Michael Jordan finally comes along for the NHL, and it turns out he's a Russian, plays with a visor and works a minimum 41 games per season in Washington, D.C., where a good number of our elected officials nowadays only wish they could find a piece of Alexander Ovechkin's near-anonymity.
Beyond question, the 23-year-old Ovechkin is the game's most exciting player, and with nearly a half-century of watching the game as a reference point, I'm going to say he's the most exciting player the game has ever seen. The only other two that come close, as far as I'm concerned, are Bobby Orr, the iconic Bruins defenseman, and Pavel Bure, the Russian Rocket, who all but disappeared into outer space once he hit 30-years-old.
The sentimentalists, especially in our area, will never surrender their Orr fixation. I felt the same way until I watched Bure in his prime, and even then it was hard for me to let go of my memories, especially the vision of Orr flying through the air after potting the Cup-winning goal against the Blues in 1970, or simply his way of toying with fore-checkers, deking around them with quick, clever moves, or calmly circling back as if playing keep-away, before he kicked it up a gear to blow by them.
Bure was faster than Orr, and a more dynamic and prolific scorer, but he didn't control games the way Orr did, and he didn't redefine the forward position the way Orr rewrote the defenseman's handbook. Like Orr, Bure pulled fans out of arena seats and family room Barca-loungers, and he played at a top-end speed that Orr could never summon.
Frankly, until I saw Bure, no one invaded my Orr memory space, not even the likes of Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux. I'll admit, Gil Perreault came close, but still, I held on to Orr.
Ovechkin, though, is another matter. What a package. Fast. Strong. Bold. A little mean, too. Not fighting mean, mind you, but mean in the sense that he obviously likes inflicting his scoring damage, at the cost of a defenseman being turned into road kill or a goalie left guessing left when he should have guessed right. Did I say brash, too? Let me add that to the pile of superlatives.
As I reminded you in my previous post, Kevin DuPont predicted this back in November:
Even with this slow start, ink him in right now for 50 goals, or I turn in my kangaroo leather Tacks to Goodwill.
TSN had Ovechkin on pace for 20 goals back then.
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