinking that he is about to leave one of those Wile E. Coyote silhouettes carved in the glass as he makes his way through the stands and toward the pizza stand.
Showboating? Perhaps. But so what. If anyone has a right to crow a little, or a lot, it's Ovechkin, who obviously delights in doing what he is supposed to do. He likes to score. He really likes to score.
So many (read: virtually all others) NHL forwards look as if they're in pain when they put the puck in the net. Maybe they are. Heck, with so many coaches preaching the neutral zone trap and plus-minus figures being logged and scrutinized, the way Social Security keeps track of our annual wages, it's as if scoring has become an afterthought for most forwards in the game.
Not for Ovechkin. He shoots more than anyone. He scores more than anyone. Just by watching him, you can tell he loves it more than anyone.
Mike Foligno wasn't nearly of the same caliber, but the ex-Sabre used to make a trademark hop when he scored. Theo Fleury, who turned out to have his share of inner demons, knew how to celebrate goals, too. Brett Hull didn't put much of a maraschino cherry on his hundreds upon hundreds of goals, but the Golden Brett had a flair for unleashing his shots, even more than Bobby Hull, his Hall-of-Fame father. Hull (father and son) was a happening every time he was on the ice, even if he didn't score.
True, the playoffs have their own excitement, and every year, no matter how dull the regular season might have been, that excitement is the sport's renewal. Even casual or non-hockey fans find the suspense gripping. And with or without Ovechkin, they will be that way again. It happens every year.
Or so we think, or at least want to believe.
However, if the Caps could make the cut, ease into one of the final seeds in the Eastern Conference, Ovechkin could be to April, May and June what the Winter Classic was to one day in January.